National Banjo Center in Eden, NC

Charlie PoolePiedmont Folk Legacies, who puts on the annual Charlie Poole Music Festival in North Carolina, has recently announced the acquisition of premises which will eventually house a National Banjo Center in Eden, NC.

The two buildings involved, both former textile mills valued at more than $500,000, are located in the complex where banjo player Charlie Poole worked. They were built in the 1920s and 1930s, the former containing 4 floors and the latter 6, with a total square footage of about 220,000. While the organization has been working on the development of the National Banjo Center for a couple of years, this donation brings considerable benefits to the project.

The gift is key towards the anticipated development of the a center comprising an exhibition, performance, education and recording complex that would be dedicated to this uniquely American musical instrument.

Lynwood Lunsford, banjo player with Big Country Bluegrass, sees this as welcome news for two reasons …….

Having a National Banjo Center in Eden, North Carolina will accomplish two things; 1) it gives people a permanent location where they can go to learn about the banjo, specifically the 5-string banjo, being a true American instrument, 2) it gives the city of Eden something not only to brag about and be proud of, but something that will generate much needed income, through tourism created by the Center – income that this region has lost since the decline of the textile industry in America.

Having the Center housed in one of the old textile mills, in effect, completes a circle, because many of the workers (Charlie Poole being perhaps the most famous) were also musicians. The sharing of music was a means the workers used to help lift the hardships of the times and the burden of the labor-intensive work in the textile mills.

So, in my opinion, I think that it is not only important to learn about the different banjo playing techniques born of the region, but also the underlying cause and effect that helped the banjo achieve popularity, and ultimately fame, in 20th century America. I believe that is why it is important to have a National Banjo Center and that it should be located in Eden, North Carolina, the virtual heart of the textile industry in the southeast.

Piedmont Folk Legacies already honors their native son through its acclaimed Charlie Poole Music Festival. Now in its fourteenth year, the summer festival celebrates Poole’s international reputation with concerts and competitions in old-time and bluegrass music. Scheduled this year for June 12th through to June 14th, the festival’s headline act will be Dom Flemon of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an African-American string band. The annual Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to legendary African-American string band musician Joe Thompson.

The Charlie Poole Music Festival is currently held at the Eden Fairgrounds, but the Piedmont Folk Legacies dream is to one day host the event at the National Banjo Center.

While understandably elated by recent developments Louise Price, President of Piedmont Folk Legacies, Inc., doesn’t loose sight of the practicalities involved ‚Ķ..

"Much work remains to be done. We welcome any thoughts and suggestions as we move forward."

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.