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S.C. Arts Awards: Julian A. Prosser

2019 Recipient Feature Series

As the day nears for the 2019 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is taking 15 days to focus on this year's recipients: nine receiving the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and five receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at UofSC. In between the two groups, we'll run a special feature on S.C. Arts Awards sponsor Colonial Life.

Julian A. Prosser

Bluegrass Music Julian A. Prosser was born in the small farming community of Hanna, South Carolina. One of four brothers, Prosser worked on the family farm. Growing up, he loved the sound of music played by his grandfather and uncles. When he was 11, Prosser earned the money to buy his first guitar. “Hillbilly” or bluegrass music was popular in South Carolina at that time. Prosser became a strong musician and entertainer with his own unique style. His guitar playing was clean, with an almost jazzy quality, which added to the hard driving sound of bluegrass. He would later apply that technique to his mandolin playing. By 1938, Prosser and several of his friends had put together The Carolina Hillbillies. The band played regularly on the radio in Florence. With the onset of World War II, the band broke up as its members joined the military. Prosser served in the U.S. Navy, driving a landing craft—or Higgins boat—at both Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Several of his bandmates gave their all in the war, and The Carolina Hillbillies never reformed. After the war, Prosser returned to the farm but soon took his father’s advice and moved to Columbia to earn a degree. Prosser played music occasionally, but when his son David and friend Donald Ashley became interested in learning to play Bluegrass, he was encouraged to play more often and share his knowledge and love of the music. In 1978, they formed The Carolina Rebels bluegrass band and they have been playing ever since. The Rebels crafted a unique sound that combined the early traditional Bluegrass familiar to Prosser with more modern sounds. By the 1980s they were playing throughout the region and had gained a following at the University of South Carolina, The State Museum, Riverbanks Zoo and along the Southern bluegrass circuit. Their USofC connection led to performances for the Conference of Caribbean Nations, and for such notables as the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcom Frazier, and former Vice President George H.W. Bush. Prosser served as the band manager and guided the direction and sound of the group. His high tenor vocals and talent on the mandolin provided a hard-driving edge that set the band apart. The Rebels are known for their entertaining stage presence, in which Hank is the straight man for jokes. The most stalwart band member, Hank has missed only five shows in almost 35 years. The Rebels have performed far and wide, from Texas to Nebraska, New York and Canada. They have shared the stage with Bluegrass legends Chubby Wise and Carl Story. Over the years, Prosser has mentored many younger local musicians, including fellow Jean Laney Harris Award recipients Ashley Carder, Chris Boutwell, and Larry Klein. Prosser continued to travel with the band until an accident at age 91 prevented him from standing for long periods of time. He remains a passionate advocate for bluegrass music and is recognized as both a pioneer and master of his craft by many local bluegrass performers. At 93, Prosser continues to be a driving force, keeping local bluegrass alive and well in the Palmetto State.
South Carolina Arts Awards Day is Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a reception that leads up to the awards ceremony at the UofSC Alumni Center (900 Senate St., Columbia). The event is free and open to the public. Following the ceremony, the South Carolina Arts Foundation honors the recipients and the arts community at the S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon and Art Sale. Tickets are $50. Please go here for more information and reservations.

Meet the Recipients

Use these links to read the long-form bios of the other 2019 South Carolina Arts Awards recipients.

From bluegrass to drumming, Lowcountry has places to jam

From the Post and Courier:

Article by Prentiss Findlay

Photo by Wade Spees

FOLLY BEACH — Dr. Toni Manos had just finished a session on lead vocals singing Loretta Lynn’s “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” when she took a break.

“There’s too many guitars up there. Sometimes it’s too crowded,” she said.

Manos and about a dozen other pickers entertained recently at one of the weekly Thursday night jam sessions sponsored by the Folly Beach Bluegrass Society.

Bluegrass and vintage country are staples at the show which includes a playful mix of contemporary and traditional sounds. A picture of Jimi Hendrix holding a banjo and wearing a John Deere cap can be found on the society’s Facebook page.

Bassist Jamie Crisp, a regular at the jam, said his musical tastes evolved from punk rock to the Grateful Dead to Americana. He also plays in Champagne With Friends, which offers an eclectic mix of reggae, rock and funk.

The Grill and Island Bar where the jam happens on Center Street is a contemporary setting with blue neon over the bar. The musicians perform in the restaurant.

The music brought together a disparate bunch that included a PhD hopeful, a retired military pilot, a decorative painter, a hotel maintenance manager and Manos, a former emergency room physician. They played traditional string instruments including the dobro, mandolin and fiddle. Some were novices and others considered virtuosos, such as a banjo player honored with a nomination for an International Bluegrass Music Association award.

The Island Bar jam was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., and musicians leisurely meandered onto the stage throughout the night.

“It’s like herding cats,” said Jamie McDonald, who is a producer of the 12-year-old event.

When the show began, the players picked in free-form fashion with a rotating cast that dropped in or left the stage as the spirit moved them. Sometimes, though, the music takes over. During a break, a musician described the time a jam evolved into a 45-minute romp through the classic “Rocky Top.”

The jam had an appreciative audience of locals and out-of-towners.

“They’re great. Awesome. It’s a great concept,” said Melanie Gibson of Edgefield.

McDonald joined the festivities on his gutbucket bass; he made the one-string instrument using a vintage washtub, cord and a stick. The upside down tub resonates with sound made when the picker adjusts the string tension by pushing or pulling on the stick. It is considered an original bluegrass instrument.

That kind of tradition has long been alive in Berkeley County at Guy and Tina’s Bluegrass Pickin’ Parlor in the unincorporated community of Bethera near Cordesville. Guy Faulk, 80, started the Saturday night event 37 years ago in his home. It became so popular that he built a shed with a stage to handle the crowd.

“We have a lot of fun. We keep it clean. No drinking, no drugging,” he said.

Faulk makes a big pot of coffee for the crowd. There is a potluck supper. Bands play in the shed for the 7 p.m. show and there is an open jam outside.

The South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina recognized the unique venue when they awarded Guy Faulk and his wife, Tina, the 2006 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award. Tina passed away recently. Faulk has other family members to help him with the show.

“My youngest son plays and sings,” he said.

Faulk spoke by phone over the loud whistle of a train as it rolled past his house.

“There was a lot of good music in this area but they didn’t have a place to go,” he said.

A desire to have a place for percussionists to get together and play spurred Joel Timmons’ efforts to begin the weekly Tuesday night Community Drumming Circle at The Brick House on Folly Road.

Timmons, who is a singer and guitarist in Sol Driven Train, said the event starts at 6 p.m. and draws an inter-generational crowd. Drums are available for those who don’t have one.

“It’s just turned into a real jam,” he said.

A cousin of the music jam, the open mic night, has a presence in many clubs including The Windjammer on the Isle of Palms. On Tuesday nights, The Windjammer welcomes acoustic acts only but no full bands or drums.

In Summerville, Shooters provides a stage for aspiring musicians on Saturday nights. “Any genre of music accepted. Originals or covers. Just bring your guitars, sticks, or voice,” says a listing for the event.

Reporter Abigail Darlington contributed to this story.

South Carolina to honor 2014 Folk Heritage Award winners

Congratulations to Chris Boutwell of Lexington and Anita Singleton-Prather of Beaufort, who have been named the 2014 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipients! The S.C. State Legislature will present the awards upon adjournment in the House Chamber, midday on May 8 at the Statehouse. Chris BoutwellBoutwell, of Lexington, is being honored as a bluegrass musician. Since the 1960s, he has performed with numerous bands and mentored generations of bluegrass musicians. He shares the history of the music by telling stories about the songs he plays and is considered a “walking encyclopedia” of bluegrass knowledge. Anita Singleton-PratherSingleton-Prather, of Beaufort, is an entrepreneur, Gullah advocate, entertainer and master storyteller. She brings Gullah culture to countless people through “Aunt Pearlie Sue,” a character inspired by her grandmother. She is also the founder of the musical performance group The Gullah Kinfolk. Following the Statehouse ceremony, a reception will be held at the Capstone House on the campus of the University of South Carolina. This informal event gives supporters and the general public the opportunity to celebrate the recipients’ artistic skills and lifetime commitment to the preservation and promotion of traditions rooted in place and community. The reception will take place in the Capstone Campus Room on the first floor. The Folk Heritage Award is named for the late Jean Laney Harris, an ardent supporter of the state's cultural heritage. The award was created by the legislature in 1987 to recognize lifetime achievement in the folk arts. The artistic traditions represented by the award are significant because they have endured, often for hundreds of years. The South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina jointly manage the awards program. For more information about the awards ceremony or reception, contact Saddler Taylor, McKissick Museum, at (803) 777-7251 or Doug Peach, S.C. Arts Commission, at (803) 734-8764. Also visit the McKissick website at www.cas.sc.edu/mcks/, or the S.C. Arts Commission website at SouthCarolinaArts.com.

Ashley Carder preserves old-time music legacy

Fiddler Ashley Carder, a 2012 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipient, was featured in an article in The State on Feb. 17: "The jam session in the back room at Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor rolls on into the night, local bluegrass veterans and relative novices alike feeding off the fiddle player with the engaging smile and impeccable playing style. “Play that waltz that sounds like taaaa-ta, ta-ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-ta-ta,” says Hershel Wise, whose 80-year-old fingers still can play the notes on his mandolin though his mind can’t recall the tune’s title. Ashley Carder considers the request for a second, then his bow takes off on the staccato notes of “The Westphalia Waltz.” The other musicians — Wise, two more fiddle players, three guitar players and a stand-up bass plucker — follow Carder’s lead even if they don’t know the tune well or at all. It’s impossible to estimate the number of fiddle tunes — from obscure old-time music to bluegrass standards — filed away in Carder’s head. He’s been stowing them away for decades as he learned from any old-time fiddle player who would show him the way. And as those old-timers have passed away, Carder felt a responsibility to preserve their legacy whether in sessions like the Friday night jams at Bill’s, in the multiple bands he plays with or in the recordings he has compiled through the years. Last year, Carder was honored with a Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award by the S.C. Arts Commission for his efforts to preserve the music of his predecessors. But he’s more of a rewards guy than an awards guy. He loves watching his mentors’ family members tear up when they hear the preserved songs or seeing novice fiddlers light up as they figure out how to play an old tune. His most recent project chronicles the career of one of his mentors — Pappy Sherrill. A legend in bluegrass/country circles dating back to the 1920s, Sherrill gained fame in South Carolina as the fiddler player in The Hired Hands." Read the complete article. Via: The State [caption id="attachment_4291" align="alignnone" width="600"]Ashely Carder 2012 Folk Heritage Awards Ashley Carder performs at the Statehouse after receiving the 2012 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award[/caption]

Milly

Musical ensembles invited to apply for American Music Abroad

Musical ensembles - here's your chance to serve as a cultural diplomat and share your talents with a global audience. American Music Abroad sends 10-12 ensembles on international musical exchanges and is open to ensembles that specialize in hip hop, rock & roll, jazz, country, and other American roots music, including but not limited to Native American, Latin, Afro-Caribbean, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, gospel and zydeco. Applications are now being accepted for the 2013-2014 program. Deadline is Jan. 18, 2013. Up to 40 ensembles will be invited to live auditions. American Music Abroad is a partnership between American Voices and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Through public concerts, interactive performances with local musicians, lectures and workshops, the American Music Abroad program embraces music as a diplomatic tool to bring people together and foster greater mutual understanding. Visit the American Music Abroad website for details and application information. Photos: Act of Congress, a band from Birmingham, Alabama, performed in Thailand, the Philippines, Palau and East Timor in September 2012 as part of American Music Abroad. Via: American Voices American Voices  

Milly

Cast your vote for new Spartanburg Music Trail inductees

The Spartanburg Music Trail is taking votes for the next set of honorees. The trail presents Spartanburg's legacy as a birthplace of musical careers and as of a contributor to American roots music such as blues, jazz, country, gospel and bluegrass. The trail is marked with signs throughout downtown, and a cell phone audio tour is available as well. You can read about the eight nominees and vote for up to two of them in this article in GoUpState.com. Visit the Spartanburg Music Trail website to learn about the first 12 musicians who were inducted. Via: Spartanburg Music Trail, GoUpstate.com [caption id="attachment_1372" align="aligncenter" width="551"] Pink Anderson (1900-1974). Piedmont bluesman who lived most of his life in Spartanburg. The rock group Pink Floyd is partially named after him.[/caption]