Wade and Julia Mainer

Born in 1907 in Buncombe County near Weaverville, North Carolina, Wade Mainer became a popular recording and radio personality who influenced generations of great musicians, including Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Doc Watson. With his singing and precise two-finger banjo style, Wade and his band created a distinct sound that bridged the gap between old-time mountain music and bluegrass.

“I was raised in the mountains back then and didn’t go out too much…but what there were of musicians, I would pay attention to them,” says Mainer. “I was interested in the sound of the banjo and when they’d lay there banjos down at the square dance…I’d go over and pick it up and play.”

In addition to working in local mills during the 1930s, Mainer was employed at various local radio stations early in his career. There, he recorded now-classic songs “Maple on the Hill” and “Take Me in the Lifeboat” with his brother J.E. Mainer and their group Mainer’s Mountaineers. In 1937, he married singer/guitarist Julia Brown, a pioneering female vocalist who would later join her husband for performances on the road.

Wade Mainer has received many honors and awards during his more than 60-year career in music, including the National Heritage Fellowship in 1987 from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Michigan Heritage Award and the Michigan Country Music Association and Services’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996; and North Carolina’s Surry Arts Council Lifetime Achievement in 1998. The Mainers were also inducted into the Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

On the Jubilee stage, Wade and Julia’s performance is truly a historic occasion. Over six decades of experience culminate in a masterful presentation of classic bluegrass music: a warm, rich vocal presence and instrumental focus that only their years together could produce.

This artist appears in Jubilee #1307: Hazel Dickens/Wade & Julia Mainer.