Mountain music singer and educator.
Born April 22, 1940, in Halifax County, Virginia, Ginny Hawker was raised in a household where singing was a daily occurrence. The eldest of Ben and Katherine Hawker’s four children, Ginny was strongly influenced by her father’s singing, much of it in the stark, unaccompanied style he learned as a member of the Primitive Baptist Church. Family gatherings, which included many of Ginny’s fifty-one first cousins, were dominated by early country music, bluegrass, and gospel singing sessions.
Ginny began performing as a teenager on local radio, concentrating on harmony singing and the popular music of the day. Moving to Gilmer County, West Virginia, in 1977, Ginny became involved in the West Virginia State Folk Festival, serving as festival president from 1995 until 2005. In 1991 she received a bachelor’s degree in education from Glenville State College and worked for a time as a substitute teacher in Gilmer County schools. Following a stint as a realtor, Ginny began to teach and perform traditional music. She became a popular and successful instructor at the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, West Virginia), the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa, North Carolina), Ashoken Fiddle & Dance Camp (Woodstock, New York), and elsewhere. She was co-coordinator of the Augusta Vocal Week program for five years, and in 2009 she founded Augusta’s Early Country Music Week.
As a performer, Ginny has appeared widely across North America, England, Scotland, and Ireland. She released four collections of traditional songs with singer and guitarist Kay Justice, with whom she began performing in 1986. Among these recordings were Pathway to West Virginia (self-released, 1988) and Bristol (Copper Creek, 1999). In 1993 Ginny married Tracy Schwarz, longtime member of the New Lost City Ramblers and renowned old-time and Cajun musician, and since that time the couple has performed as a duo and in various trio and quartet configurations. Recordings with Tracy Schwarz include Deep Hollows and High Ridges (Marimac, 1995), Good Songs for Hard Times (Copper Creek, 2000) and Draw Closer (Rounder, 2004).
In addition, Ginny has released three recordings for Rounder Records: two solo collections—Letters from My Father (2001) and After It’s Gone (2010)—and, with Hazel Dickens and Carol Elizabeth Jones, a trio recording called Heart of a Singer (1998). Ginny’s solo recordings highlight her interest in early country music while her other recordings emphasize rural and mountain music. Ginny continues to live at Tanner, West Virginia, and remains an important figure in the music of central Appalachia. She is best known for her presentation of unaccompanied Primitive Baptist hymns, early country music and bluegrass songs, and her commitment to teaching authentic mountain singing styles.
Cite this Entry
"Ginny Hawker," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2017, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 25 May 2017 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=7>
"Ginny Hawker." (2017) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved May 25, 2017, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=7
Ginny Hawker with Tracy Schwartz