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Mike Williford is a musician and instrument builder.

Historical Society hosts evening of Americana music history and performance at Pendley Creek Brewing

Popular Drinking and History speaker series returns Feb. 22

            The historical society’s popular Drinking and History series returns February 22 with a Jasper musician and instrument builder discussing Americana music history, trends and the instruments used.

            The talk/performance begins at 7 p.m. at Pendley Creek Brewing on Jasper’s Main Street. It is free to attend.

            Mike Williford, a Jasper resident, has played music since a child and has been involved in the local bluegrass scene since 2011. He has also professionally built guitars during that time, “almost always for bluegrass flatpick guitar players.” His company Williford Custom Acoustics can be found on Facebook.

            Williford said he considers the music he plays as Americana, a broader category than bluegrass. To the casual listener they may say bluegrass, but there is a technical style specific to bluegrass.

            “I identify this music as more cohesive with working people who get off work and sit around on Friday and Saturday night, making music,” he said. “Today we would say playing music but I grew up around old-timers who would say we are making music.”

            Williford, who also works as a mechanic, was introduced to music by his grandfather who played with friends out on the porch, almost exclusively Hank Williams Sr.

            Williams Sr. was traditional country music but Williford said in the early days Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, would also be considered just good ol’ country music.

            The acoustic, country, bluegrass, Americana has a rich history though it’s a relatively modern music form.    “I will cover 75 years of history during the talk,” he said, both speaking and playing different styles.

            In the recent past, the Grateful Dead was a prime example of the strong influence coming from bluegrass/Americana. “A lot of people who were Deadheads never knew it,” he said.

            And today the popularity continues to expand with Billy Strings and other modern performers getting bigger platforms.

            “This is really a discovery of music – this kind of music is not the Hit Parade type of music but becoming more and more popular,” he said.

            Williford will also discuss the instruments he makes and the instruments common here in the early days of the Appalachians. He said there is a strong local tradition of instrument-building.      

This marks the third year of Drinking and History hosted by the Pickens Historical Society, the group who manages the Old Jail on Main Street. The goal of the speaker series is to educate about local history in a fun atmosphere. Find out more about their society by searching for them on Facebook.

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