April 21, 1907 – September 12, 2011 Remembering Wade Echard Mainer

Remembering Wade Echard Mainer (April 21, 1907 – September 12, 2011), from near Weaverville, N.C. was an American country singer and banjoist, who as a boy picked up the banjos that performers would lay down during their breaks at dances and taught himself to play. With his band, the Sons of the Mountaineers, he is credited with bridging the gap between old-time mountain music and Bluegrass. He is sometimes called the “Grandfather of Bluegrass.” In addition, he innovated a two-finger banjo fingerpicking style, which was a precursor to modern three-finger bluegrass styles.
Mr. Mainer began recording in the early 1930s with J. E. Mainer and the Mountaineers, led by his older brother, a fiddle player. He introduced a distinctive two-finger style, with the thumb moving downward and the forefinger moving upward, that contrasted with the traditional downward-moving clawhammer stroke. This style gave a modern flavor to traditional tunes and inspired younger players like Don Reno and Earl Scruggs.
In the late 1930s Mr. Mainer formed his own group, the Sons of the Mountaineers, which recorded dozens of songs on RCA Victor’s Bluebird label.
“Wade brought the music forward,” said Dick Spottswood, the author of “Banjo on the Mountain: Wade Mainer’s First Hundred Years” (2010). “In the 1920s, the banjo stayed in the background, providing counterpoint and rhythm. He made it prominent, and laid the groundwork for bluegrass in the 1940s.” In 1987, President Ronald Reagan bestowed upon him a National Heritage Fellowship for his contributions to American music.

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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