One of the most revered musicians who played in the Appalachian tradition was banjo/guitar player Frank Proffitt. Born in 1913 in Tennessee he was raised and lived in North Carolina until his death in 1965. During that time he was recorded by collectors Frank and Anne Warner on numerous occasions. Among the songs collected was “Tom Dooley” which became a mega hit for the Kingston Trio and ushered in the popular folk wave of the late 1950’s.

Proffitt lived in Watauga County and may have worked for the WPA (Works Progress Administration). WPA jobs were much sought after in the Appalachian region of the country. If he did the major project in that county was the construction of Cove Creek School. He would have made $1.00 a day. This song reflects the appeal of the WPA and some resentment from those who were unable to get jobs. The general rule was that you had to either be on some form of relief or eligible for it.


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