Banjo player Aaron Chaucley Overton, Jr., (known to family and friends as A. C.) passed away on July 27. A. C. was born in 1924 in Granville County, North Carolina, though a tobacco blight soon sent the family south to Chatham County. His father and uncle played the banjo and his mother sang many old songs and ballads. When he was a boy, A. C. learned to play the banjo from his father and uncle. Though his style was rooted in a pre-bluegrass two-finger picking style once popular throughout much of North Carolina, A. C. made it his own: he attacked the strings in both directions with his thumb and “doubled up” on his up-strokes with his index finger creating an unbroken waterfall of notes surrounding the melody. Though he was cheerfully game to play just about any kind of music—“You Gotta See Your Mama Every Night” was a favorite—A. C. always loved the old tunes and songs he had learned in his youth, such as “House Carpenter,” “Railroad,” and “Going to the Army.”
A. C. will always be remembered as a kind, good-natured man, who was always generous in sharing his joyful music with others. For many years, he and his wife Ava opened their home in Garner to visitors for a home-cooked meal, a slice of Ava’s buttermilk pie, and an evening of music-making. Beginning in the 1980s, A. C. began to travel and bring his music to wider audiences. He and his friend and musical partner, Harnett County fiddler Lauchlin Shaw, were featured artists at the 1984 World’s Fair at Knoxville, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington, and the Tennessee Banjo Institute. Everywhere they went, they delighted in demonstrating that “flatlanders” could play great old-time fiddle and banjo music. In 1992 the duo received a North Carolina Heritage Award, and in 1996 they recorded a CD, Sally with the Run-Down Shoes, produced by the Folklife Division of the North Carolina Arts Council.
-Thanks to the North Carolina Arts Council for biographical information.
See OTH, vol. 5, no. 2, winter 1995-96 for an article by Evelyn Shaw on her father Lauchlin Shaw, that includes much information on A. C. Overton and central North Carolina fiddle and banjo music.