When Sheila Kay Adams used to drive her great aunt and others to festivals to sing in the 1960s, she, too, learned those songs and those stories that were passed on from England to the settlers and finally to her from her elders. Growing up, singing was as natural as talking to the eighth generation ballad singers—Dee Dee Norton Buckner, Denise Norton O’Sullivan, and Donna Ray Norton. The music is still as pure as it was hundreds of years before they were born. And the reputation of the county has attracted other talented female ballad singers such as Betty Smith to move here.
Just as the musical blood of their ancestors flows through the veins of all of the talented descendants of the families, so too it seems that the soil of the county creates even more talent. Among the most talented are Ralph Lewis and Roger Howell. You might be able to catch an impromptu jam of any of these three at the weekly free-to-the-public Blue Grass Jam at Zuma Coffee in Marshall on Thursday night. Each of them works to preserve the rich musical heritage of Madison County– Ralph, by passing it on to his sons who sing with him in The Sons of Ralph; Arvil Freeman served as a teacher to eager young students; and Roger by working tirelessly collecting our musical treasures. Among those treasures who “grew from the soil” are Tommy Hunter from a previous generation and Josh Goforth, a stunning example of today’s young generation. Our “native son” Josh is one of the more popular draws at concerts sponsored by the Madison County Arts Council. Without a doubt, this musical heritage flowing through blood and talent growing from the soil will continue to attract musicians to come to Madison County or, as in the case of Grammy-award winner Bobby Hicks, to move here because of the energy that vibrates through the air just as it has for hundreds of year. Bobby has been a wonderful promoter of the music and hosts the Blue Grass Jam on Thursday nights at Zuma Coffee in Marshall each week.