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Carter, Maybellelocked

(10 May 1909–23 October 1978)
  • Charles K. Wolfe


Carter, Maybelle (10 May 1909–23 October 1978), country-music singer and instrumentalist and matriarch of a music performing dynasty, known as Mother Maybelle, was born Maybelle Addington around Nicklesville, Scott County, Virginia, a few miles north of the Tennessee-Virginia state line. Both of her parents, Hugh Jack Addington and Margaret Elizabeth Kilgore, had deep roots in rural Scott County. Maybelle was one of ten children, many of whom grew up playing various stringed instruments. Maybelle’s mother was a banjo player, and when Maybelle was still a child she joined in as the family band played for local square dances. She played the autoharp as well, but her real fascination came when she was about twelve and one of her older brothers gave her a guitar. “I started trying different ways to pick it,” she later recalled, “and came up with my own style, because there weren’t many guitar pickers around.” The guitar was just becoming popular in the mountains, and the style Maybelle came up with—what would become known as the “Carter lick” or “thumb-brush” technique—allowed the thumb to pick the melody on the bass strings while the fingers keep rhythm downstroking the higher strings. This permitted the guitarist to pick a melody and keep rhythm at the same time, and eventually it became the most copied guitar style in country music....

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