Wade Mainer, Banjo Pioneer, Dies at 104

Wade Mainer, a groundbreaking banjo player from the 1930s, died Monday (Sept. 12) in Flint, Mich. He was 104. Mainer briefly played with his brother’s band, Mainer’s Mountaineers, then formed his own band, the Sons of the Mountaineers in 1936. Known for his two-finger banjo style, the North Carolina native was one of the first players to use the banjo as a lead instrument. In addition, his band was invited to perform at the White House during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. When his style of music grew less popular in the 1950s, he moved to Flint, Mich., to work for General Motors. After his retirement in 1973, he and his wife, Julie, renewed their performing career at folk and bluegrass festivals. Mainer won a National Heritage Fellowship when he was 80.