North Carolina-Charlie Poole-October 25

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-October 25

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.

A native of Randolph County, Charlie Poole grew up in Alamance County in a cotton mill village and later became one of the best banjo musicians in the Southeast and a Columbia Records superstar before his premature death.


One of 13 children and born in 1892, Charles Cleveland Poole had Irish roots through his paternal grandfather who fled the Irish famine in the 1840s and arrived in Appalachia.


In 1923, Poole and a friend formed the North Carolina Ramblers.  Charlie Poole on far left below.


At first Poole worked as a part-time musician, but in 1925, he quit his mill job and devoted all his occupational attention to music.  The three members of the North Carolina Ramblers went to New York City and auditioned for Columbia Records.  The company signed them to a deal.

Poole’s banjo playing was deemed the most unusual but the best. He developed a three-finger-picking technique when, as a teenager, he tried to catch a baseball without a glove as a bet but he broke fingers in his right hand, never received first aid and the fingers never set properly which resulted in them being permanently curled in towards his palm. He didn’t mind the deformity, he was more upset about losing the bet!

When the great depression hit America it hit the music scene hard and Columbia cancelled The North Carolina Ramblers’ recording contract but Poole was given a second chance when Hollywood came calling in 1931.
Poole was asked to play music in a film and was given money by the film studio to purchase train tickets to L.A but he never did get to Hollywood. Poole took the train money and spent it on six weeks of hard boozing and partying. Poole’s epic bender would result in the loss of his life.
On the morning of May 21st, 1931, Poole was at his sister’s house when he declared “Old Charles been drunk a lot of times but this time old Charles is going to kick the bucket.” Later that day his heart gave in from the wildly excessive lifestyle he had been living and 39-year-old Poole collapsed and died on his sister’s front porch.


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