Zincone, Buddy

In 2016, I led a study abroad program in Prague and subsequently wrote about Czech bluegrass for Bluegrass Unlimited; the online journal storySouth published a much longer version of that article, which concluded with a Buddy Zincone-inspired anecdote:

Band of Jakeys’ Tony Rose raises his eyebrows, suddenly interested in this tourist when I say I’m from North Carolina. “Do ya know of Tar’bro then?” he asks in a beautiful Scottish accent.

“Sure,” I say. Tarboro, chartered in 1760, is what passes for old back home. It’s a straight-shot 20 minutes north from Fountain, at 112 feet “the peak of Pitt County,” where my wife and I live and operate Fountain General Store, an occasional bluegrass performance venue in a 1916 brick building, “pretty old,” we think. The Jakeys are on break during their gig at the Beer Museum’s recently opened performance club across a street from the metro stop at Namesti Miru, just a few blocks from U Vodarny, and I’m enjoying a pint of Matuska, one of the best of the new local unfiltered, unpasteurized beers (think Red Oak, perhaps, but at $2.50 a pint). The Jakeys aren’t bluegrass; they play a kind of alt-Americana rock loud to a tourist crowd in a tourist club, mostly young men from Germany, the U.K., and U.S., likewise loud and gleefully passing joints around thanks to a 2009 law that okays possession of small amounts of virtually any of the drugs still illegal in the U.S. It’s not the sort of behavior you’ll find at U Vodarny, although there as in most public places, cigarette smoking is also allowed.

“And the Tar River Boys?” he wonders and tells me how he learned to play banjo in the 1990s by listening to a homemade cassette tape the Boys had made on someone’s front porch. “Ya can hear the dogs yappin’ in the yard, ya know?” he says, smiling broadly at the memory and adds that he wishes now he’d brought his banjo along for the night’s show.

But in all the years since, he’s wondered that banjo player’s name. “Buddy Zincone,” I’m glad to tell him. Buddy’s kept bluegrass going in East Carolina jams at his nearby Greenville home since the late 1960s; his daughter Alice plays bass and sings with Tommy Edwards’ Carolina Lightnin’; she co-wrote the Rhonda Vincent song “Last Time Loving You” with Rick Lafleur, the Grass Cats’ banjo player who moved from Canada to North Carolina because of its bluegrass scene. They’ve all (except for Vincent) played Fountain General Store often.

As I’m talking with a Scotchman about how he learned to play banjo from a local hero he’s never met, half a world away, it suddenly feels like one big bluegrass world, where the passionate pockets of fans’ll show up in sometimes the most surprising places. And it’s easy to see how bluegrass has grown and flourished outside the margins of pop music in the Czech Republic isn’t all that different from how it’s been back home.

Alex Albright
June 2021


from the June 4, 2008 FAD

Banjo Maestro Buddy Zincone Profiled in Daily Reflector

[Greenville, NC] Buddy Zincone finally got the star treatment he deserves from the Daily Reflector in last Sunday’s edition.

“Growing Grass: Retired ECU Dean Has Spent Decades Sowing Bluegrass Seeds in Greenville” was the main feature in the Reflector’s “Look” section for June 1. It took up most of F-1 and about half of F-1, and included photos of Zincone and his band at work in the Zincone living room.

Zincone, whose main band is Greenville Grass, is one of the primary reasons bluegrass is so strong in this region, said Alex Albright, RAF proprietor. “He’s kept it alive for years on a weekly basis at his home, and on stages all over the area. He always brings a good crowd out to Fountain, too.”

The profile, written by Mark Rutledge, is accompanied by an excellent and highly entertaining video that features some fine Greenville Grass picking as well as a terrific photo of Buddy and Maria Zincone from early in their marriage.

Buddy Zincone and Greenville Grass will be performing at RAF again in the fall, at a date yet to be determined.