excerpt from Blanton Owen (www.fieldrecorder.com)
Manco Sneed was born on February 18, 1885, in Jackson County, North Carolina, which lies on the eastern slopes of the Smoky Mountains. Prior to Andrew Jackson’s Cherokee removal in 1838, Manco’s grandfather, an English trader, moved from Charleston, South Carolina, into the North Georgia area of the Cherokee Nation where he married a full-blooded Cherokee. Sometime prior to 1885, Manco’s parents, John and Sara Lovin Sneed, moved to Jackson County from Hiawassee, Georgia, which lies just across the state line.
Manco made the acquaintance of Dedrick Harris, an excellent fiddle player by all accounts who was originally from Flag Pond, Tennessee, but was then living in Andrews, North Carolina. The very young Manco and much older Dedrick Harris must have been quite a team al the social events where they played the both played fiddle and banjo so they could take time about on each instrument as the inclination struck them. Manco said however, that he normally played banjo and Harris the fiddle.
Harris’ influence on young Manco Sneed was great; almost one quarter of the tunes Manco has recorded, he attributed to Harris. Manco spoke of Harris almost with reverence and took pride in noting that he was the only person still living who played Harris’ tunes in Harris’ style. Harris’ reputation as one of western North Carolina’s best fiddlers is still alive today. In a recent conversation, banjo maker Homer Locust told me that Harris and Manco Sneed were, in Mr. Locust’s opinion, the two best fiddlers this country ever produced.
Harris, in addition to participating in the famous 1925 fiddler’s convention in Mountain City, Tennessee (where he is pictured with his twin brother, Demp, on the cover of County LP #525) also recorded commercially twice in 1924, he did four sides in New York with Ozzie Helton for Broadway Records, and in 1925, he recorded “Cacklin’ Hen” for Okeh in Atlanta.
In about 1903, John Sneed moved his family to the Cherokee Indian reservation. Although John was one-half Cherokee, his move seems strange, (especially in light of the fact that John, according to Manco’s son-in-law Nat Brewer, “hated the ground the Indian walked on.” In fact, John carried a large walking stick loaded with lead with which he was known to have knocked more than one Indian senseless. He was also supposed to have used a ten-gauge shotgun to shoot at loud Cherokees who passed near his house on their way through the gap between Soco and the village of Cherokee. At any rate, the Sneeds, with their eighteen-year-old son Manco, who was right at the height of his learning stage, moved onto the reservation.
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