The 2011 Heritage Bridge Award

This award is given to recognize some of the people who, over a career or a life-time, have contributed extraordinarily to the musical fabric of our county and our area.
The 2011 award was presented to Dan X. Padgett.


Of all the rich musical history and talent or our area and region, the 5-string banjo in bluegrass music is one of the most celebrated. Not only did one of the most revered players in the history of the music, Earl Scruggs, come from here, but there have been many others -- from pioneer three-finger style player Smith Hammett to Smith’s own grandson, Jesse Smith “Smitty” Irvin who played nationally with Jimmy Dean, Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper and many others. Even today, there is still a rich vein in the tradition.

One of the most accomplished and someone whose playing and teaching spans several decades is our Heritage Bridge Award honoree for 2011, Dan X. Padgett. Dan’s career has taken him to from small shows to festival stages, the Grand Ole Opry, radio, and recordings. Today, Dan still plays with his band, teaches in his studio in the heart of Shelby, and maintains a deep archive of images and ephemera of the music that he has encountered and been a part of. His stories have been shared in interviews with oral historians working for the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby and with representatives of Tony Trischka’s epic compilation, “The Banjo Project” (from which the PBS program “Give Me The Banjo” will be aired in early November.)

Dan’s father had a quartet that sang on the radio so he was introduced to working musicians at an early age. Dan was influenced by meeting and hearing Snuffy Jenkins. He learned banjo directly from George Brooks, the brother of local music pioneer Rex Brooks, himself a bandmate of Smith Hammett (1887-1930), the area’s earliest known three-finger banjo picker. Hailing from the Mooresboro area (as did Rex Brooks) Dan was exposed to music at homes, farms and places like the Lily Mill village from an early age. 

Padgett played on WOHS radio in Shelby for six years in the early 1950’s with the “Teen Timers” with Bill Allen, Don Waldrop, and Mike Lattimore. This was at about the same time that Don Gibson and the Sons of the Soil were also performing at the same radio station.
He also knew the Scruggs family all his life and played in Earl Scruggs’ place on occasions when Earl was unavailable for Flatt and Scruggs radio, television and road shows. His professional career includes stints with the McCormick Brothers in Tennessee and also with Piedmont, S. C. native Charlie Moore (“Legend of the Rebel Soldier”), a band that included mandolin icon Bill Napier and Lincolnton native Donald “Fiddlin’ Chubby” Anthony. Bill Monroe would sometimes share radio programs with this band as his backup.

Since 1952, Dan has taught music to others. He has taught full-time continuously now for about 45 years. He teaches 10 different instruments to 55 or 60 students a week. He has maintained his studio in on Lafayette St. for nearly 20 years. He has also taught extensively in the Spartanburg area. He has written a compendium of musicians, particularly banjo players, from this area and throughout the region which is bound to be a rich gift to the history of the music.

It’s hard to imagine someone more steeped in the tradition of bluegrass music and bluegrass banjo who has contributed to passing the music along to his students and other musicians. For these reasons and for his generous willingness to share with the community, we honor Dan X. Padgett with the Heritage Bridge Award.

Carolinas Country-Bluegrass-Gospel Hall of Fame 2009 (including the Legends and Community Service Awards.)
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area's Traditional Artist Directory

2005 Ray Ledford
2006 Horace Scruggs
2007 Frank Love, Jr.
2008 Harold Williamson
2010 David Lee
2010 Myrtle Irvin Green
2011 Dan X. Padgett
2012 Dr. Bobby
2013 Charles Kendrick
2014 David E. Wilson
2015 R. C. Nanney

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