July 21: The late Sara Carter was born in 1898 – 116 years ago

sara_carterSara Carter (with banjo)

Sara Carter (July 21, 1898 – January 8, 1979) was an American Country music musician. Known for her deep and distinctive singing voice, she was the lead singer on most of the recordings of the historic Carter Family act in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Carter Family:

The Carter Family was a traditional American folk music group that recorded between 1927 and 1956. Their music had a profound impact on bluegrass, country, Southern Gospel, pop and rock musicians as well as on the U.S. folk revival of the 1960s. They were the first vocal group to become country music stars. Their recordings of such songs as “Wabash Cannonball”, “Can the Circle Be Unbroken”, “Wildwood Flower” and “Keep On the Sunny Side” made them country standards.

BBC Documentary on Country Music – here is 15 glorious minutes about The Carter Family:

The original group consisted of Alvin Pleasant “A.P.” Delaney Carter (1891–1960), his wife Sara Dougherty Carter (1898–1979), and his sister-in-law Maybelle Addington Carter (1909–1978). Maybelle was married to A.P.’s brother Ezra (Eck) Carter and was also Sara’s first cousin. All three were born and raised in southwestern Virginia, where they were immersed in the tight harmonies of mountain gospel music and shape note singing.

This is an excerpt from the upcoming music documentary The Winding Stream – The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music (we were participating in the funding of this kickstarter project). It tells the story of how A.P. Carter met his future wife Sara while selling fruit trees in the hills of southwest Virginia:

Throughout the group’s career, Sara Carter sang lead vocals; Maybelle sang harmony and accompanied the group instrumentally; on some songs A.P. did not perform at all but at times sang harmony and background vocals and once in a while, lead vocal. Maybelle’s distinctive guitar playing style became a hallmark of the group.


  • The Carter Family was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970 and were given the nickname “The First Family of Country Music”.
  •  In 1988, the Carter Family was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and received its Award for the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”.
  • In 1993, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp honoring A.P., Sara, and Maybelle.
  • In 2001, the group was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.
  • In 2005, the group received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Maybelle & Sarah Carter on The Johnny Cash Show. From Nov. 18, 1970, this is one of Maybelle and Sarah Carter’s last public performances together. Included are “You Are My Flower” and “I’ll Be Satisfied” with the host. Although originally broadcast in color, the copy of the show I have is in black and white, and for this clip it really works:

Album of the day:

– Egil & Hallgeir

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