A short biography of The Carter Family.

There are many biographies that I read that discussed the lives and music of The Carter Family. A biography by David Vinopal, Rovi summed up the groups career well and can be found on CMT.com http://www.cmt.com/artists/the-carter-family-00/biography/ . The following is a synopsis of the article from CMT.

The Carter Family initially consisted of A.P. and Sara Carter. Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter, more commonly known as A.P. Carter was born in December of 1891. A.P. grew up with old time songs and learned to play the fiddle at a young age. Much of his musical teaching came from his mother. Once A.P. became an adult he sang in a gospel quartet with his older sister and two uncles. Not long after this A.P. moved to Indiana where he worked for the railroad until 1911. In 1911 A.P. moved back to Virginia where he worked traveling and selling fruit trees. While on one of his travels he met his wife to be Sara Dougherty. Sara also grew up in a musical household and had learned to play the autoharp, guitar and banjo. According to legend when A.P. and Sara met she was on her porch playing her autoharp and singing “Engine 143.”

On June 18th, 1915 A.P. and Sara married and settled down in Maces Spring. A.P. worked various jobs and the two of them performed at many local social gatherings for the next 11 years. In 1926 Maybelle Carter, A.P.’s brother Ezra’s wife joined the group. In 1927 the Carters recorded six songs for Ralph Peer of Victor Records. Two of the memorable songs from this session were “The Wandering Boy” and “Single Girl, Married Girl.” These songs were sold as singles and sold well. Victor asked if they would sign a long range contract. After signing on with Victor the Carter Family wrote and played songs for seven years including their better known songs like: “Wabash Cannonball,” I’m Thinking Tonight of my Blue Eyes,” “John Hardy was a Desperate Little Man,” Wildwood Flower” and their signature song “Keep on the Sunny Side.”

By the late 1920’s The Carter Family were nationally known, but the onset of the Great Depression the Carters stopped playing concerts around the US and instead played in school houses around Virginia. As money became very tight A.P. went to Detroit to find work, and Maybelle and Ezra moved to Washington D.C.. In 1932 A.P. and Sara separated and for the next few years The Carter Family would only see each other at recording sessions. In 1935 The Carters left Victor and signed with ARC where they re-recorded many of their more famous songs. In 1936 ARC was dropped and the group signed with Decca.

Also at this time the Carters signed a radio contract with XERF of Del Rio, Texas. The station had the ability to broadcast all around the country; and because of this the Carter Family became very popular which could be seen with their record sales through Decca. In 1939 A.P. and Sara divorced but the band still played together until 1941 when they moved to Charlotte, NC.  The band briefly recorded for Columbia Records before resigning with Victor. Around 1943 Sara and here new husband Coy Bayes moved to California. A.P. moved back to Virginia where he ran a country store. Maybelle Carter began recording and touring with her daughters Helen, June and Anita. In 1952 A.P. and Sara reformed The Carter Family with their grown children. Kentucky based Acme signed A.P., Sara, and their daughter Janette to a contract where over the next 4 years nearly 100 songs were recorded. In 1956 The Carter Family disbanded again, and then in 1960 A.P. died at his Maces Spring home.

In 1966 Sara was persuaded by Maybelle to reunite and play a number of folk festivals and record an album for Columbia Records. In 1970 The Carter Family was elected into the Country Hall of Fame. Below are a few links to videos of The Carter Family performing.

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