Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

May 8, 2014

Pullen, 92, still working on his banjo playing

THOMASVILLE — If practice makes perfect, C.E. Pullen ought to be getting pretty close. The vibrant 92-year-old Thomas County musician has been playing the banjo for 86 years.

“I practice a lot,” Pullen said during a Thursday telephone interview. “I practice two or three hours every day that rolls around. As a matter of fact, I’m practicing right now.

“About the only thing that still moves about me is my fingers.”

Pullen’s music career is quite illustrious. He has played in shows, clubs, churches and festivals all over the Eastern seaboard. He has jammed with Jim and Jesse, Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmy Dickens, Lonzo and Oscar, Dottie West, Bud Morrisroe, Lefty Frizell, Mac Wiseman, Hank Thompson, Don Reno and many others. His banjo skills can also be heard in the movie “The Long Riders.”

On Saturday, Pullen will join friends Sam and Sallie Worley at the 7th Annual Southern Music Rising Festival in Monticello, Fla. Specializing in bluegrass and gospel, they are set to play on the upstairs stage at the Monticello Opera House at noon.

Pullen’s talented fingers are good for much more than just picking his five-string banjo. He is a retired tool and die maker.

“I have a lot of tie tacks and stuff — little airplane engines — that I take to kids at school,” he said. “I always give each kid a picture of something that they want that I have built.”

Despite his many skills, making music remains at the top of the list. He plays fiddle, mandolin and guitar, too.

“The banjo has just been my favorite instrument,” he said. “My mother started me playing it when I was six years old.”

Pullen’s banjo skills took an exponential leap forward after he met Rudy Lyle, known mostly as a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, in Monticello decades ago.

“I knew his banjo sounded different, so I went down there and watched him,” Pullen recalled. “I said, ‘Oh, he’s got three picks.’ So I went home and practiced and practiced until I got tired of playing.

“That’s really when I started playing.”

The Southern Music Rising Festival, which will feature numerous groups at various sites throughout Monticello, will start today with Connor Christian and Southern Gothic, whose new release “New Hometown” debuted at atop the Billboard Heat Seekers Chart.

Visit www.southernmusicrising.com to buy tickets. More information is available at www.monticellooperahouse.com.

 

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