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Overcoming the odds

by Michael Polzella

Lesley “Esley” Riddle is probably one of the most influential people in county music’s early days whom you have never heard of.

Perhaps it is because he was black in a world dominated by whites. Perhaps it was because he was disfigured, losing a leg in his mid-teens in an accident and later two fingers from a shotgun blast.

Born in Burnsville in Yancey County in 1905, he was known both for his music and songs. Lots of his songs were made famous by the Carter Family; he even sold them rights for a song about an artificial leg.

Ron Smith, S&A Cherokee

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The North Carolina 100