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Step It Up and Go

The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk

By David Menconi

Step It Up and Go

328 pp., 7 x 10, 56 halftones, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5935-0
    Published: October 2020

Hardcover Available October 2020, but pre-order your copy today!

Buy this Book

This book is a love letter to the artists, scenes, and sounds defining North Carolina’s extraordinary contributions to American popular music. David Menconi spent three decades immersed in the state’s music, where traditions run deep but the energy expands in countless directions. Menconi shows how working-class roots and rebellion tie North Carolina’s Piedmont blues, jazz, and bluegrass to beach music, rock, hip-hop, and more. From mill towns and mountain coves to college-town clubs and the stage of American Idol, Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk, Step It Up and Go celebrates homegrown music just as essential to the state as barbecue and basketball.

Spanning a century of history from the dawn of recorded music to the present, and with sidebars and photos that help reveal the many-splendored glory of North Carolina’s sonic landscape, this is a must-read for every music lover.

About the Author

Music critic and journalist David Menconi spent twenty-eight years as staff writer at the Raleigh News and Observer. His most recent book (with Ray Benson) is Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel.
For more information about David Menconi, visit the Author Page.


"At long last, David Menconi has given us the musical overview the Tar Heel State truly deserves."--Jon Wurster, Superchunk

"This is a great, comprehensive look at what incredible diversity North Carolina music has to offer, and there is no one better to tell these stories than the ever-present David Menconi."--Woody Platt, Steep Canyon Rangers

"David Menconi has written a history of North Carolina music that is as lilting as a Piedmont ballad, as pleasurable as a Libba Cotten pick-and-strum, and with all the forward drive of a Fulton Allen solo. That is to say: you should read this book."--Osha Gray Davidson, author of The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South

"North Carolina music is an ambassador for the state that is unequaled. And, David Menconi is an unmatched ambassador for the music of the Tar Heel State. Step It Up and Go highlights the artists who create the fabric of the songs that we all wear. From blues to bluegrass, to beach music, to hip-hop, to pop, and more, Menconi showcases a keen ear for a story and a journalist’s sense of history."--Joe Newberry, North Carolina musician

Step It Up and Go stands alone as a comprehensive, thought-provoking narrative detailing a century’s worth of the entire North Carolina music scene, from the bravado of Charlie Poole and his banjo-driven string music to the wildly creative 9th Wonder and his shepherding of a vital N.C. hip-hop scene. Menconi’s writing gifts, years of journalism, and direct contact with many of the state’s music figures make the stories sing from inside and out. North Carolina has needed this book, and all its music lovers should celebrate its arrival.”--Thomas Goldsmith, author of Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown: The Making of an American Classic

"Step It Up and Go is a landmark publication that tracks the state’s rich musical history. David Menconi eloquently introduces early musicians like Shirley Caesar, Elizabeth Cotten, Blind Boy Fuller, Clyde McPhatter, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Poole, Earl Scruggs, Nina Simone, and Doc Watson, as well as contemporary performers like the Avett Brothers, Phonte Coleman, Rhiannon Giddens, Thomas “Rapper Big Pooh” Jones, Mandolin Orange, Megafaun, Tift Merritt, the Red Clay Ramblers, Southern Culture on the Skids, Superchunk, and Mike “M.C.” Taylor. Menconi delivers a long-overdue salute to North Carolina as an unending source of musical talent that has defined the fields of old-time country, bluegrass, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and roll, and hip-hop."--William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues