Algia Mae Hinton
The blues, as performed by guitarists, harmonica players, and singers in rural communities throughout piedmont and eastern North Carolina, is primarily a form of dance music. For Algia Mae Hinton of Johnston County, blues music and buckdancing are inseparable from one another. As she herself says, "it takes both to make it sound right."
Mrs. Hinton is the youngest daughter in a large family of music-makers. Her mother, Ollie O'Neal, was a talented musician who played guitar, accordion, autoharp, harmonica, and jaw harp. She taught her children music, and at the age of nine Algia Mae could play the guitar. By the time she had reached her mid-teens, she was able to entertain at local dances and houseparties.
Mrs. Hinton's passion for playing music was exceeded only by her love of dancing; indeed, her mother referred to her as "that dancing girl." There were many fine dancers in her family, and Mrs. Hinton closely observed the buckdancing techniques of her older siblings, parents, aunts, and uncles. An air of friendly competition prevailed within the family, which served to bolster her performance skills. She even learned to execute a buckdance while playing a guitar behind her head, never missing a step or a note!
Mrs. Hinton remembers her parents, and the music-making and dancing of her childhood, with deep affection. Since leaving home to marry and start a family of her own, life has been much harder. Her husband's premature death left her alone to raise seven children, and dependent on seasonal farm work in tobacco, cucumber, and sweet potato fields to support them. Seven years ago, on a frigid January night, she barely escaped with her life in a fire that destroyed her house and all of her belongings. Her music and dancing has provided a small, but crucial source of solace and income throughout these trials and tribulations.
Like her mother before her, Mrs. Hinton is passing the family arts to her children. Her son Willette has become an especially fine musician and dancer, and most of the dozen grandchildren have learned at least a few buckdance steps under her tutelage.
Beginning in 1978 with an appearance at the North Carolina Folklife Festival, Mrs. Hinton has been invited to bring her artistry outside of Johnston County. Her honors include appearances at the National Folk Festival, the Chicago University Folk Festival, and Carnegie Hall, among many. A woman of few words on stage, she speaks passionately through her dancing and her guitar. As she said after one performance, "I enjoy doing it, though I liked to work my legs overtime. But, I tell you, I had those folks jumping."
Courtesy of the North Carolina Arts Council, www.ncarts.org
Full Name: Algia Mae Hinton
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