The Jack Guy Collection: Traditional Music and Craft of Avery and Watauga Counties, North Carolina
In 2015, the North Carolina Folklife Institute (NCFI) received a donation of an exceptional private archive, the Jack Guy Collection. Jack Guy (1929 – 2008) was a folk toymaker from Beech Creek, a small, unincorporated community in the mountains of Avery County, North Carolina, near Beech Mountain. In addition to being an accomplished toymaker and an entrepreneur who promoted the traditional crafts of his native region, Guy hosted concerts and jam sessions at his shop, which he documented extensively. He accumulated a personal collection that included dozens of reel-to-reel audio recordings, home movies, hundreds of photographs, and an extensive collection of ephemera documenting twentieth-century local Appalachian culture.
The collection includes previously unpublished recordings and photos of some of the most influential traditional musicians in this part of Appalachia, as well as a host of important lesser-known artists. Among the artists represented are two NEA National Heritage Fellows, Ray and Stanley Hicks; Folkways recording artists Frank Proffitt, Gaither Carlton, Clint Howard, and Fred Price; North Carolina Heritage Award recipients Willard Watson and Ora Greer Watson, and Ora Mae Watson; other highly influential Blue Ridge musicians including banjo player Tab Ward and members of the instrument-building Presnell family; and close friends and musical associates of National Heritage Fellow Doc Watson.
NCFI will carry out extensive background research into the arts heritage and community history of the Beech Mountain region, in order to create an educational web presentation allowing free public access to the collection. Field research will be conducted by folklorists, in cooperation with descendants of the artists represented in the collection, and contextual essays will be written by scholars of Appalachian arts, all helping to create a rich representation of the community from which the collection originated. When the project concludes, NCFI will repatriate all of the original materials to their home region, donating them to Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area for making this project possible! We’re also delighted to be working with such partners as the W. L. Eury Collection at Appalachian State University, and the radio show Born in the Mountain.
Please contact us to learn more about this collection, or to share information about it with us!