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About E.C. Ball and Orna Ball

Husband-and-wife team E.C. and Orna Ball never matched groups like the Carter Family in popularity, but the Balls nonetheless made a significant, though quieter, contribution to the development of old-timey music and gospel. Unlike the Carters, the Balls seldom ventured far from their home on the Virginia-North Carolina boarder (in Rugby, VA) where they owned a general store and service station. At 12, E.C. Ball (1913-1978) learned to play fingerstyle guitar and joined the Rugby Gully Jumpers. Ball met Alan Lomax at the Galax Fiddler's Convention (which was only 30 miles from Rugby), which led to a recording session in 1941 (though the recordings may have been completed as early as 1938 at the Balls' Rugby home). These recordings would later be released as E.C. Ball by County in 1997 and include songs like "Sweet Bye and Bye" and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Lomax recorded both E.C. and Orna Ball (who played accordion) in 1959 and 1960 when he returned from England. In his liner notes to E.C. Ball With Orna Ball, Frank Weston recalled hearing these recordings broadcast on the BBC: "I couldn't understand how a musician of that caliber should have to drive a bus for a living." The Balls recorded again for County in the late '60s, with E.C. Ball With Orna Ball & the Friendly Gospel Singers , and again for Rounder in the early '70s on an album that also included secular material. Many of E.C. Ball's songs would later be recorded by Peter Rowen, Jerry Douglas, Ginny Hawker, and Robin & Linda Williams. E.C. Ball died in 1978. Husband and wife, E.C. and Orna Ball are one of the great singing duos of old-time and traditional music," wrote Steve Gardner in Music Hound Folk. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.