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Appalachian Faculty Work with Noted Local Storytelle

BOONE–A summer project of two Appalachian State University faculty combined old folk narrative traditions with new technology.

Department of English Chairman Dave Haney and Professor Thomas McGowan worked with Watauga County storyteller Orville Hicks to produce an expanded version of his award-winning compact disc. The new recording includes notable local stories and a tribute to the legendary storyteller Ray Hicks.

Orville Hicks continues important Southern folk narrative traditions including the Jack Tales, local character anecdotes, tall tales and jokes. The North Carolina Folklore Society presented him with its Brown-Hudson Folklore Award in recognition of his repertory and skillful performances.

Originally produced through a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, Orville’s compact disc, “Orville Hicks: Mule Egg Seller and Appalachian Storyteller,” illustrates a typical performance and presents stories representative of the traditional genres he has preserved. It has received the Paul Green Award of the North Carolina Society of Local Historians.

Haney and McGowan worked with Hicks to add material on Ray Hicks, a National Heritage Fellow and family and community mentor of Orville. For Ray’s funeral, Orville had composed “The Ballad of Ray Hicks,” recognizing his neighbor’s special influence and accomplishments. On the newly edited compact disc, Orville accompanies his singing on guitar and also reminisces about boyhood visits to Ray Hicks’s house, a much photographed setting that is depicted in a Bob Timberlake painting.

For the new project, Haney provided his home-basement recording studio and remastered the edited recording on a computer. He and McGowan reorganized tracks and balanced sound qualities, using computer audio software. The new edition includes more material and improves some of the organization of stories and song.

Collaborating is nothing new for McGowan and Hicks. They travel together presenting programs for the North Carolina Humanities Council and at universities. Hicks has been the subject of articles and scholarly articles by McGowan, and they have even coauthored tributes to Ray Hicks.

Copies of the revised “Orville Hicks: Mule Egg Seller and Appalachian Storyteller” are available from Orville Hicks, 142 Brown Farm Rd., Boone, NC 28607 or by calling him at (828) 262-1551.