Jordan Hughett

Ballad Singing & Banjo

Jordan Hughett

Recipient Information

Location

Winfield (Scott County), Tennessee

Medium

Ballad Singing & Banjo

Year of Award

2020

Grant or Fellowship

Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship

Grant Amount

$9,000

Artist Biography

Although still young in age, Jordan Hughett of Scott County has already dedicated himself to traditional ballad singing and banjo playing. Hughett’s family has deep roots in East Tennessee, as his fifth great grandfather brought his family to East Tennessee in the 18th Century on a Revolutionary War land grant.

Hughett’s mother and father both sang in the church choir and were always supportive of his musical pursuits. Hughett requested his first banjo when he was 3 or 4 years old. When his mother bought him a toy banjo, he looked up at her and said, “Mommy, I want a real banjo.” His parents obliged and found him one. He eventually began bluegrass banjo lessons with a family friend.

At the age of 13, Hughett first heard a recording of Buell Kazee, a Kentucky ballad singer and banjo player who recorded nearly 60 songs in the late 1920s, and became, as he puts it, “immediately enamored with his singing and playing style.” At that point, he began learning frailing and clawhammer banjo from instruction books and from a woman with whom he attended church.

During Hughett’s sophomore year, by chance, Buell Kazee’s great-granddaughter transferred to his high school. He learned from her that her grandfather, Philip Kazee, also played the banjo and lived in East Tennessee. Hughett jumped at the chance to study with the son of his musical idol. He has spent “countless hours” with Mr. Kazee learning his family’s songs and banjo playing style. He feels the urgency to learn as much as he can in order to preserve the Buell family legacy, as the younger generations of Kazees, though appreciative of the music, have chosen not to do so.

With the fellowship, Hughett hopes to study with noted ballad singers Sheila Kay Adams, and Daniel and Carmen Hicks in order to learn the songs and stories they have collected over the years to add to his widening repertoire.