Smart bets: Esley: The Life and Musical Legacy of Lesley Riddle

HELLO STRANGER: African-American musician and Burnsville native Lesley "Esley" Riddle helped to shape the sound of legendary country artists The Carter Family. After being discovered by folklorist Mike Seeger, he appeared at the Smithsonian and Mariposa folk festivals.

Local radio personality, playwright and Xpress contributor Jeff Messer turns his focus to the folk and country music contributions of Burnsville native Lesley Riddle in his play, Esley: The Life and Musical Legacy of Lesley Riddle. In 1928, Riddle met Carter Family patriarch A.P. Carter, and the two began to collaborate. Not only did Riddle’s guitar style influence Maybelle Carter, his compositions such as “Cannonball Blues,” “Hello Stranger” and “I Know What It Means to Be Lonesome” were recorded by the legendary musical family. Riddle, an African-American, was largely overlooked during his lifetime, but Riddlefest, an annual event honoring his accomplishments, is helping to correct this. A historical marker commemorating Riddle will be installed in Burnsville during the Friday, July 3, festival (info at; Esley runs at Parkway Playhouse Saturday, June 27-Saturday, July 11. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., on Saturdays (and Friday, July 10); 3 p.m., Sundays. $12/$20/$22. Photo by Kitty Smith, courtesy of Traditional Voices Group


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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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2 thoughts on “Smart bets: Esley: The Life and Musical Legacy of Lesley Riddle

  1. Mike Czeczot

    Hi, Alli: Note that you have run-dates as June 27-June 11; maybe should be June 27-July 11?

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