Ray Hicks

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Ray Hicks (1983)

Ray Hicks[1] (August 29, 1922 – April 20, 2003) was a renowned Appalachian storyteller, who lived his entire life on Beech Mountain, North Carolina. He was particularly known for the telling of Jack Tales.

In 1983 he was made a National Heritage Fellow.[2]


Ray Hicks was born on August 29, 1922. He was the fourth child of Nathan and Rena Hicks.[3] He also had Cherokee ancestry.

Storytelling and ballad-singing were a big part of life with the Hicks family. Nathan played banjo and dulcimer and encouraged Ray to sing along with him.[3] Ray's cousin, Frank Proffitt, was also a talented musician, known for his performance of the ballad Tom Dooley among others.[4]

The Hicks family lived in conditions of extreme poverty in the relatively isolated mountains of North Carolina near Banner Elk. The family got by selling carpets handwoven by Rena and dulcimers crafted by Nathan as well as other work. In 1945, Nathan committed suicide. Ray was drafted into the army, but was rejected because he had broken his arm. Rena died in 1975, leaving Ray the Hicks' home-place and child raising duties for his younger siblings.[4]

Ray married Rosa Violet Harmon.[5] Rosa also grew up in Beech Mountain.[3] Ray and Rosa's daily lives in their Beech Mountain home embodied the traditional culture and practices of their community.[4]

In 1951, Ray was invited to visit a teacher's classroom at Cove Creek Elementary School. It was the first time he told stories in a public setting.[6]

As a featured performer, Ray took the stage at the first National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee on October 7, 1973. After this performance, he was invited back many times in the years that followed.

Ray was well known for his unique brogue and was even studied by a linguist in England.[7]


  1. ^ "About Ray Hicks". www.rayhicks.com. Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  2. ^ Tom Pich (2009). "Ray Hicks Bio". National Endowment for the Arts.
  3. ^ a b c Isbell, Robert (1996). Ray Hicks: Master Storyteller of the Blue Ridge. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807849626.
  4. ^ a b c Kelton, Jim, and Austin Walker. Ray and Rosa Hicks: The Last of the Old-Time Storytellers. Charlotte, NC: Charles and Jane Hadley, 2000.
  5. ^ Center, International Storytelling. "In Memory of Rosa Violet Harmon Hicks • News • International Storytelling Center". www.storytellingcenter.net. Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  6. ^ "Ray Hicks Home Page". www.rayhicks.com. Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  7. ^ Regan-Blake, Connie (September–October 2002). "From Another Time: The Legacy of Ray Hicks" (Vol. 14 Issue 5).