Appalshop mourns the loss of bluegrass pioneer Wade Mainer, who
passed away on September 12, 2011 at the age of 104.
In 1989, Wade appeared with his wife Julia at Appalshop’s Seedtime
on the Cumberland festival. To commemorate his life
and music, the Appalshop Archive presents select performance
and interview clips that were taped during Wade and Julia’s 1989
visit to Whitesburg, Kentucky.
A native of North Carolina, Wade Mainer altered the course of modern bluegrass music when, in the 1930’s, he introduced a distinctive two-finger banjo picking style that contrasted with the traditional downward-moving clawhammer stroke. This change in playing style brought the banjo to the forefront of the mountain music band, where it had traditionally been a background rhythm instrument. It also gave a modern flavor to traditional tunes. Mainer is credited with laying the foundation for modern bluegrass, influencing legends such as Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Doc Watson. In his later years, Mainer was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ distinguished National Heritage Fellowship Award, which recognizes mastery in folk and traditional arts.