Janette Carter has spent a lifetime supporting and promoting traditional music of the Appalachian region. Her parents and Aunt Maybelle made up the Carter Family, known as the "First Family of Country Music." In the waning years of A.P. Carter's life, Janette promised her father that she would carry on his work. At the time, she was a cook in the local elementary school, but she began hosting informal music programs in the store that her father operated in southwestern Virginia, in an area known as Poor Valley.
In 1976, she and community members built an 880-seat amphitheater, the Carter Family Fold, beside the store. Seats were salvaged from old school buses and benches were made with railroad ties. A regular series of concerts has been offered there ever since. Today the Carter Family Fold attracts more than 50,000 visitors a year to this family-run monument to early country music. The Fold is not just a concert hall; on most evenings it is jammed with local families, and the dance floor is filled with young and old who are clogging, buckdancing, and waltzing to the acoustic music. Carter, a traditionalist at heart, allowed only the late Johnny Cash, June Carter's husband, to break her rule and to be the first and one of only two (along with Marty Stuart mentioned below) to perform there with electric instruments.
Marty Stuart, a popular country performer and President of the Country Music Foundation, writes in support of Janette Carter's nomination: "She is our voice in the wilderness. Our diamond in the rough. The child of country music's royal people. She was there in the beginning when country music was discovered. She drank of the original cup and she is now the foundation that sustains us as our spirit grows thirsty in a sea of musical conformity."
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