Master Mountain Musician Riley Baugus Comes to Jones House March 4
Master mountain musician, Riley Baugus, comes to the Jones House March 4, 2018, for an afternoon old-time banjo master class and an evening performance.
Baugus is hailed as one of the bearers of traditional southern mountain music helping forge American roots music into the next generation. Having been featured on the Cold Mountain soundtrack and tour, Willie Nelson’s Country Music album and tour, and the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand album, Baugus is a high-demand American roots musician.
Baugus grew up in the Piedmont after his father left the Surry County mountains for work.
“My parents revered old-time music, and I think a lot of that rubbed off,” Baugus says. His dad shared records of Doc Watson and his love for string band music from the mountains. And, his parents attended a Regular Baptist church, where Riley heard unaccompanied singing with vocal styles similar to the mountain ballad singers.
“I just loved the music,” Baugus recalls. “And I didn’t want to just listen to it; I wanted to play it.” Riley started on fiddle and a homemade banjo that his father helped him make using patterns from a Foxfire book.
Baugus befriended schoolmate Kirk Sutphin, who also had a strong interest in the mountain and rural fiddle and banjo tunes and songs. The two honed their skills together, traveling around the region to spend time with members of the older generation of musicians. They spent many hours with Surry County legend Tommy Jarrell and others from the Round Peak tradition, like Dix Freeman, Paul Sutphin, and Chester McMillion.
Baugus worked as a welder and blacksmith by day and started playing with old-time bands at nights and on weekends. He joined the Old Hollow String Band and helped form The Red Hots. He self-produced a solo recording Life of Riley and continued playing music with regional musicians.
Dirk Powell, a musical friend and cohort, got Baugus hooked up with T. Bone Burnett, and Baugus was invited to build banjos, play, and sing for the film and soundtrack. This opportunity helped launch Baugus into a full-time musical career with many musical collaborations and endeavors following.
Baugus produced his next CD Long Steel Rail with legendary American roots musician Tim O’Brien producing. He has collaborated on albums with a host of old-time, country, and roots musicians, including April Verch, the Lonesome Sisters, Dirk Powell, Willie Nelson, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
In addition to his recording and performing, Baugus has become highly regarded for his teaching. He has been on staff at some of the premier acoustic music camps across the country, including programs at the Augusta Heritage Center, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week, and the Midwest Banjo Camp.
Baugus continues to perform with the Dirk Powell Band, as a duet with Kirk Sutphin, and as a regular guest with Polecat Creek and Tim O’Brien.
“We are really excited to have Riley at the Jones House; it has been several years since he has played in Boone,” says concert organizer, Mark Freed. “Riley’s music and performance has an amazing quality of being both powerful and commanding, while also familiar and comforting, and having him perform in such a small space, un-amplified, will be really special.”
Baugus will be giving an old-time banjo masterclass, starting at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, at the Jones House Cultural and Community Center in downtown Boone. The workshop is free for students and staff in the Jones House music lessons program (Boone JAMS) and people attending the evening concert.
The evening concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Jones House, with doors opening at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for the concert are $20, and advanced reservation is recommended.