Noah Lacy

Sacred Harp Fiddle, Vocals State Arts Council Folk Artist

Born: 1908 Henagar, AL

Died: 7/1993

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Noah Lacy was born in Jackson County in 1908. He grew up in the 1920s and '30s in the era of string bands. Originally he patterned his musical style after Clayton McMichen and Lowe Stokes of the Skillet Lickers, a band popular at the time of early county music recordings. Lacy and his band played for dances in the homes of friends and neighbors. He also won many fiddle contests in the region.

 

Noah Lacy died in 1993 at the age of 85. He was treasured both by fellow musicians and singers and by music scholars for his dedication to the musical heritage of his community. In 1991, he received the State Arts Council's highest honor for the traditional arts, the Alabama Folk Heritage Award.

It is not surprising that music was such an important part of Noah Lacy's life. It was a Lacy family tradition. Noah's grandparents sang shape-note hymns from The Sacred Harp, by B. F. White, and his father was a singing school master who taught this distinctive, four-part, a cappella singing style in the small farming communities on Sand Mountain. In a 1991 interview, Noah Lacy recalled, "I was just born to it. I don't remember learning. Just as far back as I can remember, I could sing. Of course my family always sung. They would sing at home and go to singings too. And I just learned from them." Until the last year or two Noah Lacy and his wife Margie were very active singers, traveling the state every weekend to attend Sacred Harp singings. These are typically all-day community events held in rural churches featuring a noontime feast knows as "dinner-on-the-grounds."

A favorite story recalls the time his band provided music at country fairs for riders on a mule-powered, merry-go-round knows as a flying jenny. If the operator had a full load of passengers, Lacy said, "he'd drop a nickel in each one of our shirt pockets. But if he didn't get a good load, he'd just drop one nickel in one pocket and then we had to divide that. We'd make five or six dollars a day a piece. Of course, that was big money then. We'd just get a dollar a day working on the farm for anybody."

Noah Lacy never made music his main profession. He farmed for a living and sawed lumber between crops. Until his death, he and his son Chester operated a small sawmill on their property. Chester, who is also a musician, is one reason Noah Lacy remained such a strong fiddler. The two played music together for more than 40 years.

His recordings are preserved in the Birmingham Public Library archive and in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. "Hen Cackle" is from that collection. Another tune played by Noah Lacy is featured on Joyce Cauthens CD production "Possum Up a Gum Stump: Home, Field, and Commercial Recordings of Alabama Fiddlers." (by Anne Kimzey)

Source: Noah Lacy Fiddler

More info: ALABAMA FOLKWAYS: NOAH LACY REMEMBERED

 

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