“Step It Up and Go”

Step“Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk,” (2020, University of North Carolina Press). Find it at your favorite bookstore as well as amazon.com, bookshop, bn.com. Target or Walmart. Beyond America, the book is available in Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.

If you want a signed copy, the best place to get that is Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh (which offers free shipping anywhere in the U.S.).

Readings, Events & Appearances

Monday, Oct. 19 (7 p.m.) — Virtual event with Scott Huler via Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh.

Tuesday, Oct. 20 (7 p.m.) — Virtual event with Scott Avett via Park Road Books, Charlotte.

Tuesday, Oct. 20 (7 p.m.) — “North Carolina Bookwatch” interview on UNC-TV

Wednesday, Oct. 21 (6:30 p.m.) — “UNC Press Presents” virtual event with David Holt via Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville.

Friday, Oct. 23 (7 p.m.) — Virtual event with Eddie Huffman via Scuppernong Books, Greensboro.

Thursday, Oct. 29 (6 p.m.) — Virtual discussion with Jon Wurster and Tom Maxwell via Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill.

Thursday, Nov. 12 (3 p.m.) — Interview on Gimme Country.

Past Events

Sunday, Oct. 18 (4 p.m.) — “Secret Monkey Weekend” interview.

Thursday, Oct. 15 (7 p.m.) — Virtual event with Jaki Shelton Green via The Regulator Bookshop, Durham.

Wednesday, Oct. 14 (noon) — “History @ High Noon: Breaking Color Lines at the Beach” talk on beach music, virtual event via North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh.

Tuesday, Oct. 13 (2:30 p.m.) — Interview with Charlie Brown on WHUP, 104.7-FM, Hillsborough.

Monday, Oct. 12 (8:20-8:40 a.m.) — Interview with Bob Burtman on WHUP, 104.7-FM, Hillsborough.

Monday, Oct. 12 (9-10 p.m.) — Interview with Tom Kearney on WPTF, 98.5-FM/680-AM, Raleigh.

Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 (10 a.m.-noon) — “Lawn Darts Radio” interview on Little Raleigh Radio.

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020 (7 p.m.) – Virtual event with novelist David Goodwillie and writer/musician Kelly Crisp, via Page 158 Books, Wake Forest.


Bluegrass Today review (Oct. 6, 2020)

goodread reviews


David Menconi reminds us that memory is set free within time and space. “Step It Up and Go” reimagines ghosts carrying guitars crossing Jim Crow color lines that were never meant to be crossed, men who lived and died in their own instrumental universes, and resounding women wailing and weaving their gold into plain view.

This assemblage of interviews and other primary and secondary sources present a wide range of music genres, backstories, and sociological and cultural data that informs, texturizes, and continues to deliver what feels like a seamless space between long ago and now. Celebration and nods of regret remain wonderfully accessible and vulnerable, bearing witness to the power of the everydayness and ordinariness of music makers who call us neighbor, family, and community.

Over and over again, this story of North Carolina music is a righteous invitation. We are drawn to listen to the depth of historical call and response across generations between Rhiannon Giddens, Etta Baker, and Elizabeth Cotten, the slick dance of whoops and hollers of Sonny Terry when 9th Wonder or J. Cole drops the microphone, or to lean in and feel the breath of the shadow spirits of Doc Watson and Charlie Poole swaying in between Chatham County Line.

This is David Menconi’s real métier. Hopefully we can look forward to more chronicles of many other musicians who call North Carolina home.
Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina Poet Laureate 

David Menconi has been in attendance or helped with coverage of every meaningful music event, concert or festival in the piedmont of North Carolina that I can remember over my 20-year career. He deserves to be the one to deliver this comprehensive look into North Carolina musical history.
— Woody Platt, Steep Canyon Rangers

Music is one of North Carolina’s greatest calling cards to the world, and David Menconi is an unmatched ambassador for that music. Weaving together the genres, artists, and songs that feel like the fabric we all wear, Menconi showcases a keen ear for a story, and a journalist’s sense of history.”
Joe Newberry, musician & Kindness Ninja ™

At long last, David Menconi has given us the musical overview the Tarheel State truly deserves.
Jon Wurster, Superchunk

“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 North Carolina hip-hop scene. Menconi’s writing gifts, years of journalism, and direct contact with many of the state’s music figures makes 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, “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown: The Making of an American Classic”)

Menconi has written a history of North Carolina music that is as lilting as a Piedmont ballad, as pleasurable as a Libba Cotton 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, “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South”)

“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 Cotton, Blind Boy Fuller, Clyde McPhatter, Theolonius Monk, Charlie Poole, Earl Scruggs, Nina Simone, and Doc Watson, as well as contemporary performers like the Avett Brothers, Phonte Coleman, Rhiannon Giddens, 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, UNC professor and Grammy winner 

Interviews & Features

“The Road to Now” Podcast interview with Ben Alexander and Dolphus Ramseur (Oct. 19, 2020)

Author Interview, UNC Press Blog (Oct. 19, 2020)

“North Carolina Bookwatch” interview with D.G. Martin, UNC-TV (Oct. 18 and Oct. 20, 2020)

News & Observer excerpt and interview/feature (Oct. 18, 2020) — also in Charlotte Observer and The Island Packet

“David Menconi, the Dean of North Carolina Rock Critics, Pens a Loving Landmark History of Our State’s Popular Music,” by Brian Howe; Indy Week (Oct. 14, 2020)

“‘Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music’ highlights musicians from across the state,” by Eddie Huffman; Winston-Salem Journal (Oct. 3, 2020) — also in Greensboro News & Record and NotiUlti

WRAL “Out & About” podcast — Sept. 30, 2020

Bookin’ podcastSept. 28, 2020

Walter magazine featureSeptember 2020

343 Collection podcast interview


Carolina Alumni Review (September-October 2020)

No Depression wrapup of upcoming Fall 2020 books (July 23, 2020)

“25 Ways to Experience the Arts This Fall,” Chapel Hill magazine (Sept. 3, 2020)

“Religion is everywhere as four important books point out,” by D.G. Martin, Statesville Record & Landmark (Sept. 28, 2020) — also in Morganton News Herald, Independent Tribune, Spring Hope Enterprise, Laurinburg Exchange, Hickory Record, Coastland Times and Up & Coming Weekly

Doc Watson playlist for The Bluegrass Situation (June 5, 2020)

North Carolina busking history and overview for Our State magazine (September 2020)

Related playlists
Largehearted Boy
Songs from “Step It Up and Go” (on Spotify)
Raleigh playlist (also on Spotify)
Orange County playlist (also on Spotify)

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