Author: Ted Olson


Maybelle Carter (1909–1978)

Maybelle Carter was a member of the Carter Family, a trio that helped to pioneer what became known as country music. Born in Scott County, in Southwest Virginia, she grew up playing music and learning traditional Appalachian songs and tunes. She also developed a distinctive style of guitar playing that combined rhythmic chords and thumb-plucked melody that was dubbed the “Carter lick.” With her first cousin Sara Carter and Carter’s husband, A. P. Carter, Maybelle Carter formed the Carter Family, recording for the first time at the Bristol Sessions of 1927. The group made nearly 300 records in a career that lasted until the early 1940s, and for several years they performed on ultrahigh-frequency border radio. These broadcasts could be heard across North America and helped make the group nationally famous. After the Carter Family disbanded in 1943, Maybelle Carter continued to perform with her three daughters, as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. She joined the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and later toured with Johnny Cash, her daughter June Carter‘s third husband. Later in life Carter continued to perform and appear on television and came to be known as the Mother of Country Music. She died in 1978.