Ballad-Singing Great Dies

Johnny Ray Hicks, 74, the last of the great traditional ballad singers in Tennessee, died Wednesday (Aug. 23) at his home in Grimsley, Tenn., due to complications from lung cancer. Since the early 1800s, members of the Hicks family in Fentress County, on the rugged Cumberland Plateau, have sung and passed on, from generation to generation, a wealth of old British and American ballads. Hicks performed in a forceful, a cappella mountain singing style. His repertoire included hundreds of songs. Some he learned from family elders or from outside sources; others he composed himself. Hicks performed at the 1986 Smithsonian Institution Festival of American Folklife, on The Cumberland Music Tour in 1988 and at the National Folk Festival in 1993. He also sang frequently at parks and arts centers in his region. Services will be held at 2 p.m. today (Aug. 25) at the Jennings Funeral Home in Clarkrange, Tenn. Burial follows at the Old Barger Cemetery in Tinchtown, Tenn.