§ Lesley Riddle, the Carter Family & the History of Country Music

Step by Step cd coverOkay, so this is a bit of a tangent, a little history on Lesley Riddle, an important and underappreciated African-American musician who, with the Carter Family, changed the course of country music. I’ll follow up this post with another that includes some of Lesley’s music and also some bits of tape recordings from Lesley, Maybelle Carter, and Mike Seeger.

A couple of years ago when I was Creative Economies Director at the NC Arts Council I was tasked to write an appeal to the NC Historic Commission for their rejection of a highway marker honoring Lesley Riddle, an African-American from Burnsville, NC. Riddle had a singular relationship with A.P. and Maybelle Carter and the Carter family starting in the late 1920s. The appeal followed a specific format documenting errors made by the commission. The appeal was successful and actually got applause from the panel. (It helped that two friends from Burnsville played a couple of Lesley songs at the end!)

The written appeal is 10 pages (download here) and includes the history of Lesley & the Carters relationship along with a series of support letters from historians, a relative of Lesley’s, and Rita Forrester, Sara and A.P. Carter’s granddaughter. I hope you enjoy this bit of history, truly a great American story.

Lesley Riddle appeal for a highway historic marker

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