Maybelle Carter - vocals, guitar, autoharp
This recording of Maybelle Carter was captured on April 20th, 1963 at the historic Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles. The club was founded in 1958, and in its 15 years of operation, played host to some of the biggest names in folk music, including Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, and Joan Baez.
Throughout her 11-song set, it is abundantly clear why Carter is viewed as one of the greatest and most important country/folk musicians of her time. This recording highlights her warm voice and her positive, humble demeanor. On "Picture on the Wall" she gracefully glides through a stirring ballad about her deceased mother. The sets closer, "Keep on The Sunny Side," sees Carter's infectious exuberance shine through the Ada Blenkhorn-penned number. It was Carter, of course, who helped make the song an all-time favorite.
Her prodigious musical gifts, especially her expert finger-picking, are on full display here. Her signature style, known as the Carter Scratch, consists of her plucking the melody on the bass strings with her thumb, while she strums the corresponding chords with her four fingers. This is a style used by many guitarists today, but it was Carter who developed it.
On a few songs, Carter drops the guitar and has a go on the autoharp. Fans of the underappreciated instrument must hear her performance on "Little Brown Jug" and "Rosewood Casket." She tells a comical story about how her daughter, June Carter, kept confusing her autoharp for a zither. Listening to Carter tell stories like these makes the recording that much more special. She speaks without pretention and is open with the audience, which you can tell they appreciate. Carter was a brilliant musician and, by all accounts, a delightful person, and these rare recordings will do nothing but further those sentiments.
Maybelle Addington was born near Nickelsville, Virginia on May 10, 1909. In early 1926, she married Ezra J. Carter. Ezra's brother-in-law A.P. Carter welcomed her into the Carter Family group in 1927. They were originally a trio (Carter's wife Sara Carter rounded out the group), and she played on all of the group's many important recordings from 1928-1943. She gained the respect of her peers and music fans with her intricate guitar work and warm voice. She was also known for her autoharp playing, and was nicknamed "Queen of the Autoharp." After the group broke up, she toured and recorded with her three daughters Helen, Anita, and June. While June is the best known of the three, Helen and Anita both had successful careers as well. Her positive influence on those around her and cheery disposition gave her the nickname "Mother Maybelle." Carter passed away in 1978 in Nashville, Tennessee and was cremated in Henderson, Tennessee.
Though she is gone, she remains a much-loved and highly influential figure in the country music scene. Country Music Television voted her the eighth greatest woman in country music history. She was also welcomed into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 2001.