Stanley Hicks was born on October 12, 1911, on Beech Mountain [North Carolina] in a very self-relying family and community surrounded by rich storytelling, music, craft and foodways traditions. Both of his parents, Roby Monroe Hicks and Buna Presnell Hicks were well-known singers and musicians. His father also made banjos, and he taught Stanley how. Stanley was a very humorous and entertaining character, and he eventually gained international fame for his hand-made instruments, dancing and playing, and the endless supply of stories.Stanley’s grandfather, Samuel Hicks and his father, Roby Monroe Hicks both made not only instruments, but all of the tools they needed as well. They used native woods – mostly walnut, maple, and cherry, and the banjo heads were usually made from groundhog or cat skins. Stanley began by helping his father make banjos.
Stanley was one of the featured banjo makers in the third Foxfire book. “You have to be careful at this,” he says, “I make my instruments to play. Before I’d send you one, I’d take’em all out and make’em right. That’s what I make’em for is to play’em.” Stanley also made folk toys, such as the “pecking birds,” and other wood-carved animals. He used to sell instruments out of his home and at Jack Guy’s store on Beech Creek.
Stanley was very welcoming to visitors, and he always had a tale to tell and song to sing. Stanley also helped a number of interested wood workers how to build instruments. Charlie Glenn built his first banjo and dulcimer with Stanley’s help. Charlie continues to make instruments today, refining his style, but continuing the tradition passed on by Stanley.
In 1980, the North Carolina Folklore Society presented Stanley Hicks with its highest honor, the Brown-Hudson Award. A federal honor followed in 1983, when he was presented with the National Heritage Fellowship of the Folk Arts Program of the National Endowment of the Arts.
“Back then they didn’t care, you know. They’uz too many cats anyhow, and they didn’t care much. But they just didn’t ant to see you come to the house! I wouldn’t get the last cat a man had [laughing]. When I got down to one, I’d leave it fer him!” - Stanley Hicks, quoted in Foxfire 3.
Courtesy of the Watauga Arts Council, N.C., www.watauga-arts.org In 1983, Stanley Hicks was presented with the National Heritage Fellowship of the Folk Arts Program of the National Endowment of the Arts.http://www.nea.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/fellow.php?id=1983_04
Full Name: Stanley Hicks
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