Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music (17 May 2015)
Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafeawe

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home

Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music (17 May 2015)

Janie 19 May 15 - 09:53 PM
Janie 19 May 15 - 09:58 PM
GUEST,Mike Yates 20 May 15 - 04:30 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 20 May 15 - 09:23 AM
BigDaddy 20 May 15 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,Arkie 20 May 15 - 06:56 PM
Elmore 20 May 15 - 11:43 PM
Charlie Baum 21 May 15 - 01:14 AM
Bill D 21 May 15 - 10:34 PM
Waddon Pete 25 May 15 - 06:02 AM
Share Thread
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:

Subject: Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: Janie
Date: 19 May 15 - 09:53 PM

Rest in Peace. He was a quiet, behind the scenes giant with respect to Appalachian music.

Kept thinking some one else would post about this. Hasn't happened, so this old hillbilly non-musician will. I understand there isn't much interest here on Mudcat, but because these threads are also valuable archives, I think notice of Joe Wilson's passing is appropriate, and worth posting if for no other reason than it will be archived as noteworthy by at least one aging hillbilly.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: Janie
Date: 19 May 15 - 09:58 PM

Because links go dead. Published in the Roanoke Times, May 18, 2015.

By Ralph Berrier Jr. 981-3338

Even though he was frail, sick and about to enter the final week of his life, Joe Wilson had enough strength and stubbornness to attend an Appalachian music festival 10 days ago in Fries — and make plans for the future.

As old-time mountain musicians fiddled, played banjos and sang all around him during the Henry Whitter Festival in his adopted hometown, he spotted his buddy and neighbor, the fine fiddle player Eddie Bond.

"He told me that he had set up a home recording studio in his basement and we were going to make a record," Bond said with a soft chuckle as he recalled the conversation.

"Joe never gave a thought about dying. He was going to accomplish all that he could accomplish up till the end."

Wilson died Sunday at age 77, and even though he and Bond won't make that record, Wilson had already left an indelible mark on the music, arts, culture and people of his beloved mountains. As the longtime director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Wilson championed not only mountain music and traditions he grew up with in Tennessee, but also the folk traditions of disparate cultures that spanned the globe, from Indonesian dance troupes to African kora players.

His effect was profoundly felt in Southwest Virginia, where he led the effort to create the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Carroll County. He also helped to spearhead the creation of The Crooked Road, the heritage music trail that brings thousands of visitors to the mountains to hear bluegrass and old-time mountain music in fancy theaters, as well as in country stores, diners and hardware stores.

"Joe Wilson did more to help regional traditional musicians in this country than anyone ever has," said Roddy Moore, director of the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College. "He stood up for the people. He'll be sorely missed."

Moore was on the committee that hired Wilson in 1976 to lead the NCTA, the nonprofit group that has preserved, documented and presented traditional art forms in the United States since 1933. Wilson, who led the organization for 28 years, put together nearly 50 national and international tours that took little-known musicians around the world, including many performers from Southwest Virginia.

Jerry Douglas, the Grammy-winning Dobro player for Alison Krauss & Union Station, said he was "deeply saddened" by the death of a man he had known and toured with for more than two decades.

"He was truly a hero of mine," Douglas wrote in an email. "Joe loved the music of the Appalachians and all indigenous musics of this country. He spent his life unearthing and honoring them. In doing so, he, along with his beloved National Council For The Traditional Arts, opened the eyes of millions to a treasure trove of arts and music they would have otherwise never known."

Wilson helped invigorate the National Folk Festival in 1983 by taking the event on the road, where it spawned many local and regional folk festivals. For example, the annual Richmond Folk Festival was created after the National Folk Festival was held in the city from 2005 until 2007.

After he retired in 2004, Wilson and his wife, Kathy, settled in tiny Fries, where mountain music was as much a part of the town's history as the cotton mill. Early country recording artists from Fries included Henry Whitter, Ernest "Pop" Stoneman and Kelly Harrell, all of whom made historically important records in the 1920s.

Fries was not unlike Wilson's birthplace of Trade, Tennessee, where he grew up working in the corn and tobacco fields and playing music with his family. His mother instilled in him an early sense of social justice before he left home at 17, worked low-paying jobs, earned a two-year degree from Lees-McRae College in North Carolina and eventually hitchhiked to Nashville, Tennessee.

He worked awhile in country legend Marty Robbins' band before becoming a journalist for The Progressive magazine, for which he covered the civil rights movement in the Deep South. Later, he became a consultant and fundraiser for historically black colleges before getting the job with the NCTA.

Wilson loved to tell stories about rural people he had grown up with, including his horse-stealing, banjo-building great-grandfather, "Lucky Joe." But he was no rube when it came to talking to powerful people — he had many political and business connections that allowed him to pursue his music tours and projects.

"He was as comfortable walking the halls of Congress as he was walking down the streets of Galax," Moore said. "He was nobody's fool."

Wilson led the effort to open the Blue Ridge Music Center's Roots of American Music permanent exhibit in 2011. The multimillion-dollar exhibit was paid for by grants and was designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, a New York firm that designed the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Wilson wrote the text for the exhibits and narrated all the video clips at the music center.

Jack Hinshelwood, director of The Crooked Road, said that Wilson was a "master wordsmith, whether writing or speaking. You could be in a noisy room, but then when Joe would speak, you could hear a pin drop. He had a way to talk to people who knew nothing about music and make them appreciate the importance of the culture. When Joe said it, it was like the Gospel."

Wilson had been in declining health for years, and had undergone two kidney transplants in the past decade. He rarely let his health slow him down, however.

Bond drove him to a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for one of the surgeries. After doctors told him they had a matching kidney, Wilson asked the surgeons if he had time to have dinner at a nearby Japanese restaurant before the operation. The doctors said no.

"He was something else," Bond said.

Bond said that Wilson knew the history behind every song played during fiddle jam sessions. Bond tried to soak up as much of Wilson's encyclopedic knowledge of old-time music as he could.

"I will always remember the things he told me about those tunes and pass along as much information as I can," Bond said. "Joe forgot more than I'll ever know about it."

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 20 May 15 - 04:30 AM

Very sorry to hear this news. At least we can still hear Joe's gentle voice on the 2 CD set which accompanies the book "A Guide to the Crooked Road". (John F. Blair Publishers, Winston Salem, NC.)

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 20 May 15 - 09:23 AM

Well alongside fellow Englishman Mike Yates above I will confirm that there are people that dip in to Mudcat at least on this side of the pond that are interested and can appreciate the fantastic job that Joe did. The Blueridge Music Centre and the Crooked Road projects being just two.
Mike mentions the book and CD's above. I have recommended that book to several fellow Brits who were going over to the Appalachians for the first time and they have found it to be essential.
I don't normally add my name to obituaries but Joe was one of those knowlegeable back-room guys that got things done without a big fanfare and never seems to have received the amount of appreciation that he deserved.
We lovers of the real music of the mountains owe him a great big thankyou.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: BigDaddy
Date: 20 May 15 - 02:33 PM

All of my family were from the south, even though I grew up in Michigan. I grew up with my mother and her aunts singing the old ballads that had been handed down on her mother's side. The rest of the soundtrack of my life includes the men of the family (both sides) who played the old tunes on fiddle and banjo. As long as I am still breathing there will be at least one person here on Mudcat who cares deeply about the music of Southern Appalachia in all its forms. Thank you for posting this, Janie. And R.I.P. to Joe Wilson.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 2015 Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 20 May 15 - 06:56 PM

Janie, thanks for posting this. I met Joe Wilson some years back through Dr. W.K. McNeil who was the Folklorist at the Ozark Folk Center and considered him a major figure in the world of traditional music. Too often the contributions of folk like Joe who are not making their presence felt in visual media are overlooked. At least there are some who greatly appreciate all that he did.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 2015 Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: Elmore
Date: 20 May 15 - 11:43 PM

I used to enjoy Joe's guest spots on WGBH Radio, when he was publicizing the National Folk Festival, which he helped convert to the highly regarded Lowell Folk Festival. He will be sorely missed.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 2015 Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 21 May 15 - 01:14 AM

First I met Joe's wife Kathy when she needed design and typesetting of a program she was in charge of for Hecht's OASIS program--an enrichment program for seniors that used to be run and funded by a local department store in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. Later, in 1990, I got involved in hosting some folks from Georgia (the one in the Caucasus) who were appearing at the National Folk Festival when it was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and got to meet Joe, who was head of the National Council for Traditional Arts (NCTA) and therefore the driving force behind the festival in Johnstown. It took me longer before I realized that these two fascinating individuals were married to one another. I'm saddened by the thought that there will be no more further accomplishments by Joe to put me in even greater awe of him.

Condolences to Kathy.

--Charlie Baum

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 2015 Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: Bill D
Date: 21 May 15 - 10:34 PM

I met Joe at the National Folk Festival about 1979 or so. I had a tee-shirt I had made myself at the place I worked.

It said "PURIST SNOB"....

Joe grabbed me and said "I've got to have one!" I laughed and said I'd see what I could do. Next year, I presented Joe with his very own. He about fell over, but wore it the next day.

I hope he still had it....

Joe never seemed to sit still. He was all over the National, directing something, helping performers find their way.... or just taking in how it was all going.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: 2015 Obit: Joe Wilson, Mountain Music
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 25 May 15 - 06:02 AM

I was very sorry to hear this news. My condolences to all who know and love him. I have added his name to the "In Memoriam" thread.



Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")

Mudcat time: 16 October 9:32 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.