Slave musicians in North Carolina and throughout the country were often responsible for providing the dance music for both white and African American social gatherings. If a slave was trained as a musician, their value as property went up for their masters. String bands were formed to accompany the social dancing. After slaves were given their freedom, small communities of blacks began to form in the North Carolina Piedmont region. One of these communities outside of Statesville, North Carolina had enough of a fiddler population to support a fiddler’s convention. Joe Thompson, an African American fiddler still active today, is from the Cedar Grove community in North Carolina.
The banjo was another popular instrument for African Americans to play in a string band. The banjo is an instrument adapted from its African relative the akonting, and younger black musicians often learned to play from older community members. One black musician, Joe Fulp, from the Walnut Cove community used the banjo to help pass the time while waiting for tobacco to cure. String Bands of the North Carolina Piedmont region had their own sound consisting of long bow fiddle playing, flowing banjo lines, and a prominent bass line provided by the guitar, an instrument added to the ensemble in the early 20th century. The style of Piedmont string bands was influenced by the dance tune melodies of Europe and the rhythmic complexity of African banjo playing.