• Nina Simone: Unraveling her Profound Legacy with Jaki Shelton Green

    In this compelling episode of Carolina Calling, host David Menconi delves into the indelible legacy of Nina Simone, an iconic figure in American music. Born in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone's journey unfolds through the rich tapestry of the Jim Crow South. Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina's esteemed poet laureate, joins the conversation to explore Simone's enduring impact on African American culture and the Civil Rights Movement.

    Menconi shares, "One of the great voices of American song, Nina Simone was a definitive voice of 20th century American music. Her voice, music and legacy all continue to resonate today, more than two decades since Simone’s death at age 70. She remains a guiding star for multiple artists across styles and genres."

    Simone's artistry, rooted in the mountains of North Carolina, becomes a symbol of resilience and creative activism. From navigating the challenges of segregation to crafting poetry that echoes the quest for justice and freedom, Nina Simone's legacy serves as a timeless source of inspiration. Join us in this exploration of truth and perseverance as we unravel the multifaceted impact of Nina Simone on American music and culture.

    Music featured in this episode:

    Nina Simone - "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free"

    Nina Simone - "Sinnerman"

    Carolina Calling is produced by The Bluegrass Situation and Come Hear NC. Theme music: "Erie Fiddler" by Andrew Marlin of Watchhouse.

    S1E7 - 29m - Dec 5, 2023
  • Doc Watson's Musical Legacy Still Inspires

    Doc Watson has been gone for more than a decade, and yet his music and legacy remain more alive and relevant than ever. And thanks to the ongoing MerleFest, which brings a wide-ranging cast from the Americana world to Doc’s North Carolina stomping grounds every April, that’s not going to change anytime soon. We consider the enduring impact of Doc through conversations with some of those who bear his stamp, including Gillian Welch and Jerry Douglas, in this special episode of Carolina Calling.

    Music featured in this episode:

    Doc Watson - "Sittin' on Top of the World"

    Doc & Merle Watson - "Jimmy’s Texas Blues"

    Gillian Welch - "Everything Is Free"

    Andrew Marlin - "Erie Fidler"

    Doc Watson - "Tom Dooley"

    Doc & Merle Watson - "Sheeps In The Meadow / Stoney Fork"

    Doc & Merle Watson - "Poor Boy Blues"

    Doc Watson - "And Am I Born to Die"

    Doc Watson - "My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains"

    Jerry Douglas - "A New Day Medley"

    Doc Watson - "The Last Thing On My Mind"

    Carolina Calling is produced by The Bluegrass Situation and Come Hear NC

    S1E6 - 23m - Nov 14, 2023
  • The Wilmington Effect

    From Blue Velvet to One Tree Hill, scores of movies & TV shows have been filmed in & around Wilmington, North Carolina. Perhaps the best-known is Dawson’s Creek, the popular late-90s coming-of-age drama series. While the show tried to tackle progressive storylines, its stark lack of diversity made Dawson’s Creek frequently cited as the whitest show ever. Nearly two decades after it went off the air, tourists still come to Wilmington in search of the show’s landmarks.

    But Wilmington has a more difficult, less visible side to its history, politically as well as culturally, going back to the 1700s. Long before North Carolina became one of America’s original 13 colonies, there were thriving Indigenous communities throughout the region. There was also a time when Wilmington’s most famous musician was a man of color, Frank Johnson, fiddler, composer, and bandleader - and one of the biggest stars in American music in the years before the Civil War.

    During Reconstruction, Wilmington was an unusually progressive, forward-thinking town. In contrast to the state of things elsewhere in the South, Wilmington elected a racially diverse local government, led by both whites and freed Black people.

    That came to an abrupt end in 1898 with a white-supremacist coup, a bloody rampage that left numerous people of color dead and black-owned businesses destroyed. Those the mob didn’t kill, they chased out of town. That left Wilmington with a mostly white population, an all-white local government – and a whitewashed version of the city’s history in which Black people’s contributions were erased from the official story.

    This might seem like ancient history, but it’s not. Wilmington’s most famous native-born musician is probably Charlie Daniels, the country-music star who died in the summer of 2020. Daniels was born in 1936 – less than four decades after that 1898 uprising. The real story of the 1898 coup is finally coming to light in recent years, thanks to works like the 2020 Pulitzer-winning book Wilmington’s Lie. But it’s still not widely known.

    In this episode of Carolina Calling, we explore Wilmington – a town that keeps its secrets even as they’re hidden in plain sight – through the life and career of Frank Johnson, whose his story and stardom were all but lost to time – or rather, to the erasing effects of the 1898 massacre on Wilmington’s history.

    This episode features John Jeremiah Sullivan, a writer and historian who lives in Wilmington and has written extensively about the city’s music and history for The New Yorker and New York Times magazine, as well as Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens, and musicians Charly Lowry and Lakota John.

    Music featured in this episode:

    Paula Cole – “I Don’t Want To Wait”

    “Saraz Handpan C# Minor”

    Charlie Daniels – “Long Haired Country Boy”

    Traditional – “The Lumbee Song”

    Lakota John – “She Caught The Katy”

    Ranky Tanky – “Knee Bone”

    Lauchlin Shaw, Glenn Glass & Fred Olson – “Twinkle Little Star”

    Marvin Gaster, Rich Hartness, Beth Hartness & Harry Gaster – “Rye Straw”

    Evelyn Shaw, Lauchlin Shaw, A.C. Overton & Wayne Martin – “Money, Marbles and Chalk”

    Marvin Gaster, Rich Hartness, Beth Hartness & Harry Gaster – “Chickens Growing at Midnight”

    Rhiannon Giddens w/ Franceso Turrisi – “Avalon”

    Rhiannon Giddens w/ Franceso Turrisi – “There Is No Other”

    Joe Thompson & Odell Thompson – “Donna Got a Rambling Mind”

    The Showmen – “39-23-46”

    S1E5 - 25m - Apr 13, 2022
  • Durham: Art and Community in the Bull City

    Durham, North Carolina - a city that blossomed out of the tobacco industry and was originally fueled by manufacturing - has gone through many phases. Today its factories house performing arts centers and bougie lofts, but this place has just as long and varied a musical history going back a century or more. Then and now, it’s been a center for jazz, hip-hop, Americana country-rock and most of all, Piedmont blues.

    Back when Durham was becoming known as the Bull City, its soundtrack was Piedmont blues as played by giants like Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. In the 1920s and ‘30s, factory workers made up the audience for blues and other developing styles of music. Now, tech workers and college students flock to the city’s many venues.

    It’s a long way from the city’s early days, but also still rife with change; battles over segregation have evolved into disputes over gentrification. But what hasn’t changed is that it remains a great music town, one that draws both artists and fans alike.

    In this episode, we explore the phases of Durham’s past, present and future with guests who call it home, like Bluegrass Hall of Famer Alice Gerrard, country singer Rissi Palmer, Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor, Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon, and more.

    Subscribe to Carolina Calling to follow along as we journey across the Old North State, visiting towns like Wilmington, Greensboro, Shelby, Asheville, and more.


    Brought to you by The Bluegrass Situation and Come Hear NC

    Cove photo courtesy of Discover Durham

    S1 - 36m - Mar 14, 2022
  • Greensboro: the Crossroads of Carolina

    Known as the Gate City, Greensboro, North Carolina is a transitional town: hub of the Piedmont between the mountain high country to the west and coastal Sandhill Plains to the east, and a city defined by the people who have come, gone, and passed through over the years. As a crossroads location, it has long been a way station for many endeavors, including touring musicians - from the likes of the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix at the Greensboro Coliseum, the state’s largest indoor arena, to James Brown and Otis Redding at clubs like the El Rocco on the Chitlin’ Circuit. Throw in the country and string band influences from the textile mill towns in the area, and the regional style of the Piedmont blues, and you’ve got yourself quite the musical melting pot. 


    This historical mixture was not lost on one of Greensboro’s own, Rhiannon Giddens - one of modern day Americana’s ultimate crossover artists. A child of black and white parents, she grew up in the area hearing folk and country music, participating in music programs in local public schools, and eventually going on to study opera at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. Once she returned to North Carolina and came under the study of fiddler Joe Thompson and the Black string band tradition, she began playing folk music and forged an artistic identity steeped in classical as well as vernacular music. In this episode of Carolina Calling, we spoke with Giddens about her background in Greensboro and how growing up mixed and immersed in various cultures, in a city so informed by its history of segregation and status as a key civil rights battleground, informed her artistic interests and endeavors, musical styles, and her mission in the music industry.   


    Subscribe to Carolina Calling to follow along as we journey across the Old North State, visiting towns like Durham, Wilmington, Shelby, Asheville, and more.


    Brought to you by The Bluegrass Situation and Come Hear NC


    Music featured in this episode:


    Rhiannon Giddens - "Black is the Color"

    Andrew Marlin - "Erie Fiddler"

    Carolina Chocolate Drops - "Cornbread and Butterbeans"

    The Rolling Stones - "Rocks Off"

    Count Basie and His Orchestra - "Honeysuckle Rose"

    Roy Harvey - "Blue Eyes"

    Blind Boy Fuller - Step It Up and Go

    Rhiannon Giddens, Francesco Turrisi - "Avalon"

    Carolina Chocolate Drops - "Snowden's Jig (Genuine Negro Jig)"

    Barbara Lewis -"Hello Stranger"

    The O'Kaysions - "Girl Watcher"

    Joe and Odell Thompson - "Donna Got a Rambling Mind"

    Carolina Chocolate Drops - "Country Girl"

    Carolina Chocolate Drops - "Hit 'Em Up Style"

    Our Native Daughters - "Moon Meets the Sun"

    Rhiannon Giddens, Francesco Turrisi - "Si Dolce é'l Tormento"


    Cover image: Rhiannon Giddens by Ebru Yildiz

    S1E3 - 30m - Feb 28, 2022
  • Shelby: Local Legends Breathe New Life into Small Town

    The image of bluegrass is mountain music played and heard at high altitudes and towns like Deep Gap and remote mountain hollers across the Appalachians. But the earliest form of the music originated at lower elevations, in textile towns across the North Carolina Piedmont. As far back as the 1920s, old-time string bands like Charlie Poole's North Carolina Ramblers were playing an early form of the music in textile towns, like Gastonia, Spray, and Shelby - in Cleveland County west of Charlotte.

    In this second episode of Carolina Calling, we visit the small town of Shelby: a seemingly quiet place, like most small Southern towns one might pass by in their travels. Until you see the signs for the likes of the Don Gibson Theatre and the Earl Scruggs Center, you wouldn’t guess that it was the town that raised two of the most influential musicians and songwriters in bluegrass and country music: Earl Scruggs, one of the most important musicians in the birth of bluegrass, whose banjo playing was so innovative that it still bears his name, “Scruggs style,” and Don Gibson, one of the greatest songwriters in the pop & country pantheon, who wrote “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Sweet Dreams,” and other songs you know by heart. For both Don Gibson and Earl Scruggs, Shelby is where it all began.

    Subscribe to Carolina Calling to follow along as we journey across the Old North State, visiting towns like Greensboro, Durham, Wilmington, Asheville, and more.

    Brought to you by The Bluegrass Situation and Come Hear NC

    Music featured in this episode:

    Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers - "Take a Drink On Me"

    Flatt & Scruggs - "Ground Speed"

    Don Gibson - "I Can't Stop Loving You"

    Andrew Marlin - "Erie Fiddler" (Carolina Calling Theme)

    Hedy West - "Cotton Mill Girl"

    Blind Boy Fuller - "Rag Mama, Rag"

    Don Gibson - "Sea Of Heartbreak"

    Patsy Cline - "Sweet Dreams "

    Ray Charles - "I Can't Stop Loving You"

    Ronnie Milsap - "(I'd Be) A Legend In My Time"

    Elvis Presley - "Crying In The Chapel"

    Hank Snow - "Oh Lonesome Me"

    Don Gibson - "Sweet Dreams"

    Don Gibson - "Oh Lonesome Me"

    Chet Atkins - "Oh Lonesome Me"

    Johnny Cash - "Oh, Lonesome Me"

    The Everly Brothers - "Oh Lonesome Me"

    Neil Young - "Oh Lonesome Me"

    Flatt & Scruggs - "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"

    Bill Preston - "Holy, Holy, Holy"

    Flat & Scruggs - "We'll Meet Again Sweetheart"

    Snuffy Jenkins - "Careless Love"

    Bill Monroe - "Uncle Pen"

    Bill Monroe - "It's Mighty Dark to Travel"

    The Earl Scruggs Revue - "I Shall Be Released"

    The Band - "I Shall Be Released"

    Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - "Will The Circle Be Unbroken"

    The Country Gentlemen - "Fox on the Run"

    Sonny Terry - "Whoopin' The Blues"

    Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee - "Born With The Blues (Live)"

    Nina Simone - "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free"

    Cover image courtesy of the Don Gibson Theatre

    S1E2 - 33m - Feb 14, 2022
  • Asheville: A Retreat for the Creative Spirit

    Asheville, North Carolina’s history as a music center goes back to the 1920s and string-band troubadours like Lesley Riddle and Bascom Lamar Lunsford, and country-music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers. But there’s always been a lot more to this town than acoustic music and scenic mountain views. From the experimental Black Mountain College that drew a range of minds as diverse as German artist Josef Albers, composer John Cage, and Albert Einstein, Asheville was also the spiritual home for electronic-music pioneer Bob Moog, who invented the Moog synthesizer first popularized by experimental bands like Kraftwerk to giant disco hits like Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.”

    It’s also a town where busking culture ensures that music flows from every street corner, and it’s the adopted hometown of many modern musicians in a multitude of genres, including Pokey LaFarge, who spent his early career busking in Asheville, and Moses Sumney, a musician who’s sonic palette is so broad, it’s all but unclassifiable.

    In this premiere episode of Carolina Calling, we wonder and explore what elements of this place of creative retreat have drawn individualist artists for over a century? Perhaps it’s the fact that whatever your style, Asheville is a place that allows creativity to grow and thrive.

    Subscribe to Carolina Calling to follow along as we journey across the Old North State, visiting towns like Shelby, Greensboro, Durham, Wilmington, and more.

    Brought to you by The Bluegrass Situation and Come Hear NC

    Music used in this episode:

    Bascom Lamar Lunsford - “Dry Bones”

    Jimmie Rodgers - “My Carolina Sunshine Girl” 

    Kraftwerk - “Autobahn”

    Donna Summer - “I Feel Love” 

    Pokey LaFarge - “End Of My Rope”

    Moses Sumney - “Virile” 

    Andrew Marlin - “Erie Fiddler (Carolina Calling Theme)”

    Moses Sumney - “Me In 20 Years”

    Steep Canyon Rangers - "Honey on My Tongue”

    Béla Bartók - "Romanian Folk Dances”

    New Order - “Blue Monday”

    Quindar - “Twin-Pole Sunshade for Rusty Schweickart”

    Pokey LaFarge - “Fine To Me” 

    Bobby Hicks Feat. Del McCoury - "We’re Steppin’ Out”

    Squirrel Nut Zippers - “Put A Lid On It”

    Jimmie Rodgers - "Daddy and Home”

    Lesley Riddle - “John Henry” 

    Steep Canyon Rangers - “Graveyard Fields”

    S1E1 - 25m - Jan 31, 2022
  • Preview - Carolina Calling

    Join David Menconi - host, writer, and longtime North Carolinian - for Carolina Calling: a podcast exploring the history of North Carolina, as told through its music and the musicians who made it. From Asheville to Wilmington, we’ll be diving into the cities and regions that have cultivated decades of talent as diverse as Blind Boy Fuller to the Steep Canyon Rangers, from Bob Moog to James Taylor and Rhiannon Giddens.

    Brought to you by Come Hear North Carolina and The Bluegrass Situation.

    Theme Music: "Erie Fiddler" - Andrew Marlin

    1m - Jan 7, 2022
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Carolina Calling: A Music & History Podcast