Traditional Music in Madison County, North Carolina


Sharp collected ballads from several families, most notably from some families in the Laurel country whose musical legacy continues even today—the Wallins and the Chandlers. Several members of the family kept the ballads alive for decades by passing them down to the next generation. But, it was not until the resurgence of interest in folk music in the 1960s that the depth of our music heritage was widely recognized.


Today, there is still evidence of that heritage handed down for centuries not only in the direct descendants of the family but in those who seem to have grown from the rich soil and those who have been attracted to the area by our legacy. Our traditional music and  dance  is celebrated with special events and festivals. There are opportunities throughout the year and throughout the county to listen to the music that has held such charm not only for the generations of families but also for those who visit the area. And, there is even more to Madison County’s place in traditional music history. Beyond playing and singing the music, we hold a place in the history of traditional dancing, or clogging. And, “you can’t throw a rock in this county without hittin‘ a musician.”

Laurin Penland, the daughter of one of our local singer/storyteller/musicians Joe Penland, is an intern at NPR. Her story about “The Evolution of Oral Tradition of Mountain Ballads” was aired on December 4, 2011. Read the full article or listen to her story. To learn more about our rich music heritage, continue through this section on our website. You may be surprised by the wealth of our heritage, but it’s just part of who we are!