Wade Mainer a singer and banjo pioneer whose definitive style and devotion to old-time mountain songs made him a pivotal figure in the transition to bluegrass music, died of congestive heart failure on Monday September 12, 2011, at the age of 104 in his home in Flint, Michigan.
After joining his older brother at a cotton mill in Concord, North Carolina, the two began performing for fellow workers and at local events like “corn shucking”. In 1932 they began playing on the radio station WSOC in Gastonia, N.C. and moved up to WBT in Charlotte two years later where they formed “J. E. Mainer and the Mountaineers”.
His two-finger style with the forefingier moving upward was in direct contrast to the traditional downward claw-hammer stroke. Wade Mainer’s style inspired well-known players like Earl Scruggs and Don Reno because it produced a distinctive sound to traditional tunes. He formed his own group in the late 1930s called the “Sons of the Mountaineers” and recorded dozens of songs on RCA Victor’s Bluebird label.
Mr. Mainer is survived by his wife Julia Mae Brown, who was singer and guitarist Hillbilly Lillie. In addition to his son Randall, he is also survived by his sons Frank and Kelly, daughter Polly Hofmeister, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. J.E.Mainer died in 1971.
Also known as the “godfather of North Carolina country music” and “the grandfather of bluegrass”, Wade Mainer performed at the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He finally made his debut at Nashville, Tennessee’s “ Grand Ole Opry” in July 2002, at the age of 95, performing “Maple on the Hill” and “Take Me in the Lifeboat.”
Click on Wade Mainer – Worried Man Blues to hear him sing
To view David Holt’s interview with Wade Mainer about his life and innovative two finger bango style click on David Holt Interview