Clarence "Tom" Ashley inducted into Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame
Smithsonian Folkways recording artist Clarence "Tom" Ashley was recently inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, located in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Ashley, an American folk singer and banjo player, was inducted in the "Pioneer Artist Category", and joins Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Ola Belle Reed, Mike Seeger, and Doc Watson, and Smithsonian folklorist Ralph Rinzler as inductees.
Clarence "Tom" Ashley was born in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1895. He acquired the nickname "Tom" from his grandfather, and for many years people thought that Clarence and Tom were two different people. Ashley began performing as a banjo player and singer at the age of 16, traveling for many years throughout Appalachia as a member of a medicine show. He recorded several original songs during the 1920's. Two of his recordings, "The Coo-Coo Bird" and "The House Carpenter", are included in Smithsonian Folkways' Anthology of American Folk Music. An injury to his hand and changing economic conditions caused Ashley to abandon his career in the 1940's.
In 1960, a chance meeting with Ralph Rinzler at the Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove, NC, resulted in the revitalization of his career and the exposure of his music to a new generation of listeners. Beginning in 1960, Ashley recorded two important albums with Doc Watson on Folkways Records. These albums have been reissued by Smithsonian Folkways as a single collection entitled Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley: The Original Folkways Recordings, 1960-1962. Ashley also recorded an album of his songs in 1966 with Tex Isley. This collection, entitled Clarence Ashley and Tex Isley is also available from Smithsonian Folkways. Ashley died in 1967.
For more information about Smithsonian Folkways recordings by Clarence "Tom" Ashley, click here.