Wayne Carter was born outside of Aberdeen in 1944 and grew up in a family that has produced a number of talented musicians. Carter is the grandson of “Fiddling George” Carter who recorded for several different recording labels in the late 1920s and who some credit with composing the standard “Cotton Eyed Joe.” He attended the local singings and gospel concerts that were (and still are) common in the area and listened to the popular country music radio shows of the time. Carter first learned the guitar and often accompanied his father, a fiddler in the tradition of “Fiddling George” who played for square dances, round dances, and hoedowns. As he got older, the young Wayne Carter preferred to play the contemporary country music and the beginnings of rock and roll that he heard around him in 1950s and 1960s Mississippi.
It was not until his father passed away in 1991 that Carter considered taking up the fiddle. With his father’s death, a traditional facet of Carter’s musical life was missing. As he described it, “I was hungry for something, and it was music, it was the fiddle really, and so I went after it.” In the years since Carter has become a well-known fiddler in his own right and has won the senior division of the Mississippi State Fiddling Contest. He attributed the teachings of noted fiddler Wayne Jerrolds as a great help in polishing his technique. Carter still plays guitar in church but for the most part, it is the fiddle that fascinates him. He plays at fiddling contests and bluegrass jam sessions in his area but travels to a number of events in Tennessee and Alabama where the music is more popular than in Mississippi.
Bluegrass breakdowns and the fiddle parts of western swing are among Carter’s favorite pieces. While I was in Carter’s home, he treated me to his version of “Turkey in the Straw” and “Faded Love” among several other tunes, accompanied by his cousin Harold Carter on guitar. Carter believes that informal playing brings out the best in musicians. He says that the best music at bluegrass festivals or fiddle contests is always found in the jam sessions where the players feel free to take chances and push the limits of their expertise. With regards to his own music, Carter wants to keep improving his abilities. The fiddle filled a void in his life and helped him to perpetuate a long tradition in his family. He plans to keep playing as long as he can.