Helping communities across the state connect their heritage arts and traditions to local development, education, and active citizenship
Halifax County, NC
Skills: Public Presentations
Alan Ralph Stallings is known in Halifax County––where he was born and raised––as a musician’s musician. He possesses a broad, powerful vocal range like that of gifted singers such as Roy Orbison who can alternate between silky low and keening high registers in a single song. Stallings is also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who, in addition to the guitar, plays the bass, piano, and drums.
Stallings credits his grandfather with teaching him the rudiments of musical technique and harmony. “He was the musical force in our background,” explains Stallings. “He taught me and my siblings how to sing, and was an inspiration to us.”
“My mother tells me that my grandfather would sing, ‘Here Comes the Bride’—he would hum it, you know? Anyway, when I was about 18 months old, I sat up in the bed and start singing it, parodying what he did. I don't remember this, though Mama remembers it. That's how I started.”
As Stallings got older, he began playing music with friends, gradually improving his skill on the guitar with a chord book and the guidance of more experienced players. He was always drawn to music, from Hank Williams and Eddy Arnold to the pop music that was appearing on the radio during his childhood. Says Stallings, “I enjoyed music probably more than television when I was small.”
During his teenage years, Stallings started a gospel trio with his older siblings, Tony and Cathy. Calling themselves the Stallings Family, the group sang Southern gospel in churches throughout Halifax County. While not as active as they once were, the group still performs on occasion.
While it’s hard to imagine any doubt about Stallings’ calling, he explains that he “didn’t really settle on music fully” until he was in his late teens. In 1979, he sang at his high school talent show, an event about which he recalls laughingly, “I enjoyed myself, but I was scared to death. And the reaction was very good. The audience sounded like they were about to tear the place apart.”
Asked about the secret to his musical skills, Stallings modestly chalks it up to “years and years of practice.”
Alan Stallings currently performs solo, and as a duo with guitarist Sparkie Watts of Roanoke Rapids.
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