It was the great comedian Victor Borge who said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” I agree with Mr. Borge, however, I would like to amend that quote to reflect my findings over the years; and you may quote me on this, “Music is the shortest distance between two people.” Music is, after all, the universal language. Fortunately for us we don’t have to travel the universe to find wonderful musicians. They abound in our immediate area. Case in point. My latest travels took me to the office of Carter Moore, county attorney for Cocke County. In addition to being county attorney he also has a private law practice specializing in family law, personal injury and probate will matters. I had the pleasure of visiting recently with Carter in the conference room located in his law office on Broadway in Newport. The only cases we discussed were those containing a guitar, banjo and mandolin. You see, in addition to dealing with appeals, arbitration and affidavits, Carter is also a musician. This is where the “shortest distance between two people” occurred. Two musicians just talking music. There’s magic in it. When I began my Strummin’ Around Town features, Carter Moore’s name came up several times as someone I should get to know.. and I’m glad I did.
Carter Moore is a Cocke County native, as he describes, “several generations deep.” He and his wife of 10 years, Renee, who teaches sixth grade at Cosby Elementary School, have three children; Katey, age 6, Janey, age 4 and Carter II, age 2. Carter explains, “My mother’s side of the family were removed from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park up in the Cosby area when the federal government purchased the park in the early part of the last century. So my grandfather was actually raised there on that side. My father’s side of the family is from Waterville, North Carolina, just right here on the state line so we’re in deep here. Bluegrass music is all around the mountains in that region. As one of the big bluegrass groups jokes, ‘You can throw a rock ten yards in either direction and hit a banjo player.’”
Carter’s exposure to bluegrass music began at a very early age. Carter recalls, “When I was little I loved Ricky Skaggs, who was singing country music at that time, back in the mid to late eighties. Growing up in the house that I grew up in, bluegrass music was always present.” Carter’s father listened to Jimmy Martin, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Hot Rize, the Bluegrass Cardinals and a lot of the other groups at that time. As Carter pointed out, “If you were with him there was always bluegrass on the radio.”
Carter’s grandmother played piano in the church where he attended. “A lot of the old time hymns I appreciate as I get older. It’s my kind of gospel music; the old hymns.”
Carter learned to play the guitar at the age of 17. He remembers, “I had failed to learn how to play when I was about 10 years old when I tried to take lessons at Cosby school. Then, when I was 17 my dad hired a fellow named Travis Frazier to help us clean up some farm area, and he showed me the chords. It finally “clicked” in my head and I’ve taken off since then.”
Influenced by the greats
Some of Carter’s influences depend on what instrument you’re talking about. “As far as the banjo is concerned you’d have to look at the late Earl Scruggs who is the main influence of us all, as far as the five string banjo goes. J.D. Crowe, I’ve listened to his “Zero, Zero, Four, Four” record, I can’t get enough of it. A lot of the second and third generation pickers from that time and into the present like Bill Emerson who played a great deal with the Country Gentlemen. Terry Baucom is a major influence for me. He was Doyle Lawson’s original banjo player and also THE banjo player for the group Boone Creek, Ricky Skaggs bluegrass band before he became a country star.” As Carter grows older he often returns to the more traditional sounds and artists. He also is a big fan of the more current groups such as the Lonesome River Band and Blue Highway. Carter names the Lonesome River Band as his favorite band. As far as singers, he names Lester Flatt and Jimmy Martin. Carter describes Tony Rice as, “the greatest singer that ever lived.. he was a machine on the guitar as well.” Tony spent about four or five years with J.D. Crowe’s band back in the early 70’s and as Carter comments, “Bluegrass music hasn’t been the same since.. and it’s been for the better. They brought good contemporary bluegrass music to the front. Most bands that have followed have been influenced in some form or fashion by that bunch.”
Local musicians have always been an influence on Carter. He names Jeff Webb of Cocke County as,” one of the most phenomenal banjo players in the country. He’s always been kind to me and helped me along.” Roger Black, a great guitar and banjo player, is another local standout from whom as Carter puts it, “I got my ear. Which means I didn’t know when a song was changing chords. He took the time to listen to songs with me and show me new chords and help me develop my ear.” Carter also mentioned the late Delmar Brown. As Carter recalls, “ He was a local builder and had a fine gospel group called Heavenly Grass. It was at his house that I first jammed with other bluegrass musicians in a band setting. He was instrumental in helping me learn that when you are playing in a band, an individual musician’s role is to make the band unit sound as good as possible.”
Bluegrass’ new sounds...
When I asked Carter his feelings on some of the new sounds in bluegrass music he responded, “I’m really fond of the whole lot of it. I buy everything that the Lonesome River Band, Blue Highway and IIIrd Tyme Out release. I also like Volume 5, a fine young group that I would encourage people who want to hear good new bluegrass listen to, as well as Balsam Range and the Grascals.
Mountain Edge (Then and Now)
Carter said, “I’m limited to who I’ve played with in that I basically have been a part of Mountain Edge
since I was able to play in a band steady. About the spring of 2002, I was in school at Walters State Community College after graduating from Cosby High School and I was introduced to my cousin Matthew Munsey (who we have featured in this series), he had grown up in Texas where his father was a minister. He and I and Nicholas Ball, who’s a fantastic banjo player from Del Rio got together, started picking and singing and we eventually picked up Limmy Workman. Those members have come and gone from the group, some leave and come back but the band is still Mountain Edge.
The Current members of Mountain Edge are:
Carter Moore: banjo, lead, baritone, and bass vocals
Jamie Clark: electric bass, lead and tenor vocals
Limmy Workman: guitar, lead and tenor vocals
Andy Williams: mandolin, lead, baritone, and tenor vocals
Fans of the group Mountain Edge will be delighted to know that they have regrouped after some time off. In fact, they haven’t performed since December of last year. Between family responsibilities and their day jobs Carter said, “It was time for a break. That’s what we called it from the start, and now it’s time to start back as well. We’re tickled to death to be back on stage.” Carter says, “We really enjoy playing at what is probably our current home base, the Sunset Grille. We also really love to play at Brandywine Creek in Newport. These places really do their part to bring good local entertainment around here.” Carter continues, “It’s great to be back. Even sitting at home, I’ll pick up a guitar or other instrument and just pick some. You know you can’t force things like this on anybody but I want to make this available to my children because playing music can bring you a lot of joy.”
A final word from Carter: “ Music can make you feel better when you feel bad and it can make you feel REAL good when you feel good already. Music is a joy.”
Thanks Carter for making your music for us and especially for your friendship.
Music truly is “the shortest distance between two people.”
Al Snyder enjoyed a 40 year radio broadcasting/syndication career. He is a Country Music Association Broadcast Award winner, a past member of the CMA Board of Directors, and has been honored with a Lifetime membership in the Country Music Association. Al is also the recipient of the prestigious Stephen Foster Award for Broadcast Excellence. He is currently a nominee for the Country Radio Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame in Nashville. Al and his wife Sally live in Cosby.