Same Roots, Separate Sounds
Archiving Song Traditions in the Foothills
This multi-media exhibition highlights local musicians and the various genres they are preserving through photo, video, and audio clips.
Initially highlighting gospel, Piedmont Blues, Jazz, Bluegrass, Old Time, & Arabic, this exhibit proposes to continue to serve as a place to archive local music traditions.
PacJAM plans on continuing to seek out new and old music traditions of the region, from families here for centuries and cultural groups newer to the area. As musician Bob Buckingham says, "If the song's made it 50 years, it's old time!"
If you are in the region and making culturally unique music, please reach out and let us know. We'd love to count you in our local music census.
Ella & Mary
Ella Hennessee and Mary Johnson are two young musicians from Greenville, South Carolina. Both come from a traditional southern upbringing that is not only evidenced in their character, but also reflected in their music. While they are proud to carry this folk aura in their sound, they are not limited to just one style. They are influenced by uncounted different artists who are of all differing genres. From the rich spirit of their bluegrass and old time backgrounds to the alternative elements of today's progressive music, the two work together to bring these diverse sounds into one they can call their own.
A native of the small town of Pacolet, South Carolina, Brandon Turner has been garnering attention and praise for his skilled guitar work since he was a teenager. Growing up in a house where his father always had instruments lying around, Brandon got his first electric guitar at age 9 and began absorbing the musical traditions of the Piedmont and Delta Blues, as well as studying the styles of guitar legends such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jeff Beck. By age 11 he was playing in open jams hosted by his instructors, Gene and Wes Wyatt, and could always hold his own with pickers many years his senior. In his later teens, Brandon began playing with SC music treasures such as Fayssoux McLean (Emmylou Harris’ harmony singer) and Freddie Vanderford (Piedmont Blues Harp Master) and continues to appear regularly with both artists. Brandon recently co-produced Vanderford’s first solo album, "Greasy Greens".
Peter Cooper, music writer for the Nashville Tennessean said, “Brandon Turner plays guitar with ease, tone and invention, whether trading bluegrass licks with Ricky Skaggs, dueling on searing electric guitar with Will Kimbrough or creating plaintive acoustic parts for songs featuring Emmylou Harris, Fayssoux McLean or Angela Easterling. Hailing from a region that has given us country-jazz master Hank Garland, blues great Pink Anderson and country-rock kingpin Toy Caldwell, Turner synthesizes his native influences into something unique, fresh and pleasing.”
Brandon Turner & Freddie Vanderford
Armed with a harmonica, washboard and guitar, Freddie Vanderford can interpret most any blues, folk, soul, Americana or rock and roll song. With astounding harmonica licks taught to him by the late traveling medicine show performer and Piedmont Blues harpist, “Peg Leg” Sam Jackson, Vanderford can immediately captivate any audience.
As a teenager, Vanderford was introduced to the unique sound of Piedmont Blues. Captivated, Freddie sought out local harpist, Peg Leg Sam. Ignoring the differences made obvious by the late 1960s, the two formed a mutually beneficial relationship where Freddie provided transportation for the black amputee and Peg Leg let Freddie listen to him play. Eventually the strangely-matched pair formed a bond. Recognizing the youngster’s talent, Peg Leg taught Vanderford the sharp harmonica licks that formed the foundation of Piedmont Blues. One of few living links to the deceased minstrel show performer, Vanderford continues the tradition and is committed to passing on the legacy.
Missing his mentor, Vanderford sought kindred spirits to create an environment that would allow him to hone his craft. During the 70s and 80s, Vanderford performed with Charles “Baby” Tate, Drink Small, Napoleon “Nappy Brown” Culp and many others. Later, performing as the Legacy Duo with Alvin “Little Pink” Anderson, Vanderford and Anderson teamed with storyteller, Lorraine Johnson Coleman producing more than a dozen episodes of “Just Plain Folks” for National Public Radio and later toured nationally performing in New York City, Minneapolis, MN, Springfield, MO and other US cities.
In May of 2010, Vanderford was awarded the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for maintaining and sharing the tradition of the Piedmont Blues harp. Performing the traditional song, Greasy Greens on the floor of the SC State House, Vanderford brought the Legislature to an immediate standing ovation.
Vanderford entertains audiences playing solo or with fellow musicians such as Brandon Turner, Steve McGaha, Matthew Knights, Fayssoux McLean, David Ezell and many others. His discography includes Piedmont Blues, recorded with Brandon Turner, and Vanderford and Turner are featured on Story, Song and Image: Celebrating the Roots and Ethnic Music of South Carolina. His music is also featured on Feel the Presence: Traditional African American Music in South Carolina and in Stan Woodward’s film BBQ and Homecooking, a documentary on foodways in the state.
Whether he’s playing harmonica on Pink Anderson’s Chicken or playing the washboard to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Vanderford’s rhythmic, rootsy style enthralls listeners of all ages. Vanderford’s mastery of his craft enables him to coolly shift from melodic ballads such as Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone to Jimi Hendrix’s heart-thumping Purple Haze.
Be sure to see this great blues man every chance you get! “He really is one of South Carolina’s true treasures,” - SC State Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter.
Antoinette “Tonya” Smith Staley is a native of Marion, North Carolina. She serves as an Administrative Assistant for the Polk County Community Foundation. Tonya is the youngest of eight siblings and her musical skills were nurtured around the family piano by her mother and older siblings. She traveled throughout the Carolinas and Eastern United States with her brother’s group – the Voices of Inspiration. She was mentored by her brother, Michael S. Smith – who considers her a major key to his musical accomplishments. She is affiliated with the Gospel Music Workshop of America founded by legendary Gospel artist, Rev. James Cleveland. She and her husband, Robert currently reside in Inman, SC and are proud parents of two children – Cheltsea and Nijil.
Greenville Fine Arts Center Jazz
Carson Moore, Isaac Lucas, Miles Jernigan, and Olivia Conway are Steve Watson's students at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, in the jazz program. Charleston, SC plays a prominent role in the development of jazz in the southeast. As was common in New Orlean orphanages, children were given brass instruments and formed into orphanage bands, producing a wealth of future professional jazz musicians.
Wayne Benson is one of bluegrass music’s leading mandolinists and has established himself as a unique and gifted stylist. From Concord, NC, an area rich in bluegrass heritage, Benson first arrived on the scene as a teenager when Scott Vestal invited him to join Livewire. After three years and one album on Rounder Records, Wayne joined the well-known and critically acclaimed IIIrd Tyme Out in December of 1992. After more than a decade with the Atlanta-based band, Wayne had solidified his niche among the most respected bluegrass mandolin players, being featured on the cover of Bluegrass Now, Mandolin Quarterly, and Bluegrass Unlimited, while also enjoying numerous IBMA awards and the SPBGMA Mandolin Player of the Year award, five consecutive years.
In 2004, Wayne joined the John Cowan Band, spending three years with the group and recording two albums, showcasing his instrumental prowess in the progressive genre, most widely called, New Grass. After a three-year stint with Cowan, Wayne reclaimed his long-time home with IIIrd Tyme Out in May of 2007.
In 2003, Wayne released his first solo project, An Instrumental Anthology. With 12 original compositions, Wayne explores styles ranging from straight-ahead bluegrass to more progressive melodies. Joining Wayne are some of the industry’s most awarded and finest musicians, including Jeff Autry, John Cowan, Aubrey Haynie, Rob Ickes, Mark Schatz, Ron Stewart, Jim Van Cleve, Scott Vestal, and others.
Also in 2003, Gibson joined forces with Benson to create the Wayne Benson Signature mandolin. Based on the F-5 scroll body design, the new model has a combination of distinctive cosmetic traits taken from Benson’s specifications. As part of Gibson’s Artist Signature Series, a total of 50 Benson mandolins will be available.
Wayne has an established relationship with Acutab Publications, releasing an instructional DVD in 2004 with over 2 hours of material, featuring facets of Wayne’s distinctive style and songs from his solo project. In addition to the DVD, Acutab offers an extensive tab book that includes Benson’s solos from the popular instrumental series on Pinecastle Records.
After living in Nashville for 16 years, Benson returned to the Carolinas, where he lives with his wife, Kristin, and son, Hogan. In addition to being a full-time member of IIIrd Tyme Out, he regularly records and freelances with many top, industry musicians.
Bob and Amy Buckingham have been with PacJAM almost from the start. These two have made traditional - yet original - music together for decades, creating such an impact in the genre that they are archived in the Digital Library of Appalachia. They both play and teach fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin and upright bass. Bob teaches at the John Campbell Folk School and also teaches private lessons in Greenville. Amy has been an assistant for Mars Hill’s Old Time Music Week for over 15 years and is now co-director there. As a duo they specialize in wide variety of songs featuring close harmonies as well as dance tunes. Bob and Amy have an Old Time band called The Blue Ridge Rounders, and they play at many venues throughout the Southeast. Amy is fiddler in The BattleAxe Band, a female Old Time band. Both Bob and Amy are featured on several albums.
Tyson Graham is an artist and musician originally from Columbia, SC, who plays and teaches fiddle, guitar, banjo, upright bass, and ukulele. As the son of professional clarinetist Doug Graham, Tyson’s musical background goes back as far as he can remember. Although he has explored many genres over the years, including jazz, rock, and bluegrass, he’s most passionate about the traditional fiddle and banjo tunes from southern Appalachia often referred to as old time music. He recently recorded an album with Kristen Harris (two-time SC State Fiddle Champion), Ashley Carder (2012 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipient), and regionally-renowned banjo player Ben Riesser, titled Borger Wiggle. Tyson has taught for the Pacolet Junior Appalachian Musicians program, the Montessori Academy of Spartanburg, and offers private lessons in person and remotely via Zoom.
Phillip Jenkins grew up surrounded by music in his Rutherford County home. Playing banjo was part of the family tradition. His great-uncle Snuffy Jenkins influenced both Earl Scruggs and Don Reno in their development of what today is known as bluegrass banjo. Phillip’s uncle Hoke Jenkins helped a number of musicians get started, including Zeke and Wiley Morris. Phillip’s father Oren Jenkins played banjo with the well-known bluegrass brothers Jim and Jesse McReynolds. According to the family lore, Oren could play the banjo before he could tie his shoes.
Phillip himself was especially drawn to the guitar and, at one time, wanted to be a rock-and-roll guitarist, also playing a lot of country music and Southern rock. When he was nineteen, his father passed away and left Phillip his banjo. At that point, Phillip turned to his own family tradition and began studying the banjo more seriously. For more than a decade, Phillip performed with a local bluegrass gospel group, the Far City Boys.
Phillip’s house now stands on the homeplace where Snuffy, Hoke, and Oren grew up. In addition to guitar and banjo, Phillip plays a mean washboard!
Gaye and Phil Johnson have been with PacJAM from the start, and we are so lucky to have their talent and energy - representing more than 40 years of dedicated artistry in "Americana" acoustic music. They are 3-time winners of the "most outstanding performance" award at The Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and have made several appearances on A Prairie Home Companion, as well as hosted their own radio shows.
Carson Moore began assisting Phil Jenkins (Snuffy Jenkin's nephew) in teaching banjo at PacJAM in 2017, and began teaching in the program himself in 2018. Carson has played cello since age 3, studying with Furman University's Christopher Hutton since age 9 & has studied & taught a variety of West African instruments. A full-scholarship recipient to Bela Fleck's 2019 banjo camp, his primary teacher is Kristin Scott Benson of the Grascals. He studies jazz banjo and mandolin at the Greenville Fine Arts Center - the first student to be admitted to the program on those instruments.
Julie Moore, Program Director, has a background in early childhood music education and a strong commitment to the preservation of local music traditions. Julie was trained as a classical cellist and is a certified Suzuki method cello instructor. She also has taught World Music for music majors at Furman University, as an adjunct, since 2014. From 2008-2015, she served as cellist for the Cantebella String Quartet, and ran a Suzuki cello studio in Greenville from 2010 until the birth of her 4th child in 2017. She is founding director of the non-profit Cradle of Jazz Project, which works on early childhood music and language education in West Africa, and has sponsored several tours of traditional string artists from Mali - including shows at the Congo Square Festival in New Orleans, Wake Forest U., and Eastman School of Music. In 2018, Julie and her husband Andrew became directors of Kumandi West African Drum and Dance Camp, and adult music camp in its 34th season which happens annually in Little Switzerland, NC.
Red Sims always says, “Music is a wonderful thing.” He was first taught by his dad, Ray Sims, to play two-finger chords on the mandolin and basic guitar chords. Ray played mandolin, fiddle and guitar. In the mid-1950s to early 1960s Ray and his brother Mack, who played bass, used to play at WEAB, a local radio station in Greer. They would drop in and pick a radio show with some other guys, then head to work at the mill.
Later on, Red was fortunate to be mentored by a host of great musicians: Lewis Crowe played guitar, mandolin and fiddle. He could play Western swing, country love songs and hard driving bluegrass. He was a true showman. Red and Lewis played together for over 30 years. Frankie Belcher was a banjo player solid tenor singer from Little Chicago. He also played with Carl Storey. James Babb played many instruments and could harmonize singing on any part. Al Osteen (the husband of PacJAM Founding Director Becky Osteen) was a master banjo teacher & encouraged Red to really listen to the greats who became his influences.
Red’s keen ear and teaching style inspires his students to produce a quick, very clean sound. Red's family band Off Duty Bluegrass Band is a Greenville favorite.
Originally from Western North Carolina, guitar instructor Woody Cowan has been actively involved in music for over forty-five years. He has studied and played many different styles of music. Woody graduated in 1978 with an Associate in Fine Arts degree from Brevard College and in 1982 he received a Bachelor of Music Degree from East Carolina University. He has played with numerous musicians in a variety of different combinations throughout the Southeastern United States. Cowan has taught music in the Polk County NC public school system for over 32 years and was Teacher of the year in 2000. Cowan also plays bass and trombone. He currently lives in Green Creek NC with his wife Jan.