Frequently Asked Questions...
Q. When did you start playing string music?
A. My parents gave me a ukulele for Christmas when I was about 12 years old expecting me to play traditional Hawaiian type music, but I immediately started playing "Old Mountain Dew" and other folk songs. A few years later I bought my first guitar for $10 - an old Kay with a huge crack in the back. I still have it!
Q. Why did you start playing folk music?
A. When Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio hit the airwaves in 1958 and started the Folk Era, I became hooked. My late brother was a local high school DJ who played some of their albums which I bought from my newspaper route and lawn mowing revenues!
Q. When did you start writing songs?
A. In my senior year at UNC - Chapel Hill as a business major, I took a terribly boring finance class which served as a good time slot to chronicle some experiences from working at Champion Papers during the previous summer. I also penned a song called "The Viet Nam Blues" since like all male grads of that era I faced the military draft before any job offers were extended. Incidentally, I did pass the course!
Q. What inspires your song subjects?
A. Many times it's something someone says, or a phrase I hear. For example, years ago while riding up Old Fort Mountain, a news segment on the radio was "Old Fort Mountain's claimed another life". I mentally finished the sentence with, "Old Fort Mountain's made a widow of a wife!" Thus, a song was born which the late banjo legend, Raymond Fairchild, brought to life when we recorded it as a 45 rpm in 1981. Incidentally, I dedicated my "Cataloochee" album to his memory. We were close friends for over 50 years.
Q. Some listeners have mentioned similarities to Tom T. Hall. Do you agree?
A. I find that quite flattering, but I have a way to go to be in that league! I don't imitate other songwriters, and I try to create lyrics that you don't anticipate as I try to avoid cliches and rhyming words that are so common. Creativity is so important if one strives to be a songwriter.
Q. How long does it take you to write a song?
A. Sometimes the words flow; for example, I wrote "The Fires of Love" in half an hour; whereas, "Cataloochee" took many hours and many revisions to achieve the feel I was searching for.
Q. How many stringed instruments do you play and do you have a favorite guitar?
A. As an instrumentalist, I'm very limited since I only play acoustic guitar in my programs. My very favorite guitar is a Collings D2H Brazilian, though I have a 1967 Martin that once belonged to the late legendary Leonard Hollifield, which I will keep forever. I'm just a fair guitar picker!
Q. Who were your musical inspirations?
A. In my opinion, Hank Williams was the greatest country songwriter ever due to his ability to communicate an image with such few words and with such soul. Since hundreds of other artists have recorded his works, I think my opinion is validated. In addition to the Kingston Trio, which I partied with one night many years ago, I was influenced by Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Waylon, Cash, Elvis, and other country greats whose records I spun when I was a disc jockey in the 60's.
Q. How long have you been performing live programs?
A. Going back to the late 60's; my late brother, Jim Ab, used to play the washtub bass and sing while my younger brother, Pat, joined in with harmony vocals while I played guitar and did most of the lead singing. I played for 17 years as a solo entertainer at the legendary Pisgah View Ranch. Currently, I'm available for conventions, private parties, and I do a lot of volunteer programs at assisted living venues.