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by World Music Network September 19, 2011


Wade Mainer: 1907-2011

The legendary 'Godfather of North Carolina country music', Wade Mainer, passed away in his home on 12 September, aged 104.

Known for his distinct index finger and thumb picking style of banjo playing, Mainer created a tight, neat sound, bringing the banjo into the forefront and inspiring a generation of bluegrass musicians.

Born 21 April, 1907 near Weaversville, North Carolina, Mainer came from a humble background. Inspired by a community ripe with a wealth of old mountain songs, he learned to play the banjo by practicing on instruments from the musicians at local square dances. In 1934, he joined his brother’s band J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers.

Later in 1937, Mainer formed his own band, the Sons of the Mountaineerswith guitarists Jay Hugh Halland Clyde Moodyand fiddler Steve Ledford. Performing on the radio and recording for the RCA’s subsidiary label Bluebird Records, the group had their first hit with the 1939 track 'Sparkling Blues Eyes.' The group would go on to record such bluegrass standards as 'Maple on the Hill,' 'Take Me in the Lifeboat' and “Riding on that Train 45.” Mainer recorded some 165 songs from 1935 to 1941.

Mainer is survived by his wife Julia, who had a musical career of her own often performing alongside Wade, sons Frank, Kelly and Randall, daughter Polly and two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.