George Higgs

Born in the Edgecombe County farming community of Speed, North Carolina, in 1930, Higgs learned to play his first instrument, the harmonica, in spare moments away from his family's tobacco fields. Higgs' father, Jesse Higgs, also played the harp, and George remembers him playing spirituals like "Crying Holy Unto the Lord" after a day's work. "He'd sit around the fireplace nights, and blow that [harmonica]," remembers Higgs. "That was [what] really . . . got me interested."

A performance by medicine show performer Peg Leg Sam at Rocky Mount's bustling tobacco market left an indelible impression on the young musician, and he soon purchased his first guitar with proceeds earned from selling one of his favorite squirrel dogs. Inspired by performers like Grand Ole Opry mainstays Uncle Dave Macon and DeFord Bailey, Higgs continued to hone his skills playing at local house parties and competing in impromptu guitar contests in the neighboring town of Tarboro. In the 1960s, he sang and played guitar with the Friendly Five Gospel Quartet, a group whose performances were broadcast live by local radio station WCPS.

George Higgs farmed, worked as a carpenter, and raised six children with wife Bettye in the same rural Edgecombe County community in which he was born and raised. Says the octogenarian musician, "[For] as long as I'm alive, I think I'll always have this urge for this old music. I know I will. I'm going to try to carry it just as long as I'm able . . . because it's like history to me."

With help from Music Maker, Higgs has performed in the United States, Switzerland, and France; he is also featured in the 2004 book Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America (2004).

Booking Agency: 
Music Maker Foundation
Booking Contact: 
Aaron Greenhood
Booking Address: 
P. O Box 1358
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Booking Phone: 
(919) 643-2456
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