Carolina Yellowhammers

Location: R.A. Fountain

from the February 4, 2009 FAD

The Carolina Yellowhammers, featuring Lightnin’ Wells and Clyde Mattocks, perform traditional bluegrass at R.A. Fountain Saturday night.

Fronted by Wells on guitar, the Hammers also include Frankie Harrison of Williamston on mandolin and John Booker of Greenville on bass. Mattocks will play banjo and Dobro.

Mike “Lightnin'” Wells, who re-located to Fountain in 2007, puts his band of bluegrass superpickers together for special occasions, such as this one. “I’ve always wanted to play with Clyde,” he said.

Wells, who grew up in Goldsboro, recalls seeing Mattocks performing on shows with Roby Huffman and Lefty Hales and the Carolina Partners at the Wayne County Fairgrounds in the 1960s.

“But Clyde was the main guy, the hero,” he said.

Saturday night’s show will be the first time Wells and Mattocks have performed together.

“You don’t want to throw around the term ‘historic’ too much,” said RAF proprietor Alex Allbright. “But for east Carolina music, this will be a very special night–not one you’re likely to see see the likes of again.”

Wells’ international reputation has been built as one of the best Piedmont bluesmen. His bluegrass band, named in homage both to the 1920s old-time band the Georgia Yellow Hammers and the passenger train that used to connect Tarboro to Fountain, affords him the opportunity to return to his musical roots, and he relishes the chance. “We’ll have a lot of fun,” he added.

Wells released two CDs in 2008, including the locally produced Jump, Little Children.

Mattocks, from Kinston, is one of the busiest musicians in east Carolina. He leads three bands of his own–the Super Grit Cowboy Band, Highway 58, and Without Further Ado. He also performs regularly with the Malpass Brothers and is one of the most sought-after session men for recordings in the southeast.

Harrison is generally regarded as the fastest mandolin picker in east Carolina. And Booker, of Greenville, is an outstanding bassist who has worked with numerous bands throughout the region. He and Wells performed in the Greenville-based Hometown Boys in the 1970s.

The Carolina Yellowhammers’ February 7 concert begins at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $8; reserved seats are $10.

Tags: bluegrass, bluegrass gospel, old-time, tradtional bluegrass