Lesley Riddle is an important yet mostly overlooked figure in the history of American music. An African American musician and folklorist, he collaborated with and greatly influenced the Carter Family. Now in its 12th year, the annual RiddleFest celebrates the life, work and music of this 20th century musical pioneer. Headlined by multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Dom Flemons, it takes place in Burnsville on Saturday, June 22.
As Ellen Denker, vice chair of Traditional Voices Group (the organization behind RiddleFest) explains, Riddle — who was born in Burnsville in 1905 and died in Asheville in 1979 — “played a significant role in the early development of today’s country music through his relationship with A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter.” She says that Maybelle learned her distinctive guitar picking style from Riddle and that the repertoire of the Carter Family “owes much to Riddle’s song gathering in the southern Appalachian Mountains.”
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