Algia Mae Hinton was born on August 29, 1929 in Johnston County, North Carolina. Her parents, Alexander and Ollie O’Neal, were farmers who raised tobacco, cotton, cucumbers and sweet potatoes. Mother Ollie could play many stringed instruments and began teaching Algia when she was just nine years old. Algia was the youngest of fourteen children and worked the fields from an early age. Her musical and agricultural upbringing set the stage for her adult life. Algia married Millard Hinton in 1950. Her husband died in 1965, forcing Algia to raise her seven children alone by working long hours on the farm. Despite these trying circumstances, Algia kept the music alive and passed it on to her children. Together, they fought off the hard times by entertaining the people of their community. Over the years Algia’s music has gained international recognition.
On July 29, 1983, folklorist Alan Lomax shot a video of a house party at Algia Mae’s home in Johnston County, North Carolina. The party is gathered on and around the front porch lit by floodlights placed by the film crew. Algia Mae sits so cool, wearing sunglasses and a black ascot wrapped around her neck, plucking a funky upbeat groove while her friends, including MM artist John Dee Holeman, sing and buckdance. They pass a fruit jar back and forth between them. Algia Mae is holding court and the party goes on and on. There are over 20 videos from that night that are viewable on Youtube.
Bits of the footage are featured in an Alan Lomax film called Appalachian Journey. What is noticeable about Algia Mae’s performance is her guitar mastery. She sings and plays over changes that are never once played the same. She explores infinite variations, hitting bass grooves and throwing accent chords in like a jazz cat.
Watch the video below, and learn more about Algia and her music here.