Larry Carter passes

Larry Carter, one of east Tennessee’s most popular bluegrass personalities, died yesterday from a sudden and massive heart attack. He was 62 years of age.

His close friend Steve Gulley tells us that Larry had complained of some occasional chest pain of late, and had been meaning to go and get checked out. Yesterday Carter made it as far as the hospital parking lot and expired. Emergency staff worked hard on him, but he was gone before they got him on the table.

Raised in Detroit, his east Tennessee family roots eventually called him home. After visiting the region faithfully every year, he finally just decided to stay.

Grassers in the region know Larry from his 16 years on WCXZ, and his daily Bluegrass For Breakfast broadcast. Prior to that, he was on the radio spinning bluegrass in Tazewell, TN. He also performed with a number of bands in Tennessee, including Silver Creek and Tazewell Pike, and as a young man he had played with his family group, the New Carter Family.

Larry was involved in concert promotion from Kingsport to Knoxville, and it was common to see him running sound at festivals and shows throughout the region.

Gulley remembers his dear friend as a kind and generous soul, who never met a stranger if they liked the music.

“Larry loved bluegrass music more than any other human I’ve ever known. He especially loved mountain style grass – Stanley style. He was always promoting bluegrass, and gave every last ounce he had to make sure people knew about a forward roll banjo and a high tenor voice.

He was mostly a regional musician, but was known worldwide from his broadcasts. We were friends since we were kids, and he was always ready to pick. He would sleep in a field or a camper shell for a jam. I guess he was a bluegrass evangelist – he carried the word to the people.”

Over the years Carter had befriended just about everyone in bluegrass. Artists often stopped in to WCXZ for a live, on-air interview when passing through east Tennessee, or knew him from his help with audio at live shows. And they all remember him for his big smile and eagerness to assist in any way he could.

A big, tall man, Rob McCoury always called him Tiny, and they shared many a laugh about that.

Steve said that he did a show with Larry a few days ago. “I played music with him Sunday night about a half hour from home. He was fine and had the biggest smile on his face the whole time.”

The suddenness of his passing has caught his family off guard, and no announcement about arrangements has yet been made.

R.I.P., Larry Carter.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.