Whitney Hale


College: Fine Arts

Folk Legend Lee 'Boy' Sexton to Open 'Appalachia in the Bluegrass'

Published: Sep 10, 2013


Lee "Boy" Sexton performs "Shady Grove," "Little Maggie" and "Wildwood Flower."

Lee "Boy" Sexton performs "Shady Grove," "Little Maggie" and "Wildwood Flower." 


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 10, 2013) — Traditional Appalachian folk music will fill the region once again as the “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” concert series returns this September opening with a concert by legendary Lee "Boy" Sexton, a Letcher County native whose music has made him one of the most revered folk musicians in Eastern Kentucky. Sexton and his son, guitarist Johnny Sexton, will perform noon Friday, Sept. 13, at the Niles Gallery, located in the University of Kentucky’s Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center. The concert is free and open to the public.


A master of the drop-thumb and two-finger banjo style, Lee “Boy” Sexton has lived his whole life near his birthplace in Letcher County, Ky. Born in 1927, he acquired his first banjo, a homemade wooden fretless model with a groundhog skin head, for a dollar when he was eight years old and received instruction from his father and uncles (one of whom was banjo player Morgan Sexton, winner of the National Heritage Award). Lee soon mastered the instrument, and the fiddle, as well. As a young man he would work all week in the mines and then play music all weekend at house parties, bean stringings and corn shuckings.


June Appal issued an LP of traditional material, “Whoa Mule,” by Lee in 1988, and an expanded CD version in 2004 with an additional 40 minutes of music. One of the most respected folk musicians in Eastern Kentucky, he even garnered a brief scene in the 1980 Oscar-nominated film “Coal Miner's Daughter,” where he appears playing at a square dance. In 1999, Lee was presented with the Kentucky Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.


Lee will perform with his son Johnny, who has also previously appeared in the "Appalachia in the Bluegrass" series.


The “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” concert series celebrates the old time roots of American folk music by featuring a diverse range of traditional musical expression. The concert series will showcase 13 different artists, duos and groups from southern Appalachia ranging from artists straight off their front porch to those who have earned international acclaim.


This year’s other series artists and their performance dates are:

  • Jimmy and Ada McCown, a fiddle and banjo artist, Sept. 20;
  • Horse Country Musical Mashup, featuring The Red State Ramblers and The Horse Head Fiddle Ensemble of Inner Mongolia, playing ‘old-time’ music, Sept. 27;
  • Rich and the Po’ Folks, band known for playing music of Eastern Kentucky’s coal fields, Oct. 4;
  • The Rail Splitters, an old time string band, Oct. 11;
  • Phil Jamison, a dance caller and old time musician along with Jesse Wells, a fiddle player, Oct. 18;
  • Sue Massek (of Reel World String Band), a folk musician who uses her music to promote social justice, Oct. 25;
  • Larry Cordle, an Eastern Kentucky bluegrass performer and songwriter, Nov. 1;
  • UK String Ticklers, the university's student bluegrass ensemble, Nov. 8;
  • Skipjack, an old time band known for its vocal harmonies, Nov. 15;
  • Stephen Wade, a banjo player and distinguished scholar, Nov. 22; and
  • Empty Bottle String Band, an old-time string band from East Tennessee, Dec. 6

The John Jacob Niles Center for American Music, host of the concert series, is a collaborative research and performance center maintained by the UK College of Fine Arts, UK School of Music and UK Libraries.


For more information on the Lee "Boy" and Johnny Sexton concert or the “Appalachia in the Bluegrass” concert series, contact Ron Pen, director of the Niles Center, by email to Ron.Pen@uky.edu or visit the website at http://finearts.uky.edu/music/niles.




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716whitney.hale@uky.edu

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