Helping communities across the state connect their heritage arts and traditions to local development, education, and active citizenship
Bishop Dready Manning
Roanoke Rapids, Halifax County, NC
Skills: Public Presentations
A native of Gaston, Northampton County, North Carolina, Bishop Dready Manning played a guitar for the first time at the age of seven. “It was probably 1941 or so, and I had a cousin named Doc Mangum; he and I grew up together. He had started playing just a little, and he started showing me what little he knew…”
A natural musician, Manning soon surpassed his cousin in skill. “When I was about 12 years old,” he remembers, “I met another man who I thought was the greatest guitar player in the world. His name was Russell Moody. So I started learning from him; soon, I was better than him.”
Inspired by musicians like Blind Boy Fuller and Brownie McGhee, Manning had one goal: “I wanted to be a blues guitar player.” For lack of formal performance venues in Halifax County, “I was playing for house parties, and I could play so good until people just wanted me to play,” he recalls. “Sometimes there would be as many as three parties in one night…I had gotten so good, man…When I was 15 years old, I was dynamite.”
Bishop Manning says that he lived the life of the bluesman––“I loved my good time,” he laughs––until his hard living caught up with him at the age of 27 in the form of sinus hemorrhage. The young musician visited a variety of medical practitioners, to no avail. It wasn’t until he was prayed over in his home by members of a local Holiness congregation that he was cured. “When they prayed their prayer, I was healed, just like popping your fingers,” he says.
Not long thereafter, he dedicated his prodigious talents to spreading the Christian gospel, frequently performing with his wife, Marie, and their six children. The family moved to a tract of land in Roanoke Rapids in 1969 and began constructing what would eventually become their church, St. Mark Holiness, in 1975.
In 2003, Bishop Manning received the North Carolina Heritage Award. He works with the Music Maker Foundation, which released his acclaimed album Gospel Train. The record label Big Legal Mess assembled a compilation of Manning’s early recordings entitled Converted Mind. Despite the accolades he receives, Manning remains humbly dedicated to his ministry. “We just have a Holy Ghost time,” he says.
Available for select engagements.