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Music in North Carolina

Table of Contents

Doc Watson

George Higgs and the Bull City Blues

Music History from Colonization to the 1920s

State song: "The Old North State"

Tommy Jarrell and Round Peak Music

Additional Resources:

North Carolina has a rich musical tradition. Some of its many music resources include:

North Carolina Symphony

Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony is a vital and honored component of North Carolina's cultural life. This site offers access to North Carolina Symphony performance schedules, tickets, the North Carolina Symphony blog, podcasts, photographs and historical information about the symphony.

Madison County Project

This joint project of the University of North Carolina and Davenport Films examines how outside interest from folklorists, filmmakers, and photographers as well as the "power of community and family have worked together to continue" the tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing in rural Madison County, North Carolina.

A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle

With interviews and stories, and scenes from daily life, reunions, gospel concerts, and church services, this film traces the history of the gifted African-American Landis family of Granville County, North Carolina, over the lifetime of its oldest surviving member, 86-year-old Mrs. Bertha M. Landis. Features performances by her sons' gospel quartet The Golden Echoes.

Indie Music

The Triangle has long been considered to be one of the hippest areas in the country; there is no shortage of musical talent and adoring, loyal fans. Thanks to the Cat's Cradle and Merge Records, among others, the independent music scene has flourished here.

Old-Time Music

North Carolina is known particularly for its tradition of old-time music, and many recordings were made in the early 20th century by folk song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Appalachian old-time was a major influence on other musical styles like country and bluegrass.


Bio-bibliography and research guide on jazz musicians from the Tar Heel State. Included are major 20th century jazz figures (John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone), forgotten sidemen, unknown early musicians and band leaders, contemporary recording artists, and jazz educators. 

Famous North Carolina musicians include:

Carol Brice [1918-1985] Contralto

Shirley Caesar [1938- ] "Baby Shirley, the Gospel Singer"

George Clinton [1941- ] Rhythm & Blues/Funk Songwriter, Singer and Bandleader

John Coltrane [1926-1967] Jazz Saxophonist

Libba Cotten [circa 1895-1987] Folk Singer

Charlie Daniels [1936- ] Singer/Songwriter

Mary Cardwell Dawson [1894-1962] Opera Director

Donna Fargo [1949- ] Country Singer/Songwriter

Roberta Flack [1940- ] Singer/Pianist

"Blind Boy" Fuller [1908-1941] Bluesman

Kay Kyser [1906-1985] Bandleader

Clyde McPhatter [1933-1972] Rhythm & Blues Singer

Ronnie Milsap [1944- ] Country Singer

Thelonious Monk [1917-1982] Jazz Pianist

Earl Scruggs [1924- ] Bluegrass Guitarist/Bandleader

Nina Simone [1935-2003] Soul Singer

James Taylor [1948- ] Singer/Songwriter

Randy Travis [1959- ] Country Singer/Songwriter

Doc [1923- ] and Merle [1949-1985] Watson Country Singers/Guitarists

Mary Lou Williams [1910 - 1981] Jazz pianist and composer