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Always Been a Rambler: G. B. Grayson and Henry Whitter, County Music Pioneers of Southern Appalachia by Josh Beckworth

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Grayson and Whitter were two of the most influential recording artists in the early days of country music, and this book tells their story. G. B. Grayson (1887-1930) was a blind fiddle player and singer whose life centered geographically around the tri-state area of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, though he also occasionally busked at West Virginia coal camps. He was born in Ashe County, North Carolina, mostly lived across the border in Johnson County, Tennessee, and died across the border in Damascas, Virginia, while riding on the running board of a car.  He adapted many traditional tunes, and his versions have been recorded by Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Ralph Stanley and other very well-known musicians.  Henry Whitter (1892-1941) was born in Grayson County, Virginia, and learned to play the guitar at an early age. Later he mastered the harmonica and other instruments. His recording career began in 1923, the first year that what became known as old-time and country music was recorded, with Okeh Records of New York City. By 1926, he was able to quit his job at the Fries Washington Mill, and in 1927 he recorded for Victor Records at the famous Bristol Sessions. That same year he met G. B. Grayson at a fiddler’s convention in Mountain City, Tennessee, and they became the Grayson & Whitter Duo. Together they recorded many songs that later became bluegrass, old-time, and country standards, including the first version of Tom Dooley, Nine Pound Hammer, and Banks of the Ohio. Upon the death of G. B. Grayson, Whitter never again recorded.  He died of diabetes in Morganton, North Carolina. The author, Josh Beckworth, is a high school English teacher who lives in Ashe County, North Carolina.

Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 2018. 226 pages with an Index, Notes, and Bibliography, and photos. Trade paperback