Author: Wayne W. Daniel


A. P. Carter (1891–1960)

A. P. Carter was a song collector and member of the Carter Family, a trio that helped to pioneer what became known as country music. Born in Scott County, in Southwest Virginia, Carter worked as a carpenter and traveling salesman before marrying Sara Dougherty in 1915. Carter’s true passion had always been music, and with his new wife, who sang and played the autoharp, he began to perform and audition to make recordings. With Maybelle Carter—Sara Carter’s first cousin and the wife of A. P. Carter’s brother—the couple 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. Many of the songs the Carter Family performed had been collected and arranged by A. P. Carter, who often spent weeks at a time combing the Virginia countryside for material, absences that, along with the fame, took a toll on his marriage. He and Sara Carter divorced in 1936 but continued to record together until 1941. The next year she moved to California, leaving behind their three children. With the Carter Family dissolved, A. P. Carter returned to Scott County, where he opened a general store, reuniting briefly with his former wife in the 1950s to perform with two of their children. Carter died in 1960 and was buried near Sara Carter in Virginia.