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

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

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7678-4
    Published: March 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5936-7
    Published: September 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5581-7
    Published: September 2020

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Awards & distinctions

2023 North Carolina Humanities "North Carolina Reads" Selection

2020 North Caroliniana Society Book Award

First Runner-Up, 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Awards (Culture)

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.


"100 years of sound. From American Idol to Nina Simone, NC's rich musical legacy thrives. . . . Not every state can merit a hefty book about its music history, or fill an index with so many well-known names."— News & Observer

"Menconi [has] a deep and widespread insight into how music and business intersect, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the North Carolina scene."—John Lawless, Bluegrass Today

"An absorbing love letter to the artists, scenes, and sounds of North Carolina's contributions to America's popular music. . . . Thoroughly researched and endlessly enjoyable."—PopMatters

"Menconi [takes] a narrative approach, exploring a wide variety of music styles and packing his book with compelling stories."—Eddie Huffman, Greensboro News and Record

"Captures the rich diversity of North Carolina's music through colorful stories, poignant photos, and humorous anecdotes. Menconi's a masterful storyteller and a delightful guide to the music of the Tar Heel state, and every chapter in the book deserves to be lingered over and treasured for its loving attention to the details of the lives and music dwelling in the state."—No Depression

"Locates the soul of North Carolina music in its people's humble pragmatism. . . . Menconi's loving testament to our state's musical heritage is brisk and fun but will also be cited as a reference for years to come."—IndyWeek