Mary Jane Queen - Appalachian Heritage Book

Queen Appalachian Heritage Book
The Life and Times of Mary Jane Queen
Published by Catch The Spirit of Appalachia, Inc.
Western North Carolina Books.

Mary Jane Queen will be at the City Lights Book Store in Sylva NC Saturday afternoon, May 20th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. to autograph copies of her new book, The Life and Times of Mary Jane Queen: Her Art, Her Appalachian Heritage, Her Music and Songs. Queen, who lives on Johns Creek in the Caney Fork community of Jackson County, is an internationally recognized musician and balladeer. Among her many awards, she won the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1993 and the Mountain Heritage Award in 1999. She has performed at Mountain Heritage Day for the past 18 years, plus many other music events and festivals throughout North Carolina.

This autobiography Mary Jane Queen's life in the John's Creek community of Jackson County.

Born 91 years ago in 1914, Queen says with a laugh that she was “a Prince before she became a Queen.” She was born into the Jim Prince family in the Caney Fork community and into a culture of music. Her father was a talented claw-hammer banjo player and her mother, Clearsie, was a singer, while brothers Alvin, Shirley, Marion, Ernest and Early were accomplished musicians in their own right.

“Folks used to come from miles around most every Saturday night to the house or to the barn dances where my dad would play,” Queen said. “He'd play and sing all night long and never play the same song twice! I learned to play by sound...never had a lesson in my life!”

When Mary Jane Prince married Claude Queen (who also played the banjo, with a two-finger up/down-picking style), the two moved into the Queen family home built in 1912 by Claude's father just up the mountains from Caney Fork on John's Creek. All eight children were born in the old house and grew up playing music and singing together. As music styles changed and evolved, the Queen family continued to preserve the old-time style of “making music,” and also to value the heritage and culture of mountain folk ways.

It wasn't until Claude Queen passed away almost 20 years ago that Mary Jane Queen began to accompany her children to performances with the Queen Family Band. “The children didn't want me to stay home, so I began to sing and play a few old gospel songs, bluegrass, mountain music and traditional ballads to the crowds. They sorta enjoyed it. I did, too. I also thoroughly enjoyed going to the schools and talking to the children about the old days, and reciting my poetry.”

Mary Jane has been honored for her work in many publications, including The Boston Globe and National Geographic, and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1993 and four awards from the Asheville Dance and Folk Festival. Along with the family band, she received Western's Mountain Heritage Award in 1999 and the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award in 2001.


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