Hattie Presnell: In the 1940s and ‘50s Anne & Frank Warner collected a lot of material on Beech Mountain, in Watauga County, NC (See Anne Warner’s Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne & Frank Warner Collection, Syracuse, 1984, and the two CDs Her Bright Smile Haunts me Still and Nothing Seems Better to Me, volumes 1 & 2 of the Warner Collection recordings - Appleseed CD 1035 and CD 1036).
Stopping there, I discovered an affluent winter skiing and summer resort area, and thought that I was too late to find any singers. Asking around, I was told that I should go ‘back of the Beech’, to an area that was geographically only a short distance away, but which, economically, was far removed from the holiday resort that much of Beech Mountain had become.
Hattie Hicks Presnell was born in 1907 and was the daughter of Buna and Roby Monroe Hicks. The ballad singer Lee Monroe Presnell was both her father-in-law and her great-uncle. Although known as a singer herself, her short stories Jack and the King’s Chest and Cuckle Pea and His Sister remind us of yet another mountain tradition.
Part of the booklet notes, written by Mike Yates, to the Musical Traditions Records CDs Far in the Mountains (MTCD321-4)