Final Notes, Frank Benjamin Proffitt

Frank Benjamin Proffitt, 58, of Todd, North Carolina died August 7, 2005. He was born in Watauga County in 1946. He was an accomplished musician, playing the banjo, guitar and dulcimer.

Frank. was a gift to all of us who love traditional music a talented musician who proudly played the music of his family, a delightful storyteller, and a humble, generous friend. His father, Frank Proffitt, Sr., became nationally known as a folk singer in the 1940s through folk song collectors Frank and Anne Warner. His father’s version of “Tom Dooley” was later made into a popular hit by the Kingston Trio. Frank Jr.’s mother was Bessie Hicks, daughter of early dulcimer builder Nathan Hicks of Beech Mountain, NC. His uncle was storyteller Ray Hicks, and he counted among his cousins builder/musician Stanley Hicks, dulcimer player Nettie Presnell, and storyteller Orville Hicks.

Frank often gave concerts at the Appalachian State University Mountain Dulcimer Workshop. A big, handsome man, and entirely at home with the music, he was a charming performer of Appalachian traditional songs, tunes and tales. He was blessed with a clear singing voice, and played his mountain dulcimer and fretless banjo with an exciting rhythm. His speech, phrases, and stories retained evidence of his family’s 18th century North Carolina/Tennessee mountain roots. Over the years, Frank was a popular member of the North Carolina’s Visiting Artists program, and his performances there and at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival allowed him to reach and delight audiences of all ages.

The dulcimer and banjo world has lost one of its finest ambassadors. May Frank rest in peace with those he loved and admired. He’s most likely sitting in heaven right now playing the old tunes, singing the old ballads, and telling the old tales with his father and mother, his grandparents, and other members of the extended family.

-Lois Hornbostel
Tammy Sawyer

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