Early country banjo player and singer.
Born February 7, 1898, in West Norton, Virginia, Moran Lee “Dock” Boggs worked as a miner in the coalﬁelds of south- western Virginia and eastern Kentucky for most of his life. A member of a musical family, Boggs began to sing and play the banjo in his teens. In 1927 he recorded eight songs for the Brunswick label and enjoyed a modest semiprofessional career, but hard times during the early years of the Great Depression sent him back to the mines and forced him to abandon hope of sustaining a musical livelihood. Boggs was “rediscovered” and recorded again in the 1960s, whereupon he performed frequently before urban folk revival audiences.
A key ﬁgure in the transition from folk to commercial music making in Appalachia, Boggs learned songs from many sources. He adapted traditional a cappella ballads to banjo accompaniment, learned blues from records, and devised his own up-picking, three-ﬁnger banjo style from watching local African American musicians. His ﬁngerpicking allowed him to sing and play the melody together in a sort of duet—a contrast to the more common frailing style of banjo playing.
Boggs’s music embodies the mingling of black and white traditions. His repertoire included “Country Blues,” a reworking of the lyric folk song “Darlin’ Corey”; such British ballads as “Pretty Polly”; native American ballads, including “Omie Wise” and “Cole Younger”; blues ballads such as “John Henry”; and blues songs learned from records, including “Down South Blues” and “Sugar Baby.” He died on his seventy-third birthday.
Cite this Entry
"Dock Boggs," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2017, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 27 Mar 2017 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=42>
"Dock Boggs." (2017) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved March 27, 2017, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=42