Helping communities across the state connect their heritage arts and traditions to local development, education, and active citizenship
The Carroll family
By Hugh Carroll
Roanoke Rapids, Halifax County, NC
Skills: Public Presentations
Gospel musician Hugh Carroll was born and raised in Brunswick County, Virginia, 25 miles from his longtime home of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. He picked up his first instrument––a mandolin––as a child and learned to play alongside his brother. “He bought a guitar,” Carroll recalls, “and we just learned on our own…”
The Carroll boys attended shows on the Southeastern “schoolhouse circuit” of the late 1950s, where well-known bluegrass groups such as Jim and Jesse McReynolds and the Osborne Brothers performed in rural county school auditoriums on Saturday nights. “I would go to see them and watch how they were picking those instruments,” he remembers. “Then I'd come home and would try to do the same things they were doing.” Hours spent sitting around the tobacco curing barns on the farm where he grew up provided him with ample opportunity to practice his skills, and he picked up tips from anybody else around who could play.
As a young adult, Carroll married and moved to Roanoke Rapids to be closer to his job at the KapStone Paper Mill. By then, he was playing backup guitar with a gospel group at the First Pentecostal Holiness Church. Carroll eventually assumed managerial and lead singing duties and, according to him, “Promoters began to promote gospel music in this area, and they would ask us to come be on the programs.”
Rechristening themselves The Carroll Family, the bluegrass and Southern gospel band grew to include members of Carroll’s immediate family. In 1980, the group added a puppetry component to their performances after Carroll witnessed the enthusiastic reaction to his daughter’s puppet show at her high school talent show. “There were about 1,000 people there,” he laughs. “and I thought, ‘If these people enjoy puppets that much, in my next concert, we're going to do a puppet program.’"
The Carroll Family has traveled widely throughout the Eastern United States, performing an estimated 80 to 125 shows per year. Hugh Carroll credits his success to his family and to God. “Without them,” he explains, “I could not have done the concerts that I was doing.” The Carroll Family currently includes Hugh, son Russell, daughter-in-law Becky, and grandchildren Bella, Gracie, Lydia, and Olivia.
The Carroll Family will consider all engagements; church programs preferred.