This article courtesy of Blue Ridge Natural Heritage Area

Picture of Wayne LedfordWayne Ledford was born into a musical family in the Little Rock Creek community of Mitchell County, and he has been playing for more than 75 years. “I play by ear,” he says. “I couldn’t hardly reach around my guitar when I started.” The youngest of 11 children, he began playing guitar to provide some backup rhythm for his brother Steve, who played fiddle. Their father was a good oldtime fiddler, and Wayne remembers Arthur Smith and the Dixieliners staying with his family when they were in the area.

Wayne has been steeped in the traditional mountain music of the area. “You can’t hear much of the good oldtime music anymore,” he says. The first song he remembers learning was “Bachelor Blues,” written by a local songwriter, Ham Welch. Other tunes that were part of his earliest repertoire include “Little Maggie,” “Big Eyed Rabbit,” and “What Will You Do With the Baby?” “I like bluegrass,” Wayne says. “I can play bluegrass, but I like oldtime the best.” In addition to being influenced by family and local musicians, Wayne remembers listening to Riley Puckett on the radio and cites him as an early influence. “I could listen to a tune on the radio, and I could go right into the other room and play it and sing it,” he says.

The guitar has been his instrument throughout his performing career. Wayne has played guitar with a number of musicians over the years including Charlie and Bill Monroe, Clyde Moody, Zeke and Wiley Morris, and Roy Hall. He also played with local oldtime fiddler Red Wilson. He has performed in venues all over the country, including Chicago and Michigan in the early 1970s. He has played on radio stations throughout the region, including WWNC in Asheville, WPTF in Raleigh, and stations in Bristol and Johnson City. With his brother, Wayne recorded an album for Rounder Records called The Ledford Brothers, which came out in 1972. Wayne also played in a band with Berlin Ledford (no immediate relation) called the Glenn Ayre Ramblers for a number of years.

In addition to playing guitar, Wayne has done a lot of tenor singing. He also called square dances. He played for many square dances over the years and eventually learned to call the dances himself. These days, his music making is mostly at home.

Robert Wayne Ledford, age 94 of NC 261, Bakersville, NC went home to be with the Lord, October 1, 2016.

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