Over the years, we have produced many broadcast segments that celebrate music in the Carolinas and those who bring it to life.
Several years ago, we produced a segment with the Carolina-based group, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, on stage at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a good interview and I recall how amazed we all were with the performance. When the onstage energy was combined with the telling of the history of the music, the audience enjoyed an authentic time-travel experience.
Dom Flemons was a founding member of the band. It was his ability to master various historic instruments which left the audience spellbound. Some were common, and others were new to most audience members. I think that was what made the performance so engaging and entertaining. You dared not take your eyes off the stage for fear of missing what he might play next. It really was a special evening.
Some time would pass until one day I received the news that Dom had left The Carolina Chocolate Drops to develop his solo works. The American Songster Dom Flemons now shares his interpretation of American folklore, ballads and storytelling. Among others, he plays American old-time music, Piedmont blues and country music that might be new to your ears.
Dom has an American and international audience. So far he has received two Emmy nominations and is a Grammy award winner.
Not so long ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dom for another interview. It was a great visit and Dom was quick to say, “Carl, this time I have a backstory.” Almost nine years had passed since our first visit at Spirit Square and he was right; A lot of things have transpired over the years.
Dom was born and raised in Arizona, where his family has had a long and fascinating history. He moved to North Carolina because of his interest in the musical and cultural heritage of the region.
It was a life-changing event when he was invited to participate in the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering in the Mountains of North Carolina.
He was inspired by the likes of Joe Thompson and other songsters who had been creating music in the “gray areas” between genres.
Dom began to learn more about the larger African American folk tradition and his passion for telling the historical narrative increased. This drove his involvement with the Carolinas Chocolate Drops and then subsequently the development of his solo work.
We talked about Dom’s Black Cowboys project that brings attention to the music, culture and the complex history of the Wild West. I learned about the importance of the role of Black Cowboys. It was a great conversation and when Dom played a selection from the project, I understood even more than before.
No matter where he plays, his desire is to spark cultural memories for the audience, reminding them of things they didn’t know they had forgotten. He wants others to experience their cultural heritage the same way that he has.
Music has great power. It can change our moods in an instant. It has a unique way of bringing history to life. I think we are fortunate when we encounter people who have the talent and passion to share the history of music and bring it to life.
Dom Flemons, the American Songster is such a person.