The “Lost” Recordings of an Overlooked Banjo Great

Dec 18, 2014

In the 1930s, the National Park Service sent a man named Joseph Hall to the Great Smoky Mountains to document the life and stories of people who were about to be relocated so that it could become a national park

Hall returned back to the area in the 1950s as an independent scholar and discovered banjo player Carroll Best, who many consider to be the pioneer of the melodic three-finger banjo style played by many artists today. Hall recorded Best and other community members in three sessions during the late 1950s in Haywood County’s Upper White Oak community, but these recordings sat at the Library of Congress unnoticed for years. Music historian Ted Olson recently compiled 37  recordings in the new album Carroll Best and the White Oak String Band.

Host Frank Stasio talks to Olson, professor of Appalachian studies at East Tennessee State University, and musician French Kirkpatrick who was a close friend and collaborator with Carroll Best.

Here's an interview with musician French Kirkpatrick conducted by The Smoky Mountain News: