Betty N. Smith

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Winner of the North Carolina Society of Historians Award Jane Hicks Gentry lived her entire life in the remote, mountainous northwest corner of North Carolina and was descended from old Appalachian families in which singing and storytelling were part of everyday life. Gentry took this tradition to heart, and her legacy includes ballads, songs, stories, and riddles. Smith provides a full biography of this vibrant woman and the tradition into which she was born, presenting seventy of Gentry’s songs and fifteen of the “Jack” tales she learned from her grandfather. When Englishman Cecil Sharp traveled through the South gathering material for his famous English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, his most generous informant was Jane Hicks Gentry. But despite her importance in Sharp’s collection, Gentry has remained only a name on his pages. Now Betty Smith, herself a folksinger, brings to life this remarkable artist and her songs and tales.

It is to our benefit that this inspirational historical figure has been rendered more accessible to the rest of us. -- American Music

Presents the fascinating story of Gentry's ancestry and life, includes music and words to seventy of her songs, and retells fifteen of her Jack tales. This book is likely to considered an important source for folklorists for generations to come. -- Appalachian Heritage

The tapestry of Gentry’s life story is interwoven with the real life anecdotes and stories of a diverse people. -- Bourbon Times

This is a rich account of mountain lore and music in an area that decades later, Bascom Lamar Lunsford declared 'the last stand of natural people'. -- Come-All-Ye

An excellent tribute to her life. -- Folk Music Journal

This very absorbing book contains a profusion of subject matter from genealogy to local history, from photographs to page music. -- From the Quill

Reflects a thorough knowledge and appreciation of its subject and an ease of style. -- Journal of American Folklore

Smith has begun the long-overdue project of reclaiming women's space on the musical landscape of Appalachia. -- Journal of Appalachian Studies

Smith, herself a performer of traditional music, has given us a bountiful, beautifully realized biography of this unique woman. -- Knoxville News-Sentinel

Jane Gentry was one of the great bearers of the traditional arts, and lovers of these arts will want to read her story. -- Loyal Jones

A warm, graceful, and thorough exploration of one woman’s day-to-day and artistic worlds. -- Notes

A rich sensitive portrait of this legendary person. -- Now & Then

This is an admirable tribute to a woman regionally renown for her songs, storytelling, crafts, and unflagging cheer. -- Old Time Herald

Paints a complex portrait of a woman who lived in a quiet area, but who touched others with her gifts of song and storytelling. -- Our State

This book, beautifully researched and written, with grace notes of jacktales and accounts of North Carolina mountain life, records a precious part of America's music history and celebrates Appalachia's contribution to the arts. -- Sharyn McCrumb

Winner of the 1998 Willie Parker Peace History Book Award given by the North Carolina Society of Historians.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Jane Hicks Gentry, Appalachian Region, Appalachian music, Jack tales, Folk music, Folk singers, Folk songs


Cultural History


With a foreword by Cecelia Conway.

Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers
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