J. E. Mainer (1898-1971) and Wade Mainer (1907-2011)

Updated: September 16, 2011

Early country musicians.

Joseph Emmett “J. E.” Mainer was a traditional fiddler whose group Mainer’s Mountaineers was one of the leading Appalachian string bands of the late 1930s. Born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, on July 20, 1898, Joseph Emmett Mainer and his younger brother Wade, born April 21, 1907, were both influenced musically by a fiddle-playing brother-in-law, Roscoe Banks. As a teenager, J. E. went to work in cotton mills; settling in the early 1920s in Con- cord, North Carolina, he formed Mainer’s Mountaineers to play at local functions. J. E. was soon joined by Wade, whose two-finger style of banjo playing has been identified by music scholars as a stylistic link between the clawhammer and bluegrass banjo styles. This band’s most influential recording was a rendition of Gussie Davis’s 1880 lyric “Maple on the Hill,” for which they supplied a new tune.

In 1936 Wade left to form his own band, the Sons of the Mountaineers. J. E. and Mainer’s Mountaineers continued recording for various labels and working for a large number of radio stations. J. E. was most prolific as a recording artist after being rediscovered during the urban folk revival of the 1960s. Thereafter, he played festivals and con- certs until his death on June 12, 1971.

In 1953 Wade left the music business and moved to Michigan to work for General Motors. For some years he and his wife, Julia, sang only in churches. After 1973, when he retired, Wade and Julia began performing at folk and bluegrass festivals, and they made several records. In 1987 Wade was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship for his life’s work, and in 1992 he recorded his last album. Wade Mainer died September 12, 2011, at the age of 104.

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MLA Style

"J. E. Mainer (1898-1971) and Wade Mainer (1907-2011)," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2018, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 21 Oct 2018 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=150>

APA Style

"J. E. Mainer (1898-1971) and Wade Mainer (1907-2011)." (2018) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved October 21, 2018, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=150

Mainer’s Mountaineers