The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book: Singin', Praisin', Raisin'


For almost half a century, Foxfire has brought the philosophy of simple living to hundreds of thousands of readers, teaching creative self-sufficiency and preserving the stories, crafts, and customs of Appalachia.  Inspiring and practical, this classic series has become an American institution.
The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book continues the beloved tradition of celebrating a simpler life, this time with a focus on Appalachian ...
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For almost half a century, Foxfire has brought the philosophy of simple living to hundreds of thousands of readers, teaching creative self-sufficiency and preserving the stories, crafts, and customs of Appalachia.  Inspiring and practical, this classic series has become an American institution.
The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book continues the beloved tradition of celebrating a simpler life, this time with a focus on Appalachian music, folk legends, and a history full of outsized personalities. We hear the encouraging life stories of banjo players, gospel singers, and bluegrass musicians who reminisce about their first time playing at the Grand Ole Opry; we shiver at the spine-tingling collection of tall tales, from ghosts born of long-ago crimes to rumors of giant catfish that lurk at the bottom of lakes and quarries; we recollect the Farm Family Program that sustained and educated Appalachian families for almost fifty years, through the Depression and beyond; and we learn the time-honored skills of those who came before, from building a sled to planting azaleas and braiding a leather bull-whip.  Full of spirited narrative accounts and enduring knowledge, The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book is a piece of living history from a fascinating American culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Written by students who collect oral histories from Appalachian locals, Foxfire magazine preserves the traditions of the mountain folk culture. The current collection continues to survey the simple life with recollections that go "back to the times of one-room schools, first automobiles, and just plain hard living." "Daddy Was a Farmer" offers an account of the Farm Families school program, when sharecroppers were given a farm to work and required to attend adult education classes. The crafts chapter covers such topics as braiding a bullwhip and chair-bottoming with poplar bark. Outstanding are 130 pages on the bluegrass musicians who took that "high-lonesome sound" from family reunions and county fairs all the way to the Grand Ole Opry. (These profiles can be amplified by ordering an accompanying CD from The book's introduction is annoying because it has no facts on how the Foxfire program began in the 1960s, but readers can find much of value in this superb survey of the arts, crafts, language, and lifestyles of another time. Photos. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307742599
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 289,182
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

The Foxfire Fund is a non-profit organization that has preserved and fostered Appalachian culture through their bestselling series of anthologies, starting with The Foxfire Book in the early 1970s. The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center is located in Mountain City, Georgia.
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Read an Excerpt

Banjo Ringing Loud and Clear,
Mountain Music in the Air

When Ann Moore, Foxfire's president, approached me about being coeditor of The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book, I knew immediately that I wanted our readers to be engulfed in the Appalachian mountain music that is near and dear to my heart. The mellow sounds of the guitar, the whining of the fiddle, the high pitch of the banjo, and the lapping notes of the big standing doghouse bass are the pure sounds of traditional music that draw in the audience like a moth to a flame. Once you have been captured by its rich and pure melodies, you will never be free.

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the time I was three years old, I traveled with my daddy, an old-fashioned Baptist preacher, to churches all over northern Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina to attend their monthly singings. The pews were always full, with people spilling out to the porch and yard and even huddled outside the church's open windows. Many drove long distances to savor the sounds of the pure Appalachian music. There was no air-conditioning, only the paper fans provided by the local funeral homes and an occasional breeze drifting through the tall windows.

Sometimes our travels took us to tent revivals, where folding chairs were placed in straight rows on the fresh wood shavings covering the ground. The smell of recently cut grass, which had been trimmed with a sling blade around the perimeter of the newly erected tent, mingled with the smell of the new shavings from the local sawmill. If it rained, sometimes water would begin to drip on your head from holes worn in the tent from many years of use. The roughly hand-painted sign, which read REVIVAL, was visible from its strategically placed anchor near the roadside. The music was mostly bluegrass gospel with the groups playing strictly acoustic instruments. Usually this included a guitar, banjo, mandolin, and possibly a fiddle. The sound was mellow and the harmony tight.

Occasionally, these singings featured southern gospel groups accompanied by a piano. I longed to play the piano, but my parents could not afford to buy one, much less pay for lessons, so I would sit at the kitchen table, carefully press the wrinkles from my dress with the palms of my hands, and pump away at the make-believe pedal on the floor. It was about this time in my life when my uncle Eddie bought me a guitar. It would be the second one from him. The first had been a small plastic version when I was three years old. That toy guitar had brought me many hours of enjoyment as I sat on a swing made by my dad from an old board with the words JESUS SAVES painted on the seat. This one was a real wooden guitar. I was so proud of that old used guitar. I still own it after fifty-some years. He, along with my mom and dad, taught me a few chords, and I learned to play rhythm well enough to get by. I love the guitar, but to this day I still dream about playing the piano.

As the years have passed, etching their ever-lingering reminders in my face, my love fore bluegrass has continued to become more ingrained in my being. I grew up listening to the music of the Carter Family, Bill and Charlie Monroe, the Blue Sky Boys, the Stanley Brothers, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Delmore Brothers, just to name a few. Wayne Raney of WCKY, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Grand Ole Opry could be heard above the static on the old cracked red radio we owned. Mr. Raney, the DJ, would announce and play music for a while, play his harmonica, sing a few songs himself, and then sell baby dominicker and red leghorn chickens to his listening audience. He also sold and shipped hundreds of harmonicas across the country through the years. The slow, fast, happy, and sad ballads told stories that bounced off the cardboard-ceiled walls of our little country home. The aroma of Mama's homemade cake, baking in the old woodstove, would fill each room while the sound of Daddy's chopping ax was daily splitting wood for the heater that kept us warm during the cold winter months. There was no running water in the house; an aluminum dipper floated on top of the spring water that had to be carried to the house in a two-gallon aluminum bucket. Beside the bucket was a matching aluminum wash pan placed beneath the hand towel hanging from a nail driven in the wall. We all drank from the same dipper, washed our hands in the same water, and dried on the same towel.

The station from Greenville, South Carolina was the only one we could pick up on our old black-and-white television. I often strained to watch The Roy Rogers Show, The Lone Ranger, Sky King, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon through the snow and interference that were ever present on the screen. Although these programs were entertaining, my favorites were always the music shows. I tried to never miss The Porter Wagon Show, Flatt and Scruggs, and The Wilburn Brothers Show. These were not only music to my ears, but I could actually see the entertainers. I loved the sound and admired the fancy "show" clothes that they all wore. The wagon wheels adorned with rhinestones and jewels distinguished Porter Wagoner's clothes from all the others. The ladies' full-skirted ballroom gowns were often clenched with both hands and raised to knee length as they broke out into a buck-dancing routine.

So many talented groups rise out of the hills of Appalachia. Deciding who would be included in this edition was a very tough decision. The groups you will learn about throughout these pages, whom you can also listen to on a companion CD available directly from Foxfire, are just a sampling of the talent that enriches our area. You will experience the music of well-known, well-traveled, award-winning groups like The Primitive Quartet, The Gary Waldrep Band, Curtis Blackwell and The Dixie Bluegrass Boys, and David Holt; multitalented miracles like Johnathan Bond and Young Harmony; talented songwriters and performers like Dale Tilley and Morris and Greg Stancil; and true diamonds in the rough like LV and Mary Mathis, who had ever recorded any of their music until now. Whether it be from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, the Stompin' Ground in Maggie Valley, or Old Mater Farm in Sylva, North Carolina, the voices of the Crowe Brothers and Mountain Faith will awaken your senses to the true sibling harmony experienced only in family music. George Reynolds and The Foxfire Boys are the true soul of the Foxfire music program.  From the classrooms of Rabun County High School to the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, to the Olympics in Norway, The Foxfire Boys cut their teeth on bluegrass music under the direction of their mentor and teacher, George Reynolds. Each of these groups submitted one song to be featured on the CD (see Information on how you can obtain more of their music is listed at the end of each article.

While music was a dominating factor in the social gatherings of my childhood, I also vividly recall the stories shared by family and friends while sitting on the front-porch swing listening to the rain beat against the rusty old tin roof or stretched out on a patchwork quilt around the woodstove as the poplar logs popped and cracked on a cold wintry night. The stories of crime, murders, ghosts, legends, and "haints" would often bring chills to your spine and sometimes keep you awake for hours just listening to the strange noises of the night. We have shared a few of these in the "Knoxville Girl" section of this book.

The older generation often refers to yesteryear as the good ol' days, but the days were not always good. People often suffered heartache and pain, but the love of God, country and family is so evident in all the stories printed within these covers. From the farm families to the family farms to just stories about life, these people shared a love for one another and a moral obligation to society that we have lost somewhere along the way. It has been an honor and a privilege to be a part of The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book: Singin', Praisin', Raisin'. I will always treasure the memories and be thankful for times spent with contacts; my coeditor, Casi Best, who was and is the "best"; and the Foxfire book staff during the summer of 2010. It has been good to reflect on my childhood and share the countless memories of the childhoods of another generation. God richly blessed me with a loving, hardworking family who instilled in me the desire to love and care for my fellow man.

—Joyce Green

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Table of Contents

Banjo Ringing Loud and Clear, Mountain Music in the Air xv


"People will forget our past if it isn't recorded." 3

Foxfire's History

A Beautiful Life 17

In the Good Ol' Days

"Praise the Lord, Sammy's quit smoking!" 20

An interview with Sammy Green

"Don't you ever stop by my house again asking for whiskey!"

An interview with Madge Merrell

"So that's pretty well my eight-nine years." 38

Jack P. Nix tells us about his career

"But he was a stinker, that boy of mine." 46

An interview with Lillie Billingsley

"He had his head stuck up, and Mama shot him." 51

Memories from David "Lightnin'" Callenback

"I don't feel like I'm Republican; I know I am." 67

An interview with Carlee Heaton

"Most of the toys I had was homemade." 75

Coyl Justice shares childhood memories

"The first airplane … we thought is was the Lord a-comin'." 83

An interview with Vaughn Billingsley

"You either moonshined or you sold corn to moonshiners." 93

Memories from Allen English

"Castro, he invited me to come see him." 100

Tommy Irvin on forty years as ag commissioner

Knoxville Girl 113

Crime Close to Home

"A ripple of dramatic emotion swept over the courtroom." 116

The 1939 murder of Grace Bingham Brock

Hell-Bent and Whiskey Bound: A Scaly Mountain Murder 121

As told by Lillie Billingsley

"Well, now, this is a true story." 123

A story of birth and death from Melissa Rogers

Last words, in a choked voice: "Good-bye, men." 125

The hanging of Will Brown

"Yeah, that stuff's a-growin' wild up there." 129

Life and times of former sheriff Marley Cannon

"Machine Gun Bandits Hold Up Bank of Clayton" 135

1934 bank robbery as recalled by Huell Bramlett

"I ain't made no liquor in a long time." 138

Bass Dickery, "the Wild Russian"

"Let me tell you about Bass." 148

Bill White says, "We hit it off good"

"Oh, Lord, if you won't help me, don't help them." 158

The legend of the Moccasin gang

A Legacy Lives On 161

Sam McMahan on the loss of the Woodards

Barbara Allen 165

Tales and Legends

"This happened on a cold, windy winter night." 168

Family ghost stories from Melissa Rogers

"Our cemetery is haunted. Did you know it?" 170

Louise Tabor relates a tale for Halloween

"If you believe in spirits at all, like I do …" 172

Bob Justus talks about the "little people"

The Legend of the Deer and the Witch 179

Lillie Billingsley's "talk that my daddy told me"

"You may not believe this, but they say …" 180

Numerous Rabun legends from several people

"These old mountains have lots of magic." 192

Fairy tales and folklore from Clyde Hollifield

"I wasn't hallucinating." 194

Greg Stancil's true encounter with the devil

Echoes 195

Mountain Music Fills the Air

"We went to the Grand Ole Opry in 1960." 198

Curtis Blackwell

"I like the ol' brother-style duet stuff." 205

Wallace "Josh" Crowe

A Story and a Song 212

David Holt

"It's been real, and it's been fun, but it ain't been real fun!" 219

LV and Mary Mathis

A Family Tradition 233

Mountain Faith

Fishers of Men 238

The Primitive Quartet

A Band Is Born 258

George Reynolds and The Foxfire Boys

"Because He Loved Me" 280

Morris Stancil and his son, Greg Stancil

The Banjo Can Also Touch the Heart 292

Dale Tilley

"I'm a musician." 299

Gary Waldrep

"Emergency services pronounced me dead at the scane." 309

Young Harmony

Daddy Was a Farmer 321

School Farm Families

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School Farm Family Program 330

Dr. Karl Anderson

"I think it was the people that made it so special." 339

Frances Fry Deal

"Jack Acree … washed my mouth out with soap!" 343

Jimmy Deal

"What I've got now, I picked up from Rabun Gap School." 349

James Adams

Farmer's Daughter 358

Jo-Anne Stiles Hubbs

"You just enjoyed living." 360

J. T. Coleman

"Mama ordered one hundred little biddy chickens." 364

William Thurmond

"Life was hard, but there were fun times also." 372

Harold Thurmond

"Being on the school farm was a wonderful thing!" 377

Doug Nix

"I knowed there wasn't nobody else for me." 386

Lucy Webb and her daughter Mary Webb Kitchens

"Raise 'em, feed 'em, and kill 'em." 391

Doris Carpenter and here son Jim Carpenter

"I can remember in the fall of the year …" 398

Bobbie Dills Carter

"They provided the house, and we provided the labor." 401

Marjorie Robinson and here son Morris Robinson

"It was really a blessing for us." 411

Tommy and Emma Chastain

Cotton Gins and Sawmills 418

The Jordan Family

With His own Two Hands 431

We'll Tell You How

Tying a True Lover's Knot 434

Research by Lee Carpenter

The Adaptable Five-in-One Sled 435

Kyle Bolen

Building an Oak Shaving Horse 443

With Claud Connell

Chair Bottoming with Poplar Bark 454

Harriet Echols, Elvin Cabe, and Nelson Cabe

Raising Native Azaleas from Seed 461

Coyl Justive

Forging a Traditional Drawknife 466

Barry Stiles

Braiding a Leather Bullwhip 476

Frank Vinson

The Past Meets the Present 485

A Closing Letter from Foxfire President Ann Moore

Experiencing Traditional Music 493

Southeastern Bluegrass and Gospel Festivals

Editors and Staff 503

Contributors 507

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