The Happy Valley Pals are four old friends who have enjoyed each other’s company and musicianship for decades. Though each member of the Pals has recording and performance credits on their own, the quartet brings together the bluesy fiddling, animated guitar, growling bowed bass, and lively fingerpicked banjo that make the Pals a regional favorite among old-time music enthusiasts.
Besides the music and friendship, The Pals share deep family and musical roots in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Their music was learned directly from elder musicians across North Carolina, and from 78 rpm recordings from the golden era of the 1920s and ‘30s. The Pals’ sound emerged from many hours spent with Piedmont musicians such as A.C. Overton, Lauchlin Shaw, and Smith McInnis plus old-time recording artists from the late 1920’s including North Georgia’s Seven Foot Dilly and His Dill Pickles, Andrew and Jim Baxter and Tennessee bands Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters and The Roan County Ramblers.
Margaret Martin learned guitar and singing from Tobacco Tags’ alumnus Starving Sam Pridgen and two-finger blues rhythms from Piedmont player Algia Mae Hinton. Later on, her mentors were Garner banjoist A.C Overton and Morganton guitarist Etta Baker. A fortunate 5-year stint as head of the Folk Arts in N.C. Schools program allowed her to play music with some of the best elder fiddlers, banjoists and blues musicians in our state. She and Wayne helped to get PineCone underway, way back when.
Wayne Martin spent his early childhood in Dunwoody, Georgia where he would occasionally hear family members sing shape-note hymns and play the fiddle. After moving to Raleigh as a teenager, he locked on to fiddle and banjo music and began learning from traditional musicians in the mountains, piedmont and coastal regions. In addition to performing music, he has produced numerous recordings by traditional musicians including Etta Baker, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Doug and Jack Wallin and Joe and Odell Thompson. His recent productions include Marcus Martin: When I Get My New House Done and Going Down to Raleigh, which features stringband musicians from North Carolina’s central Piedmont.
Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie were both born in Florida to parents from Georgia and Tennessee. They have been playing old-time music and visiting and collecting fiddle tunes from older Southern musicians since they married 37 years ago. During that time they have also played together in several bands including the Bucksnort Barndance Band, the County Commissioners, the Carolina Catbirds, and the New Southern Broadcasters. Tommy Jarrell (NC), Taylor and Stella Kimble (VA), Ernie Carpenter, Melvin Wine, and Wilson Douglas (WV) were early influences on Gail and Dwight.
Dwight was inspired to play banjo in 1972 when he first heard old-time music at the Union Grove NC Fiddlers Convention. Gail took up guitar and banjo in the Florida Panhandle in the early 1960s, and was first exposed to part-singing out of Stamps-Baxter paperback songsters at church youth retreats in Alabama. She has been a dedicated advocate for old-time string band music, served on the advisory boards for PineCone and editor of the Old-Time Herald magazine from 2002 to 2008. She plays guitar, banjo, and mandolin.