Sarah Bryan

Sarah Bryan is a folklorist from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She directs the North Carolina Folklife Institute and edits the Old-Time Herald, a magazine about traditional string band music. The recipient of a 2020 literature fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council, she is currently working on a collection of essays. She last wrote for the magazine about the music history of Kinston, North Carolina.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Myrtle Beach has always capitalized on tourists’ desire to put a soundtrack to their vacations. Long before the days of the megachurch-style country music theaters, like the Carolina Opry and the Alabama Theatre, which would later dominate the north end of town, Myrtle Beach was a regular stop for the working musicians who toured the Southeast.

November 20, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

Around the close of the 1950s, if you wanted to hear the beginnings of the funk music that James Brown would soon introduce to the world, you wouldn’t find much of it on his records. Brown’s late- ’50s recordings with the Famous Flames, like his plaintive “Try Me” and the shatteringly sweet “I Want You So Bad,” are indisputably cool, and they spill over with the vocal histrionics that would characterize his performance style for decades to come. But the overall aesthetic of his music from that era is still redolent of doo-wop and ducktails. He’d only just begun to take some sandpaper to the smooth sheen of ’50s pop music. 

No, if you wanted to hear funk music before 1960, your best bet might be the Maola Ice Cream talent show in Kinston, North Carolina. 

March 07, 2017

A Points South essay from our 18th Southern Music Issue: Visions of the Blues. 

The spirit of Southern outsider music has taken partial possession of many artists through the years—Charlie Feathers comes to mind, as do Link Wray, Hasil Adkins, and the train-obsessed 1920s banjo player Willard Hodgins. But as a fully realized manifestation—eccentricity expressed as bizarre and beautiful words and sounds—that spirit was at least thrice incarnate in the twentieth century: in the persons of Tennessee ballad singer Hamper McBee, Georgia banjo player Abner Jay, and Guitar Shorty of Elm City, North Carolina.