Maybelle Carter - vocals, guitar, autoharp, banjo
This crystal clear 15-plus song Maybelle Carter set was captured at Los Angeles' historic Ash Grove on April 23, 1963. 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.
Carter treats fans to a terrific set here, opening with the Carter Family classic "Lulu Wall." Carter is in fine form, her warm voice floating beautifully over a simple chord progression. After that, she greets the crowd with her signature friendly banter, devoid of any condescension or apprehension. "Thank you very much, y'all are real wonderful people," the charming Carter says, setting an atmosphere that could just as easily have been in your living room than in a renowned concert hall.
Her humble, sunny disposition leads her through the rest of the show, and before many of her songs, she treats the audience to delightful banter, telling stories, setting up songs, and generally maintaining a laidback vibe. Carter unapologetically addresses her strong faith on "Diamonds In The Rough," a beautiful song that avoids being preachy or sappy.
Another real highlight of the set is when Carter picks up her signature autoharp to perform a version of the instrumental standard "Rosewood Casket." And while she is known for her great guitar and autoharp playing, she picks up a banjo and proves that she knows how to use it on "John Henry" and "Sugar Hill," two examples of Carter's prodigious musical talent.
The last full song that was captured, "Gold Watch and Chain," is a perfect way to end the recording. It is a poignant tune about how saving a relationship is more important than material things. There is a palpable mournfulness in Carter's voice, which, yet again, shows the depth and versatility of her work, as she is as comfortable singing exhalant, joyful songs as she is singing heartbreaking ones.
Carter was a brilliant musician and by all accounts a delightful person, and these rare recordings will do nothing but reinforce her special talent.
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 band'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.