Dellie Feeding


Noted balladeer, Dellie Norton, Feeding Her Pets, Sodom, Madison County, NC 1975

Beginning October 1, and running throughout the month, Mars Hill University will be hosting a celebration to recognize the 100 year anniversary of Cecil Sharp's arrival in Madison County. Sharp was a British musicologist who came to Madison searching for ballads that had origins in the British Isles. He found more ballads, and singers of ballads, in our county than any other place in the country.

The ballad tradition is alive and thriving in Madison County. The University will be hosting an exhibit in Weizenblatt Gallery that looks at Sharp's legacy in the county. Artifacts, photographs, memorabilia, sound stations will be on display. An opening reception and ballad swap, which is a long-standing tradition at the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival, will take place in the gallery, beginning at 5 p.m. The Ballad Swap will feature singers who are descendants of the people Sharp collected from, some of them are 8th generation singers. Please join us for this remembrance of a very significant piece of Madison County History.



Time with Donna Ray


Donna Ray Norton, Sodom, Madison County, NC 2016

I had the good fortune to spend a few hours this past Sunday with Donna Ray Norton at her childhood home in Sodom. Donna is one of a small group of young people who continue to sing the ancient ballads that Madison County and Sodom are noted for. She is an 8th generation ballad singer and has a voice to die for. You can listen to her on this video that was produced by the Knoxville News Sentinel about seven years ago.

In 1916, Cecil Sharp, the British musicologist, arrived in Madison County with his assistant, Maud Karpeles, where he collected more ballads than anywhere else in his travels through the southern mountains.  He famously claimed that people in Madison County were more comfortable singing than speaking. His work resulted in the definitive volume: English Folk Songs from the southern Appalachians, which was published in 1934. This fall Mars Hill University will mount an exhibition to celebrate the Cecil Sharp Centennial as part of their annual Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival, which will run from September 26 to October 21, 2016, with an opening reception on October 1 from 5-6 pm during the Festival. 




Birmingham, AL 2015

This post contains language and thoughts some people will find offensive. I apologize for this as I've tried to be both tolerant and accepting in my blog posts and keep my bad language to a minimum. But the reality is, I'm tired. Tired of what, you might ask? For starters, I'm tired of stupidity and ignorance. I'm tired of racism. I'm tired of people not recognizing the basic humanity of ALL people. I'm tired of war. I'm tired of greed. I'm tired of drama. I'm tired of hearing how exceptional we are as a nation. And I'm tired of myself for not saying enough about any of it. 

This past weekend a friend from Durham spent the weekend with us in our apartment. Her son was a newly enrolled freshman at Mars Hill University and she was delivering him to the campus for the start of the rest of his life.

Upon arrival at his dormitory, they met his new roommate and the roommate’s parents who were from Charlotte and appeared to have money. Unpacking and getting settled in the new environment, our friend and her son were taken aback when the new roommate’s father scolded him that he was not allowed to hang his, yet-unfurled, confederate battle flag in the dorm room. Nothing further was said by anyone.

Later, as they lunched together in a Mars Hill restaurant, the roommate’s mother joked that the required Sickle Cell Anemia test was pointless for both boys. She remarked that if their son were at risk of having that disease, he might be eligible for more financial aid. Taken aback yet again, our friend and her son sat silent and dumbfounded by the  racist comment. At that point, the roommate looked to his parents and asked, “Should we tell them about the Canadians?” “Oh,” answered the mother, smiling, “Instead of saying African Americans we call them Canadians.”

Our friend was clearly baffled not only by the blatant intolerance and ignorance, but also by the other family’s assumption that because our friend and her son are white it was acceptable to share their racism in such an open manner. She was also upset with herself for not knowing what to say in response, hoping her silence would communicate her disapproval. 

My suggestion was this. "Next time it comes up, I said, you should affect your best southern drawl (she has roots in New Orleans) and say with syrupy sweetness: 'Why, Canadians, that is so smart and subtle. Who would possibly know what you’re actually saying or implying? We’re not so subtle or politically correct in our family. For example, when we encounter white racists and their code words, we simply call them what they are – Fuckin’ Crackers.”