Mentoring Tradition — Joe Penland & Jerry Adams
This rich musical tradition would be lost if it were not for the willingness of each generation to teach the music and the techniques to the next. As their relatives and neighbors before them, Byard Ray and Obray Ramsey served as mentors to the next generation of musicians in Madison County. Two of the many talented young people mentored by Ray in the 1960s and 70s were Joe Penland and Jerry Adams.
Joe Penland Photo copyright Rob Amberg 2010
Joe’s great-grandmother was a first cousin of Bascom Lamar Lunsford and even though he is not connected by blood to the Wallin family, he has a rich musical heritage. He inherited his grandfather’s instruments and began playing (taught by his aunts) in his teens. At that time, Joe‘s friendship with Jerry Adams led him to Sodom and to Byard to learn how to play the music and sing the ballads that had been passed on through the generations.
Jerry’s cousins were the famous ballad singers Cas and Lee Wallin and so music was in his blood. Joe, Jerry, and another friend Steve Rice went on to form a group called the Sim Top Ramblers performing old time music. Over the years, Jerry won numerous awards for his banjo playing, including high honors at Fiddler’s Grove, and has played at many festivals and concerts in the region. Joe left Madison County for a while to make an unsuccessful try at corporate life. But, in 1995, he returned to Madison County, to his roots, and began writing, singing and recordingagain. “The Answer to my Prayer” is one of those collections of his songs of reflection.