Jump to content

The Carolina Chocolate Drops

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Carolina Chocolate Drops)

The Carolina Chocolate Drops
The Carolina Chocolate Drops performing in Birmingham, Alabama, in June 2008.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops performing in Birmingham, Alabama, in June 2008.
Background information
OriginDurham, North Carolina, U.S.
GenresOld-time, Americana, skiffle
Years active2005–2014 (dormant)
LabelsNonesuch/Elektra Records
Music Maker
MembersRhiannon Giddens
Rowan Corbett
Malcolm Parson
Past membersJustin Robinson
Adam Matta
Dom Flemons
Leyla McCalla
Súle Greg Wilson
Hubby Jenkins

The Carolina Chocolate Drops were an old-time string band from Durham, North Carolina. Their 2010 album, Genuine Negro Jig, won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards,[1] and was number 9 in fRoots magazine's top 10 albums of 2010.[2]


Formed in November 2005, following the members' attendance at the first Black Banjo Gathering, held in Boone, North Carolina, in April 2005, the group grew out of the success of Sankofa Strings, an ensemble that featured Dom Flemons on bones, jug, guitar, and four-string banjo, Rhiannon Giddens on banjo and fiddle and Súle Greg Wilson on bodhrán, brushes, washboard, bones, tambourine, banjo, banjolin, and ukulele, with Justin Robinson as an occasional guest artist. All shared vocals. The purpose of Sankofa Strings was to present a gamut of African American musics: country and classic blues, early jazz and "hot music", string band numbers, African and Caribbean songs, and spoken word pieces.[3] The Chocolate Drops' original three members: Giddens, Flemons, and Robinson, were all in their twenties when the group formed after Flemons' move from Phoenix (where he and Wilson lived), to North Carolina, home of Giddens and Robinson. Wilson, nearly a generation older than the other Drops, was occasionally featured with the group into 2010, including contributions to the recordings, Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind, CCD and Joe Thompson, Heritage (with songs culled from Sankofa Strings' independently-released CD, Colored Aristocracy) and nearly half of Genuine Negro Jig. All of the musicians sing and trade instruments including banjo, fiddle, guitar, harmonica, snare drum, bones, jug, and kazoo. The group learned much of their repertoire, which is based on the traditional music of the Piedmont region of North and South Carolina,[4] from the eminent African American old-time fiddler Joe Thompson, although they also perform old-time versions of some modern songs such as Blu Cantrell's R&B hit "Hit 'em Up Style (Oops!)."

The Carolina Chocolate Drops have released five CDs and one EP and have opened for Taj Mahal and, in 2011, Bob Dylan.[5] They have performed on Mountain Stage,[6] MerleFest, and at the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention. Additionally they have performed on A Prairie Home Companion, Fresh Air, and BBC Radio in early 2010, and at the 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee,[7] and at the 2011 Romp,[8] in Owensboro, Kentucky. On January 17, 2012, they appeared live on BBC Radio 3.[9] They have performed on the Grand Ole Opry several times. They have also performed on the UK's BBC Television program, Later... with Jools Holland.[10]

On February 7, 2011, the band announced that beatboxer Adam Matta and multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins would be joining the band, while Justin Robinson was departing.[11] In early 2012, they announced that the New Orleans based cellist Leyla McCalla was joining the band on its next tour.[12] CCD contributed a track, "Political World," to the Bob Dylan tribute compilation, Chimes of Freedom (album) released in January 2012. Their next album, Leaving Eden, followed soon afterward in February 2012. In an interview, Jenkins said,

"Leaving Eden was an interesting album because [fiddler] Justin [Robinson] had just left the group, and they had already decided to record with Buddy Miller, and had even picked the recording dates. It was an interesting time to be coming in, because they were ready to do different things with the new members. So it was a trial-by-fire period."[13]

They toured with Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band in 2012.[14] Later in 2012, the Drops were nominated for numerous awards by the Chicago Black Theater Alliance for their work in Keep a Song in Your Soul: The Roots of Black Vaudeville.[15] Staged by the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, written by Lalenja Harrington (Rhiannon Giddens's older sister) and Súle Greg Wilson, and featuring veteran hoofer Reggio MacLaughlin, and ragtime pianist and MacArthur Fellow Reginald R. Robinson, the program examined the hopes and realities, music, and dances of the Great Migration.[16]

Also in 2012, the Drops contributed a song, "Daughter's Lament", to The Hunger Games soundtrack.

In 2013, they were nominated for a Blues Music Award for 'Acoustic Artist'.[17]

Also in 2013, the Drops contributed a song, "Day of Liberty", to the two-CD album 'Divided & United.

On November 12, 2013, the Chocolate Drops announced that Dom Flemons would be leaving to embark on his own solo career,[18] and introduced two new members: cellist Malcolm Parson and multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett.[19]

In 2014 the Chocolate Drops worked with choreographer Twyla Tharp and dancers Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck to create Cornbread Duet.[20]

In 2014, the group stopped regularly performing together, and members have pursued solo work and other projects since.[21] Hubby Jenkins left the band in 2016.[22] Rhiannon Giddens has released a number of solo recordings and was recently named as the artistic director of the Silk Road Project.[23]

In 2023, the opera Omar, co-written by Giddens and Michael Abels, won the Pulitzer Prize for Music.


Carolina Chocolate Drops at Lake Placid, New York, in 2012. Left to right: Leyla McCalla, Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, Hubby Jenkins
  • Rhiannon Giddens: 5-string banjo, dance, fiddle, kazoo, voice
  • Rowan Corbett: Guitar, bones, snare drum, cajon, djembe
  • Malcolm Parson: Cello, melodica
  • Dom Flemons: 4-string banjo, guitar, jug, harmonica, kazoo, snare drum, bones, quills, voice
  • Hubby Jenkins: Guitar, mandolin, 5-string banjo, bones, voice
  • Adam Matta: Beatbox, tambourine
  • Leyla McCalla: Cello, tenor banjo, voice
  • Justin Robinson: Fiddle, jug, beatbox, dance, voice
  • Súle Greg Wilson: 5-string banjo, banjolin, bodhrán, brushes, bones, dance, gourd, kazoo, tambourine, ukulele, voice, washboard



Title Album details Peak chart positions
US US Grass US Folk US Heat
Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind
The Great Debaters Soundtrack
(with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones and Teenie Hodges)
  • Release date: December 11, 2007
  • Label: Atlantic
  • Release date: February 18, 2008
  • Label: Dixiefrog
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson
(recorded live at MerleFest, April 25, 2008)
  • Release date: May 26, 2009
  • Label: Music Maker
Genuine Negro Jig
  • Release date: February 16, 2010
  • Label: Nonesuch
150 1 2 2
Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii EP
  • Release date: January 25, 2011
  • Label: Nonesuch
3 11 32
Leaving Eden
  • Release date: February 24, 2012
  • Label: Nonesuch
123 1 6 2
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
2012 "Country Girl"[24] Thomas Ciaburri


  1. ^ "Grammy Awards 2011: Winners and nominees for 53rd Grammy Awards". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "fRoots Albums of 2010". www.frootsmag.com. Archived from the original on December 17, 2014. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  3. ^ "Carolina Chocolate Drops - Digging back, driving forward". No Depression. April 30, 2008. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  4. ^ "Carolina Chocolate Drops: African-American String Band". Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts | Appalachian State University | Boone, North Carolina". Pas.appstate.edu. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  6. ^ "Carolina Chocolate Drops On Mountain Stage". Npr.org. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  7. ^ "Bonnaroo - Artists". Archived from the original on May 31, 2010. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  8. ^ "International Bluegrass Music Museum International Bluegrass Music Museum". Archived from the original on May 2, 2009. Retrieved November 30, 2006.
  9. ^ Carolina Chocolate Drops (January 17, 2012), Carolina Chocolate Drops Live at BBC Radio 3 "In Tune" on 2012-01-17, retrieved September 3, 2017
  10. ^ "Carolina Chocolate Drops Perform on "Later ... with Jools Holland," Tour California - Nonesuch Records". Nonesuch Records Official Website. November 5, 2009. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "Justin Robinson to Leave Carolina Chocolate Drops; New Lineup Emerges". No Depression. February 3, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Lawrence, Jordan. "Only one original member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops remains, but the group's mission spreads". Indy Week. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  13. ^ Palmer, Brian (June 24, 2014). "Crash Course: New Carolina Chocolate Drops lineup gets a baptism by fire". Good Times. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  14. ^ Carolina Chocolate Drops and Josh Ritter
  15. ^ "Rhiannon Giddens will bring Carolina Chocolate Drops to Goshen Oct. 13 | Goshen College". News & Events. September 30, 2015. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  16. ^ Kenny, Heather (September 23, 2009). "Keep a Song in Your Soul". Chicago Reader. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  17. ^ "Blues Music Awards Nominees - 2013 - 34th Blues Music Awards". Blues.org. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  18. ^ "Dom Flemons Holds On To Those Old-Time Roots". NPR.org. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  19. ^ "Carolina Chocolate Drops' Fan Bridge Newsletter". Fanbridge.com. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  20. ^ Seibert, Brian (April 13, 2014). "Fouéttes and Pirouettes to the Southern Banjo and Fiddle". New York Times. New York, United States. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  21. ^ Kater, Kaia (November 2, 2018). "Rhiannon Giddens Is The 21st Century's Revelator". National Public Radio. The group eventually wound down its shows in 2014 and the members went their separate ways after nearly ten years, thousands of shows, millions of miles and their original goal achieved: the near-singlehanded revival of the black string band tradition in American consciousness. With it, they'd played a small part in the righting of history.
  22. ^ "Bio". Hubby Jenkins. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  23. ^ Woolfe, Zachary (July 28, 2020). "Rhiannon Giddens to Lead Silkroad's Musical Explorations". New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  24. ^ "CMT : Videos : Carolina Chocolate Drops : Country Girl". Country Music Television. Retrieved May 8, 2012.

External links[edit]