Friday, March 30, 2012

'One Tree Hill' prepares for its final show

Sure, it was never going to win awards by the critics, but when "One Tree Hill" wraps up its run on Wednesday, it will do so with its head held high.

Like any show that involved "young people," it had its share of flaws. (Like, for instance: How can a small town like Tree Hill, N.C., produce an NBA player, not one but TWO international music recording stars, a nationally-known author and a well-known TV "evangelist?") But it should also be commended for figuring out new ways to do things. For instance: Why pull the "90210" stunt and have all the main characters attend the same college, when you can just skip ahead four years (and then skip ahead another few years later on)? Sounds kooky, but it actually worked.

At its heart, the show meant well. Like any show that has had a long run, it had to introduce new characters and replace old ones -- sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. But I always appreciated the effort. In addition, I think the storylines have been some of the best on TV for many years -- and I say that admitting I didn't watch many of the first few seasons.

This is a site devoted to "North Carolina" things, and "One Tree Hill" has brought great attention to the state, especially the Wilmington area -- even if the show only slightly referenced the Old North State (Nathan considering playing basketball for Duke; the state championship game being played at the then-RBC Center; Mouth having a UNC flag in his apartment; Nathan conveniently playing for the Bobcats, etc.). But the show developed a legion of hardcore fans that flocked to the Port City to find the River Court, or Karen's Cafe. And since "OTH" has found a niche on SoapNet, you can bet the fans will continue to make pilgrimages for years.

The last episode will air this Wednesday. Here is a preview of the 2-hour finale.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

R.I.P. Earl Scruggs

North Carolina has produced more than its share of influential musicians: John Coltrane, James Taylor, Link Wray. But Earl Scruggs may even top that impressive list. Scruggs, who grew up in Shelby but who would go on to "transform acoustic music with his fiery five-string banjo style," died Wednesday at 88 in Nashville.

From the News & Observer:
... Scruggs won international fame initially as the duet partner of guitarist Lester Flatt between 1948 and 1969. The duet and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, lived briefly in Raleigh in 1952 while playing on radio station WPTF.

Scruggs was known nationally and internationally for intricate tunes such as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” made famous in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme. He attracted fans all over the world and admirers as diverse as comedian Steve Martin, actress Angelina Jolie and pop-rocker Elton John.

ad more here:

At the time Scruggs achieved stardom, the banjo was an instrument most closely associated with the cornball humor and rowdy songs of traveling medicine shows. In later years, the New York Times famously dubbed him the Paganini of the banjo, a reference to the famed violinist. ...

Scruggs had been in poor health for months; his family said his death came as a result of “natural causes.” In January, likely aware of Scruggs’ fragile state, Martin wrote a eulogistic piece for The New Yorker praising the performer who heavily influenced Martin’s own banjo style.


Scruggs, a soft-spoken, modest person who generally found time to give an ear to the fans who wanted just a word with the legendary figure, won virtually every award that popular music could present. From membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame to three Grammy awards to performances at the White House, he was recognized widely as a genius of folk music.

Born Jan. 6, 1924, Scruggs worked around the family farm and in area mills as he developed a more sophisticated, revved-up version of the area’s three-finger banjo style. While in his early 20s, he earned a place, along with Flatt, in the band of Kentucky singer and mandolin master Bill Monroe, another giant figure in the formation of bluegrass.

With Flatt and Scruggs to spur him to new musical heights, Monroe created tremendous musical excitement as the band played regular engagements on the Grand Ole Opry and crisscrossed the South playing auditoriums, country churches and schoolhouses.

In 1948, Flatt and Scruggs went on their own to create a band that would surpass Monroe’s in popularity, both with their original songs and their blazing-fast, intricate picking.

“He was so far ahead of his time, that so many players today are still trying to figure out the little things he did 60 years ago,” Mills said.

Scruggs was the behind-the-scenes business force of the act, working in concert with his business-savvy wife, Louise, who died in 2006. The group toured constantly, moving around the South to bases such as Bristol, Tenn., and Raleigh, where son Randy was born in 1952.


Always a more adventurous musician than Flatt, Scruggs parted ways with the guitarist in 1969 and started a band with sons Randy, Gary and Steve. They perfected a country-rock sound that brought them widespread acceptance in the burgeoning youth culture of the day.

Scruggs was plagued by injuries and left the Earl Scruggs Revue to issue solo records beginning in the 1980s. He and Louise were famous as hosts of picking parties where bold-face names such Chet Atkins and Vince Gill rubbed elbows with new pickers in town and hosts of family members.

Scruggs always remembered North Carolina fondly. His home area is repaying the favor with the development of the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby as a monument to the farm boy who brought fame to the banjo, even as it brought fame to him.

Read more here:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Once again, Biltmore leads the way

Asheville's Biltmore Estate is sure hard to top. The site once again leads the list of most visited North Carolina museums and historic attractions, and for the sixth consecutive year attracted more than a million visitors.

The largest private home in America drew 1,101,413 guests during 2011, according to a press release.

"We are always honored to be recognized as a favorite destination for visitors to the Carolinas," said Bill Cecil, President and CEO of Biltmore. "Despite the tough economic conditions of the last few years, people are continuing to travel and we are honored when they choose Biltmore as a destination. We believe the variety of things to do at the estate, including Biltmore House, our gardens, the winery and Antler Hill Village, makes the visit fun and memorable."

Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach placed second in the annual survey conducted by Carolina Publishing Associates with 757,000 guests. Rounding out the top five most visited museums and historic attractions were Discovery Place of Charlotte, with 745,060 visiting, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh with 712,313 and the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro with 694,929.