Musicians who played with the James Brown Band, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill and Otis Redding will be on stage for the 25th anniversary of the North Carolina Heritage Awards supporting this year’s recipients during performances on Tuesday, May 20.
Bluegrass fiddler Bobby Hicks (Madison County), Jazz and R&B musician Bill Myers (Wilson County), and Haliwa-Saponi artist and musician Arnold Richardson (Halifax County) will be joined on stage by friends and family for a convergence of three distinct musical genres rooted in North Carolina’s cultural heritage.
Additionally, beautiful weavings by Susan Morgan Leveille (Jackson County) and distinctive pottery by Sid Luck (Moore County) will be displayed on stage during the awards ceremony scheduled at 8 p.m. at the Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, in Raleigh.
Since 1989 the North Carolina Arts Council has produced the North Carolina Heritage Awards, a program that has honored the traditional artists of the state, deepening awareness of the stories, music, and artistry comprising our rich and diverse cultural traditions. The Arts Council is an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources.
“Nowhere else in North Carolina will you see this combination of outstanding musicians on stage during one evening,” said Arts Council Folklife Director Sally Peterson. “The chance to enjoy three of the most important music traditions generated in our state is a rare opportunity.”
Joining Bobby Hicks, a ten time Grammy award winning bluegrass fiddler, on stage will be Scott Huffman, Jim Mills, Ron Shuffler and Tony Williamson. Huffman, originally from Thomasville, N.C., plays both guitar and banjo. He has played with Craig Smith and appears on his CD. He also has toured extensively with Grammy winners and bluegrass trailblazers Laura Lewis and Tom Rozum in the Right Hand band, and can be heard on numerous CDs.
Jim Mills, named banjo player of the year six times by the International Bluegrass Association, will play the banjo with Hicks. He played 14 years with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and appeared on 10 albums with Skaggs, earning him six Grammy Awards. Before joining up with Skaggs, he had performed for five years with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, where he appeared on eight of Doyle’s recordings. Mills was also featured as banjo player on two of Dolly Parton’s recordings, The Grass Is Blue and Little Sparrow.
He is also famous for his banjo room, a walnut-paneled, 1,000-square-foot space in Durham that’s home to the world’s largest privately owned collection of Gibson flathead five-string Mastertone banjos made between 1930 and 1942. The collection has drawn celebrity musicians Steve Martin and Dixie Chick Emily Robison to buy one of the banjos Mills has for sale.
Ron Shuffler, a veteran of the early Top 40 and beach music scene, plays the upright bass and is well-known in country and bluegrass circles. His band is Strictly Clean and Decent. Shuffler is the brother of the late George Shuffler, a N.C. Heritage Award recipient and John Shuffler, also a musician who played with The Stanley Brothers. Shuffler has been surrounded by music all his life, and his solid bass playing and tight harmony singing exemplify his longevity and experience.
Mandolin player Tony Williamson rounds out the group for the Heritage Awards performance.
Tony Williamson was named one of the best mandolin players alive by the Chicago Tribune. The paper named his CD Still Light of the Evening one of the top five CDs in 2001. He has performed in many different musical genres and ensembles, including bluegrass acts like the Bluegrass Alliance, a band whose alumni also include Vince Gill, Sam Bush and Tony Rice. Williamson also performed classical mandolin with Duke University Symphony Orchestra and jazz mandolin with “Champagne Charlie.” As a studio musician he has appeared on records with many different artists and musical styles including John Hartford, Mike Cross, Bobby Hicks, Ricky Skaggs, Bill Clifton, Mike Seeger, Vassar Clements, Jerry Douglas, Jimmy Murphy, John Duffy and Tom Gray.
For almost 60 years, Bill Myers has led his band The Monitors while educating successive generations of students as a band teacher and school administrator. As the co-founder and longtime leader of The Monitors, launched in the late 1950s, Myers combines vernacular musical styles of eastern North Carolina into a tightly-wound, supremely danceable sound that defies simple categorization into jazz or rhythm and blues (R&B).
Myers, his band, and the music they make are so rooted in the inland east of North Carolina that they were invited to represent our state at the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Three of the band’s members played with the James Brown Band before joining The Monitors: Dick Knight (trumpet), Gerald Hunter (guitar) and Sam Latham (drums).
Knight plays trumpet, alto saxophone and flugelhorn, and is also a vocalist. He holds a B.S. from Florida A&M University and a Master’s from the University of Northern Colorado. He taught music in North Carolina and Miami and currently lives in Kinston. In addition to performing full time with the James Brown Band, he also played full time with Otis Redding and back-up for Rufus Thomas, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Pattie LaBelle.
Hunter’s roots are in gospel music, touring with gospel and R&B groups across the country including James Brown, Booker T and the MG’s, Bill Moss and the Celestials and the Manhattans. He plays several instruments including the guitar. He’s also a clothes designer and tailor. Hunter created some of the clothing worn by The Monitors.
Sam Latham is known for sounding like Louis Armstrong. Like Myers, he is also a retired Wilson County School system administrator. He traveled around the world with the James Brown Band and appears on most of his CDs.
Willie Depree of Kenly plays baritone, tenor and alto saxophone. He is best known as “Gospel saxophonist” and has produced several CDs. Donald “King Tuck” Tuckson of Goldsboro has been a professional musician since high school. He sings and plays saxophone and performed with the Clarence Carter Review and Candi Staton. Fred Moye, a tenor sax, lives in Kinston, but spent most of his life in New York performing with some of the best musicians in the country. He is also an established writer and arranger.
Molly Hunter started singing gospel at age 10 in the Holy Temple Holy Church Choir and was president of the youth choir by the age of 13. She performed with numerous bands locally and in Washington, D.C. and enjoys singing with The Monitors because it allows her to perform a variety of music. Jerome Morgan plays the bass guitar and spent most of his childhood playing with The Morgan Family of Wilson, a gospel group started by his parents. Clark Mills, Jr. plays the keyboard and is also a vocalist. He started his music training as a youngster and joined his first church choir as a small child. Since then he has performed with numerous gospel groups at his church and is well known in the community for his baritone voice.
Many members of the The Monitors are featured in the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, a guidebook and project of the N.C. Arts Council.
Arnold Richardson plays many types of handmade flutes, the Iroquois willow flute, southeastern Indian river cane flute, and traditional red cedar flute, to name a few. He has recorded six critically acclaimed CDs of flute music — all original compositions — under the name Tsa’ne Dos’e and has performed at countless festivals, powwows and events across the country, including the Smithsonian Institution Folklife Festival and Mashantucket Pequot Nation’s Schimtzen. His music has been used in movie and television productions ranging from the Travel with Rick Steves PBS series to the movie, Dances With Wolves. He serves as a multi-cultural advisor for McGraw-Hill Publishing’s Spotlight on Music program.
Joining him for the intricately beautiful performance will be members from his group, Transition Beyond Tradition, featuring Haliwa-Saponi percussionist John Scott Richardson; Denyce Hall, guitar and vocalist; Amy Hewlin, vocalist; and Leslie Richardson, vocalist. Together they will share melodies both traditional and contemporary.
Tickets are still available for $22 by calling PineCone at (919) 664-8302. For more information on the Heritage Awards click here.
To read more about Bobby Hicks click here.
To read more about William “Bill” Myers click here.
To read more about Arnold Richardson click here
To read more about Sid Luck click here.
To read more about Susan Leveille click here.