A photographic Journey Celebrating
THE AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSIC TRAIL

For at least a century, African American musicians from Kinston and the surrounding region have shaped the development of different styles of American music: jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel music. Kinston is often referred to as the birthplace of funk as five members of the legendary James Brown Band were from Kinston.

These photographs and the nearby Kinston Music Park (Spring Hill and South Queen Streets) celebrate the musical pioneers highlighted in the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina guidebook, a project of the North Carolina Arts Council. The archival posters and photographs feature musicians from Kinston as well as musicians from several other North Carolina counties on the trail including Jones and Wilson counties.

This project is a part of the SmART Initiative, a program of the N.C. Arts Council focusing on transforming communities through arts-driven economic development. Kinston is one of four cities in the state that received this honor.

  • The Uptighters were a 1970s band led by Tyrone Greene of Lenoir County.,

  • Steven Jones and Terrial Suggs. Photograph by Cedric N. Chatterly.

  • Photo courtesy of Lessette Kornegay.

  • Alix Gardner, a prominent church musician in Jones County. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • Photograph by Cedric N. Chatterly. For 25-years Sandy Jackson was a member of The Revelation Gospel Singers. He toured throughout the eastern United States with the group and more recently has played the organ on a recording by gospel artist LaShun Pace. Jackson is a well-known choir director, and his wife Iris directs choirs and is a talented singer. The Jacksons lead choirs and teach workshops together.

  • Kinston’s Adkin High School Band, circa 1945. Thornton Canady is in the second row, third from left. Courtesy of Thornton Canady.

  • Music during a service at the Andrews Chapel Freewill Baptist Church in Trenton. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • Drummer Melvin Parker, who was also a member of the James Brown Band, at his home in Kinston. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • Maceo Parker, a legend of jazz and funk, grew up and learned to play the saxophone in Kinston. Photograph by Cedric N. Chatterley.

  • Nathaniel “Nat” Jones, an influential early member of the James Brown Band, had an important role in the development of funk. Photograph courtesy of Edwin Jones.

  • Kinston’s Lessette Kornegay, singer, and songwriter has given a new sound to contemporary gospel music. Photograph courtesy of Valerie F. Montgomery.,

  • Mackay Jurgens. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • The Uptighters Trio

  • Detail of saxophone from a Kinston Juneteenth celebration. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • Audience members performing with Nancy Paris at Frenchman’s Creek in Kinston. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • Photograph courtesy of Sonny Bannerman.

  • Sonny Bannerman is a popular musician on Kinston’s music scene. Photograph by Cedric N. Chatterley.

  • hotograph by Cedric N. Chatterley.

  • Photograph by Cedric N. Chatterley.

  • The Saints. Photograph courtesy of Daniel Adams of Goldsboro.

  • Photograph by Rodrigo Dorfman

  • Knight, a 2018 North Carolina Heritage Award recipient, played back-up for Gladys Knight, in addition to James Brown, Otis Redding, and others. Photograph courtesy of Dick Knight circa 1960s.

  • Zack Greene and unknown pianist. Greene was often cited as one of the talented musicians that inspired younger generations growing-up in the Kinston area in the 1940s and 50s. Photo courtesy of Thornton Canady.

  • Thornton Canady’s mother Jesse May Canady Nixon of Kinston plays the saxophone. Photograph courtesy of Thornton Canady.

  • Photograph by Cedric N. Chatterley

  • Thornton Canady was a member of the Adkin High School band before becoming band director both Lenoir and Craven County schools. Photograph courtesy of Thornton Canady.

  • Wilbert Croom, jazz singer and Kinston native. Croom learned the basics of singing from his father, an accomplished gospel quartet baritone. Photograph by Cedric N. Chatterley.

  • Ulysses Hardy at the keyboard, singer Hattie Cox at the microphone, and Melvin Parker on the drums. Photograph courtesy of Kathy Williams.

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  • The Kinston All-Stars, circa 1945. Andrew Herring (left); Unknown (2nd); Herman Aldridge (3rd); Jesse Lovitt (4th); Marvin (Van Buren) Parker (5th). Photograph courtesy of Lindsay Parker.

  • Mass Fire

  • Clemmie Lee “Fig” Jones near his home in Pink Hill. An R&B and rock-and-roll drummer, Jones is holding the drumsticks that the early Kinston drummer Willie Moore gave him. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • Knee Deep

  • Soul and jazz artist Sedatrius Brown-Boxley. Photo by Cedric N. Chatterley.

  • Paul Iser

  • Kinston natives Marvin Wiggins and Ira Wiggins often joined forces to perform. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • JKL Group. Photo courtesy of Kathy Williams

  • Ulysses Hardy played the keyboard with the Blue Notes. Photograph courtesy of Kathy Williams.

  • Sam Lathan

  • Photograph courtesy of Kathy Williams.

  • The Traditional Arts Program for Students (TAPS) Kinston saxophonist Charles Richberg directs the jazz TAPS band, which pairs traditional artists with youth. Photograph by Titus Brooks Heagins.

  • Michael Moseley

  • Photograph courtesy of University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

  • The Bossatettes of Kinston. Photograph courtesy of Dick Knight.

  • The James Brown Orchestra with Dick Knight. Photograph courtesy of Dick Knight. Five members of the James Brown Band hailed from Kinston including Dick Knight, Melvin Parker, Maceo Parker, Nathaniel Jones and Levi Raspberry.