Helping communities across the state connect their heritage arts and traditions to local development, education, and active citizenship
Alan and Betsy Reid
Warren County, NC
Skills: Public Presentations
Visit any musical function in Warren County—say, the Friday-night Norlina Jamboree or the Ridgeway Opry House on a Saturday night—and you’re likely to find Alan and Betsy Reid at the core of the house band.
Alan Reid was raised in a musical family in Warrenton—his mother and aunt would often sing on the radio in Rocky Mount during tobacco sales—but he didn’t begin playing the banjo until he was in his early 20s. “I bought a little Sears and Roebuck model,” he recalls. “I brought it home and had it on the table. My grandfather picked it up and started playing it…He didn't use picks; he just used two fingers.”
Inspired by his grandfather’s skills, Alan set about picking up the two-finger style favored by the older Reid. “The first song he taught me was ‘Red River Valley,’” he explains. “I play in that style a whole lot now.”
Alan honed his skills for five years before he began playing with other musicians. “Robin St. Sing was getting good, too, messing with the Dobro,” he recalls. “Our first group together consisted of Robin St. Sing, myself, James Matthews, Butch Meek, and Tommy Brantley, and we played as the Country Grass Band…We’d play at dances and stuff like that.”
Betsy Reid was born and raised in the Vicksboro section of Vance County. She and Alan met working at the Progress Energy plant in Warren County. Though also from a musical family, it wasn’t until she and Alan married that she picked up the bass guitar.
“When they all started coming to the house, that's when I really got interested in the bass…The bass player of Country Grass—James Matthews—is the one who really enticed me to play, because I just loved to hear him playing…Finally, Alan bought me a bass, and…he showed me a few chords, and after that I just picked it up and started playing.”
The Reids are now central figures in Warren County’s musical community. The couple sees music as a means of fellowship and a way of strengthening community bonds. Says Alan, “I don't care about competitive playing. I want everybody to be recognized for what they're doing—though I do think the music is just as good here as you can hear anywhere.” Betsy nods, adding, “We really enjoy it together.”