One hundred fifty years after the American Civil War, the music of the time period is still alive and well. One of The Huckleberry Brothers’ founding members first heard this music first-hand from Civil War veterans; Edd Little, Sr. passed away a few years ago, but his memories and legacy are carried on by the band he helped create. The Huckleberry Brothers perform on Sunday, April 11 at 3 p.m. at the NC Museum of History as part of the Music of the Carolinas series.
The Huckleberry Brothers play traditional and popular music of mid-19th century America in a way that is faithful to the original form. Their instruments are authentically reproduced in the designs and materials of the mid-1800s. They include 5-string banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, tin whistle, harmonicas, bones, and tambourine. The fretless banjos are strung with the gut strings of the period, tuned down low and played in the minstrel or “stroke” style. Their repertoire is composed of songs, ballads, and fiddle tunes from the 1700s through 1865.
The band’s current lineup is: Curtis Cole (mandolin, harmonica, & vocals) Marsha Harris (fiddle, lap & bowed dulcimers, & dance caller); Bryant Henderson (tinwhistle, harmonica, Anglo concertina, bones & vocals); Edwin P Little, Jr (banjo & vocals); Kendall Smith (guitar & vocals); Troy Parker (fiddle, banjo & vocals); Mike Parker (fiddle & guitar); Ann Ortiz (fiddle, banjo, & vocals); Bryan Craddock (tinwhistle, bohdran, tamborine, clogging, & dance caller).
Headquartered in the rural coastal plains of eastern North Carolina, The Huckleberry Brothers band was formed in 2002. In February of that year, several Civil War re-enactors began meeting at James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, N.C. on a couple of Tuesday nights each month to play music of the mid-1800s. A number of individuals came and went, but Doc Edd Little, Edd Little, Sr., Curtis Cole, and Bryant Henderson stuck with it. They met fiddler Troy Parker at Bentonville in March of that year. Parker has been playing just about any instrument with strings for about 15 years. Ever since the group came together, they have been exploring and performing the traditional and popular music of mid-19th century America.
They can be seen performing at reenactments, living history presentations, period dances, and other events. The Huckleberry Brothers will be found entertaining and educating the public throughout the day as well as playing for the dances or around the campfire. The music on their new CD, First Pickins, represents some of their favorite songs and tunes and is what you will hear when you show up for a live performance.
The group chose their name specifically to not be distinct to either North or South, nor militaristic sounding. They agreed on “The Huckleberry Brothers.” Huckleberries are both blue and gray on the outside, and they grow uncultivated all over North America. They even have a slogan: “The Huckleberry Brothers — everybody’s favorite musical fruits. We don’t beat around the bush.”
Their first official public performance was at Fort Fisher, Kure Beach, N. C. on Saturday, January 12, 2003. That year they performed at most of the Civil War sites in eastern N.C., including Forts Macon and Branch, Kinston, Averasboro, and Bentonville.
In January 2004, the group performed at a reenactment at Goldsboro’s Old Waynesborough Village on the first night that they played with fiddler Mike Parker, who soon introduced them to fellow Morehead City fiddle and dulcimer player Marsha Harris.
By March, Parker had brought along the fiddle, banjo, piano, and singing talents of Ann Massengill Ortiz. “Annie O” holds a Ph. D. in Spanish Literature, and teaches at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C.
In November of 2005, Edd Little, Sr passed away at the age of nearly 92. His gentle friendship, jokes, and reflections of his youth on a dairy farm in northwestern New Jersey continue to guide and shape the band’s approach to the music that he heard first-hand from Civil War veterans.
By 2007, it only seemed natural to officially add the dancing and musical talents of Bryan Craddock on whistles, percussion and flat-foot dancing, and Kendall Smith on guitar and vocals. Both Craddock and Harris are experienced dance callers, and there’s nothing that this group enjoys more than playing for a crowd of happy dancers. Wives Nancy Little and Mary Lynn Henderson lend their dulcet voices and advice to the group whenever possible.
Last, but by no means least, The Huckleberry Brothers are joined at practically any performance by a sundry host of musical friends, officially dubbed “The Cocklebur Cousins.”
The sound of the fiddle and banjo is a quintessential American pairing, and the addition of more instruments and percussion creates the varied and vibrant sound that transformed folk music into the foundations of American popular music. Take an hour to hear it for yourself! The Huckleberry Brothers perform at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 11 in the NC Museum of History’s Daniels Auditorium.
It is free and open to the public, and program notes will be provided.
Visit www.pinecone.org for complete details and to see the full Music of the Carolinas schedule.