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North Carolina Banjo Traditions: J. Roy Stalcup

Western North Carolina banjo player, J. Roy Stalcup (1903-1990) is one of the many older generation Appalachian musicians documented in Hutchins Library's sound recordings collections. Text edited by Harry Rice from Lee Knight’s articles.

Selected J. Roy Stalcup recordings

These performances were recorded by Cashers, North Carolina musician, Lee Knight, in 1979. They document J. Roy when he was semi-retired, enjoying his sizable banjo collection, and playing informally with friends and at such events as John C. Campell Folk School’s Fall Festivals and the Eno River Folklife Festival in Durham. J. Roy died July 1, 1990.

They document both J. Roy’s distinctive finger action and his bent for using a wide variety of tunings. Many were common ones used for numerous songs. Others he used for only one or two tunes and referred to them by their titles, such as the“500 Miles” key or “Sugar Betty Ann” key.

J. Roy’s banjo repertoire included songs and tunes learned from family and community and from radio or records. Those he learned first hand include “Georgia Buck”, “Free Little Bird”, “Old Joe Clark”, “The Johnson Boys” and “Sugar Betty Ann.” His source for the well-known “500 Miles,” a variant of “Ruben’s Train,” was the 1960s rendition by Peter, Paul and Mary. For songs such as “Fireball Mail”, “Eight More Miles To Louisville” and “Here, Rattler, Here,” he credits the likes of Roy Acuff, Grandpa Jones, and various other commercial artists.

Georgia Buck - talking about the tune - SC-OR-094-006-04

Georgia Buck - playing the tune - SC-OR-094-006-03

Free Little Bird - SC-OR-094-006-05

Old Joe Clark - AC-OR-094-005

Johnson Boys - SC-OR-094-006-11

Sugar Betty Ann (Fly Around My Pretty Little Maid) - SC-OR-094-006-14

Five Hundred Miles - SC-OR-094-006-02

Eight More Miles to Louisville - SC-OR-094-006-10

Here, Rattler, Here - SC-OR-094-006-10