Alvin Pleasant Carter - Dec. 15,1881- Nov.
July. 21,1899 - Jan 8, 1979
Maybelle Carter May 10, 1909 - Oct 23,1978
A.P Carter, his wife, Sara and his
Maybelle played in one of the first commercial
country recording sessions at Bristol, Tennessee.
For two decades they performed as an unbeatable team.
Their songs became country standards, and some
of A.P. original compositions are among the all time
greets. They are regarded by many as the epitome of
country greatness and originators of a much copied-style
Country Music Association
Mother Maybelle, And The New
Generation Of The Carter Family
Maybell purchased an L-5
Gibson guitar, an extremely expensive instrument in those days. It sold for $125.00. Her
family was quite sure of her ability, and had great faith, that her talents would be
recognized by others therefore the substantial investment. Close examination of
photographs of others musicians of the time doesnt reveal very many guitars of such
quality. For the most part, they are nondescript mail order or bargain store instruments
Maybelles style of guitar playing was unique, and evidently she came up with it on
her own. What she did was play the melody on the bass strings while maintaining a rhythm
on the treble strings, fingering a partial chord. Later she developed some intricate
melody runs on the bass strings. Of course, such runs were not new, but they were used
differently by Maybelle, they were being used not only as a part of the lead instrument,
but as fills and also for the "bottom" of the song. Throughout it all, the
strong emphasis on the bass was a must, and this was gained in part by the use of a thumb
pick and two steel finger picks. Later, this style was to be imitated to the note by
literally thousands of guitars.
Maybelle played more than
the guitar though. She was fairly accomplished on the banjo and fiddle as well as the
autoharp, and at picking all new styles. She played the autoharp in a new way that it
hadnt been played before. Rather than strumming across the harp while barring a
chord, Maybelle actually picked out the melody with her thumb and finger picks.
The vocal part of the
Carter Family sound was no less innovative. If you listen to the early hillbilly
recordings, you find that, basically, the singers were barely singing over the
instruments. The Carter style was built around the vocals and incorporate them into the
instrumental background, usually made up of the basic three cord structure. In essence,
the Carter Family violated the main traditions of vocal and instrumental music, but in
doing so created a whole new sound.
In July, 1927, an article on the front
page of the Bristol, Tennessee Virginia News Bulletin information the public that a man
Ralph Peer was in town ( Bristol ) auditioning local talent. The paper was read daily by
the Carters in Scott County. August 1, 1927 found the group together at home of Ezra
and Maybelle. Ezra Carter, a small, wiry handsome. Laughable, loveable young man, cut the
last of last years country ham and Maybelle prepare a big breakfast for A.P. Sara
and themselves. "Well, it looks like were gonna have a bunch of radio stars
around here. Said Ezra. "I dont know about that " said A.P. (Doc)
"but it might be worth a trip to Bristol if we can get $50.00 to record a song like
Ernest Stoneman did." "Aw, pshhaw," said Sara " aint nobody
gonna pay that much money to hear us sing "
Young Maybelle kept silent, maube she had
had her own dreams, her own ideas about how it was all going to workout. This was an age
of heroes. Just two months earlier, Charles Lindbergh, "Lucky Lindy" they called
him, had flown the Atlantic no-stop. Even rural mountain people were in tune with the
world by radio, and the people of Appalachia and the south were about to make hero
celebrities out of three simple mountain people, the Carter family.
With a hearty country breakfast under their belts, the
four loaded u into Ezraa old Hupmobile and headed for Bristol. Rains had swollen the
Holsten River at a place where they were to ford it, and the Hupmobile stopped right in
the middle of the river and refused to go any further. Long dresses were hiked up over the
ladies knees, and guitars and autoharps carried on their shoulders to the dry bank, as the
men pushed, and tugged until they finally got the old car moving. Up the bank they
discovered another problem there was a flat on the right rear tire. A.P. being the flat
tire fixer, got out the hand patch kit and quickly repaired the flat, pumped the tire up,
and, with the instruments and the ladies aboard again, they made their way on to Bristol.
Revised: September 02, 2007