Janette Carter played an important role in preserving the musical traditions of the Appalachian region. As the last surviving second-generation member of the Carter Family, she was an important link to one of country music's most important early acts and spent the past three decades ensuring that their music, and that of their contemporaries, has endured.
Janette was just four years old when her parents, A.P. and Sara Carter, and her aunt, Maybelle Carter, made their now-famous trip from the small mountain community of Maces Springs, Virginia, to the town of Bristol on the Tennessee-Virginia border. A.P. had arranged a meeting with Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company in the hope that they might make a little extra money and, on 1 August 1927, they auditioned for him. He was impressed enough to allow them to cut six numbers and, when these sold well, arranged several further recording sessions for the label.
The Carter Family went on to record many songs that have become central to the country-music repertoire, including "Keep on the Sunny Side", "Wildwood Flower" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", and their performances have been acclaimed for their dignity and power.
Although the Carter Family recorded scores of classic sides for Victor, ARC and Decca, the Depression had a major impact upon their sales. By 1938 they had moved to Del Rio, Texas, where they became a popular fixture on border radio stations such as XERA and XENT. These stations were not subject to US regulations and with an output of some 50,000 watts could be heard right across America. Janette Carter made her début at XERA, in 1939, and appeared regularly on the Family's twice-daily radio show.
A.P. and Sara divorced in 1939, but continued to work together until 1943. They did not record again until 1952 when they, Janette and her brother Joe began a project that saw them cut some 80, admittedly inferior, sides for Acme Records. All the while, A.P. maintained his interest in mountain music. He frequently set off from his grocery shop in Maces Springs (now renamed Hiltons) on song-collecting trips, often accompanied by Janette, whose faultless memory proved invaluable in transcribing the songs.
Shortly before her father's death, she promised him that she would find a way to continue his musicological work. It wasn't, however, until 1974 that she began to act upon that promise. She converted her father's shop into a concert venue and began promoting fortnightly dances and jam sessions. In 1979 she further developed the site, creating an auditorium and cultural centre, the Carter Family Fold, that each year welcomes thousands of visitors from around the globe.
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