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Jim Eanes to be inducted in Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame

Jim Eanes / File Photo

The Wilkes Heritage Museum is pleased to host the 16th Annual Blue Ridge Music Hall
of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

Tickets for the ceremony are on sale at the Wilkes Heritage Museum gift shop or website.
Tickets are $20 per person for the ceremony. The doors open at 6 pm and the ceremony
begins at 7 pm. Seating is limited so purchase your tickets early!

The Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame exists to showcase and preserve the rich musical
heritage of the greater Blue Ridge Mountains from northern Georgia to northern Virginia.
The Hall of Fame educates, defines, and interprets the history of music and musicians in
all genres from the region with exhibits and an annual celebration of inductees. Centrally
located at the Wilkes Heritage Museum in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge
Music Hall of Fame increases the visibility of and support for the museum.

The 2024 inductees include: Wade Mainer, Marc Pruett, Jim Eanes, E. C. and Orna
Ball, Joe Wilson, and WPAQ Radio. The 2024 Dr. T. R. Bryan Wilkes County
Heritage Music Award recipient is R. G. Absher. The Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame
Induction Ceremony will take place at the Wilkes Heritage Museum on Saturday, March
23, 2024.

Wade Mainer, born in 1907 in Weaverville, NC and influenced by Snuffy Jenkins and
Earl Scruggs, developed his own 2-finger style of banjo picking. With his brother J. E. on
the fiddle and in various band configurations, they were among the most recorded artists
of their time. They played on the Charlotte WBT radio’s Crazy Water Crystal Barn
Dance in the early 30s and soon recorded and performed on radio throughout the South.
Mainer formed his own band The Sons of the Mountaineers in 1936 and acquired the title
of “Grandfather of Bluegrass” since his playing helped link old-time music and
bluegrass. He retired to work for General Motors in 1952 but continued to play for church
functions. In the 70s, due to renewed interest in folk and old-time music, he returned to
performing with his wife Julia May.

Marc Pruett, banjo player and songwriter, grew up in Western North Carolina listening to
musicians like Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers. By age 15 he was a
professional banjo picker at Maggie Valley’s Ghost Town and continued to play gigs while obtaining a B. S. in Geology at Western Carolina in Cullowhee. He has operated a
music store, taught hundreds to play banjo, toured Europe, played at the Grand Ole Opry
and Lincoln Center, and spent 9 years at Bill Stanley’s BBQ and Bluegrass Restaurant in
Asheville, NC. Featured in Masters of the Five String Banjo written by Tony Trishka and
Pete Wernick, he has played with the likes of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, James
Monroe, and The Kingsmen. Today he brings his passionate and powerful banjo to the
award-winning Balsam Range band.

Homer Robert “Smilin’ Jim” Eanes, from Martinsville, VA, was a gifted and pioneering
bluegrass/country songwriter and performer. He left the music business several times for
work in varied jobs from furniture manufacturing to radio DJ to selling insurance. He
always returned either full- or part-time to perform, and in 1947 began writing songs.
Eanes recorded his first composition, “Baby Blue Eyes,” and “You Better Wake Up”
after winning a talent contest in Charlotte, NC. His Blue Ridge label recording of
“Missing in Action,” co-written with Arthur Q. Smith, became his biggest hit in the early
1950s. One of his best-known songs, “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could” became a #1
hit for Ricky Skaggs in 1982. The Eanes catalog of songs contains many country and
bluegrass standards recorded by numerous artists.

Estil Cortex “E. C.” and Orna Ball from Rugby, VA rarely traveled more than 30 miles
from their home, but they still made a significant contribution to old-time and gospel
music. E. C. was known for his rich voice, songwriting, and swing-style guitar while
Orna sang harmony and played accordion. They were best known for their work with The
Friendly Gospel Singers in church or on WKSK AM in West Jefferson, NC and WBOB
AM in Galax, VA. John and Alan Lomax recorded them 3 times including once with E.
C. and his string band the Rugby Gully Jumpers in 1937. County Records released their
first LP in 1967 with the Friendly Gospel Singers followed by two on the Rounder label.
E. C.’s most famous composition “Tribulations” has been recorded by multiple musicians
as “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations.”

Joseph “Joe” Wilson from Trade, TN, an advocate of preserving and presenting cultural
heritage and traditional arts, was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National
Heritage Fellowship in 2001 and the Library of Congress Living Legend award in 2009.
He served 28 years as Executive Director of the National Folk Association and during
that time, to fully reflect its mission, it was renamed the National Council for Traditional
Arts. He produced recordings and both national and international music tours, organized
festivals including the National Folk Festival, and co-wrote with Lee Udall Folk
Festivals: A Handbook for Organization and Management. He played a major role in
development of the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, VA, and wrote A Guide to the
Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.

WPAQ 740 AM signed onto the airways at 6:00am February 2, 1948. With help from
family and friends, founder Ralph Epperson’s dream became a reality with the
construction of the tower and building that is still home to the station. It has expanded to
include 106.7 FM and online at Broadcasts include bluegrass, old-time,
and gospel music, regional and national news, weather, local high school sports, community events, and Sunday worship. WPAQ’s live Merry-Go-Round broadcast each Saturday morning from the Historic Earle Theater in downtown Mount Airy, NC, is the second oldest continuous live radio show behind the Grand Old Opry. Epperson’s son Kelly and his wife Jennifer now own and operate the station and continue to remain true to the culture and music of the region.

Ray Grubb “R. G.” Absher, Jr. grew up in Taylorsville, NC and started playing banjo at 9
years old, adding guitar, hammered dulcimer, and fiddle in later years. He worked for the
Corps of Engineers at W. Kerr Scott Dam for 32 years and is Executive Director of the
Yadkin River Greenway. He has played at every MerleFest since it started and toured
Ireland in 2010 playing for the BBC documentary We’r Fur Hame, the story of American
Scots-Irish heritage. Focusing on the historic legacy of the region, Absher performs at
historic sites, Revolutionary War re-enactments, and Celtic festivals. He was one of the
original community leaders helping to establish the Wilkes Heritage Museum and is an
active board member of the museum, the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, and
the Partnership for National Trails.

The talented Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame house band, Virginialina, made up of
David Johnson, Eric Ellis, Scott Gentry, and Scott Freeman, is scheduled to perform
throughout the evening along with Marc and Anita Pruett, Isaac and Gary Mainer,
Ray Eanes, Wayne Henderson, David and Linda Lay, R. G. Absher and the
Banknotes, and more! Cindy Baucom, a 2012 Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame
Inductee, will be this year’s Emcee.

Sponsors for this event include the Town of Wilkesboro, Marilyn Payne/A-1 Self
Storage, NC Arts Council and Wilkes Art Gallery, Arnold and Rebecca Lakey, Main
Street Music and Loan, Terry Baucom Scholarship Fund, Brame Huie Pharmacy,, Craig Langston/Edward Jones Investments, Ann Showalter,
George Childers, Don and Gayle Brown, Scenic Memorial Gardens and Mausoleum,
Nancy Watson, R. G. Absher, and DonLin Counseling Services. This project is
supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural
and Cultural Resources.

The Wilkes Heritage Museum collects and preserves historic structures, artifacts, and
documents of Wilkes County and serves as a resource center for every Wilkes County
citizen and visitor. Through exhibits, educational programs, performances, and research,
the Wilkes Heritage Museum interprets the history of Wilkes County and western North

For more information about The Wilkes Heritage Museum and the Blue Ridge Music
Hall of Fame, please call 336-667-3171 or go to


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