Helping communities across the state connect their heritage arts and traditions to local development, education, and active citizenship
Henderson, Vance County, NC
Skills: Demonstrating Artist, Public Presentations
As a six year-old in the small Warren County community of Oine, Wade Schuster could tune his family’s radio to Chicago’s WJJD just in time to catch the Suppertime Frolic show. It was then, the Henderson musician explains, that he became transfixed by country music. Says Schuster, “I knew when I heard Hank Williams sing that I wanted to do that.”
The youngest of eight children, Schuster grew up in a family that raised tobacco, cotton, and corn. “My two brothers and my daddy would do the plowing,” he recalls. “We were always a close-knit family. We worked together, and we played together…Nobody had a whole lot, but we had each other.”
At the age of seven, Schuster received a guitar for Christmas and began to learn the rudiments of the instrument. He was inspired as much by his parents, who often played traditional songs like “Redwing” and “Home Sweet Home” on the harmonica, as he was by Hank Williams. “Elvis Presley came out, and I came out with him,” laughs Schuster. A born showman, he recalls his early stage ambitions outstripping his ability on the guitar.
“We had a fiddlers’ convention up there at Norlina High School, in the gymnasium one night. We had a fellow there named Norman Ball. Everybody—especially the older set—knew of Norman Ball, because he was a big-time fiddler. He played left handed, and he held the fiddle down in his elbow. Well, I played in that show—a fiddlers’ convention, mind you—and I didn't know a single chord on the guitar. I sang [Elvis Presley’s] "Jailhouse Rock."
Schuster continued to hone his musical skills throughout his teenage years. He appeared on a number of radio programs in Henderson, played with area group the Warren County Ramblers, and performed for his fellow servicemen at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in his time in the National Guard.
Upon his return to North Carolina, Schuster settled down to raise a family and concentrate on his job at the Harriet-Henderson textile mill. He continued to perform in the region, becoming a regular at the Ridgeway Opry House. Schuster is the type of musician whom other musicians admire—a gifted and affable performer just as adept at performing a rollicking country tune as he is a three-quarter-time weeper.
Will consider all engagements.