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Three Generations

  First Generation | Second Generation | Third Generation


The Carter Family Alvin Pleasant Carter first heard Sara Dougherty singing in 1914 and fell in love with her beautiful voice. They married in 1915. In 1925 they began performing with Sara's cousin, Maybelle Addington, as the Carter Family. In 1970, they were the first group inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. The musical legacy established by A.P., Sara and Maybelle continues today through successive generations.

Follow this musical family through three generations and learn about their many contributions to American music.


First Generation

Alvin Pleasant "A.P." Carter
April 15, 1891 -- November 7,1960

A.P. learned to play the violin as a child in Poor Valley, Virginia, and sang in the local church choir. He led the Original Carter Family group from 1926 until their break-up in 1943. A.P sometimes played bass in the Carter family group and sometimes sang -- the unique vibrato in his voice attributed to the fact that he was born with "the shakes."

Married Sara Dougherty on June 18, 1915.


Sara Dougherty
July 21,1898 -- January 8, 1979

Sara's lush contralto was the voice of the Original Carter Family. As a girl, Sara formed a singing group with her cousin Madge -- Maybelle's older sister -- and purchased an autoharp when she was 12. Sara's autoharp complemented the guitar work of Maybelle to form the signature melodic sound of the Carter family.

Married Coy Bayes (second marriage) on February 20, 1939.


Maybelle Addington
May 10,1909 -- October 22,1978

Maybelle Addington grew up in a musical family, winning first prize at a Copper Creek banjo contest at the age of 12. Her guitar skills matured quickly and her signature style of blending melody and chords became known as the "Carter scratch." Maybelle later formed a group with her daughters Helen, June, and Anita called The Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle. Their career included performances on various radio stations, regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and The Johnny Cash Show, and a tour with Elvis Presley. She and Sara Carter briefly reunited in the 1960s as a folk duo.

Married Ezra Carter on March 13, 1926.

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The Carter Family: Will the Circle Be Unbroken American Experience

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