Petey Pablo, Merge Records, and Clarence Avant will be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame

By Cameron Lee

June 5, 2024

The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame has announced six new inductees in 2024 including Greenville native rapper Petey Pablo; fabled music executive and Greensboro native, Clarence Avant; storied Durham indie rock label, Merge Records, founded by Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance; and Mary Cardwell Dawson, the musician and teacher who was the founding director of the National Negro Opera Company. 

The 2024 induction ceremony will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, taking place at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in downtown Mooresville on October 17. The ceremony will be open to the public and attendees will be able to enjoy a dinner and a show featuring performances by the inductees, including Petey Pablo. 

Petey Pablo (Greenville) 

Best known for North Carolina anthem “Raise Up” and massive radio hits like “Freek-A-Leek,” Greenville native Moses Barrett III, exploded onto the national hip-hop scene in 2001 with his debut album, Diary of a Sinner: 1st Entry, which was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards. His sophomore effort, Still Writing in My Diary: 2nd Entry, was met with critical and commercial success, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard 200 featuring the single, “Freek-a-Leek,” produced by Lil Jon. Throughout his career, Petey has collaborated with Timbaland, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliot, and Ciara on her chart-topping debut single, “Goodies.” 

Clarence Avant (Greensboro)

Born in Greensboro, Clarence Avant, was a prominent music executive widely recognized as “The Black Godfather.” A documentary about his life with the same name was released in 2019 directed by Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Boomerang). Spending over 50 years in the entertainment industry, Avant primarily remained behind the scenes. His work advocated for the fair treatment and compensation for African American artists, working closely with the likes of  jazz great Sarah Vaughan, Bill Withers, and Johnny Nash (“I Can See Clearly Now”). In 2021, Avant was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, receiving the prestigious Ahmet Ertegun Award, given to non-performing industry professionals who have had a major influence in music. He is also the recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP, the Recording Academy’s Trustees Award, and countless other music and civic accolades. In 2021, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from North Carolina A&T. 

Merge Records (Durham) 

Celebrating their 35th anniversary in 2024, Merge Records has released several groundbreaking albums since being launched by Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan in 1989. Originally an outlet for their band Superchunk, the label has put out a multitude of quintessential indie rock records, including Arcade Fire’s first four releases. Their early successes included Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea, The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, and Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight. In 2009, Algonquin Paperbacks released a book chronicling the label’s history, Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records. The label will celebrate their 35th anniversary this year with a four-day festival at Cat’s Cradle (July 24-27), featuring performances by Hiss Golden Messenger, M. Ward, Wye Oak, Fruit Bats, Eric Bachmann, Mike Krol, Mary Timony, John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats), and more. 

Mary Cardwell Dawson (Madison) 

Mary Cardwell Dawson was an influential musician and teacher, best known as the founding director of the National Negro Opera Company (NNOC) in 1941– the first African American opera company in the United States. Born in Madison, North Carolina, Dawson spent most of her childhood in Homestead, Pennsylvania and studied at the Chicago Musical College and The Metropolitan Opera Studios in New York City. In 1941, Dawson launched the NNOC following a presentation of the opera Aida at the National Association of Negro Musicians convention. Dawson made opera accessible to Black audiences, establishing opera guilds in several major cities and training hundreds of youth in opera. The Charlotte Museum of History is currently showing an exhibit about the life of Dawson titled, Open Wide the Door: The Story of Mary Cardwell Dawson and the National Negro Opera Company, that can be viewed through December. 

Mary Cardwell Dawson, who was the founding director of the National Negro Opera Company, will be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame this year.

Bobby Hicks (Newton) 

A 10-time Grammy Award-winning fiddler and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductee, Bobby Hicks has made unparalleled contributions to bluegrass music over five decades. His career spans  over 50 albums, collaborating with several renowned artists, including Bill Monroe, Porter Wagoner, Jesse McReynolds, Carlton Haney, and Jim Eanes. Notably, he also spent 23 years as the fiddler for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.

Bobby Hicks, a 10-time Grammy Award-winning fiddler from Newton, North Carolina, will be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame this year. 

Tommy Faile (Charlotte) 

A prolific songwriter, radio and television personality, and baritone vocalist, Tommy Faile is best known for composing the 1967 hit “Phantom 309” and recording “The Legend of the Brown Mountain Lights.” He began his career in 1949 as a bass player and singer with the Hired Hands before joining Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks in 1951. In 1969, Faile launched his own successful TV show, The Tommy Faile Show, on Charlotte’s WBTV, which made him a well-known personality throughout North Carolina.

Since its inception in 1994, 132 names have been inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. The museum is located in Kannapolis and features 65 exhibits displaying rare memorabilia from the inductees. Museum admission is free to the public and guided tours are provided upon request. Current items on display include Charlie Daniels’ fiddle; Arthur Smith’s banjo; beat machines from Jermaine Dupri and 9th Wonder; clothing from American Idols Scotty McCreery, Fantasia, Clay Aiken, Kellie Pickler; and Jim Lauderdale’s Grammy Award.

The 2024 North Carolina Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony will pay homage to the six North Carolinians with an event on Thursday, October 17, 2024 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in downtown Mooresville. The ceremony is open to the public and attendees will be treated to dinner and a show featuring performances by the inductees. You can purchase tickets ($100) through the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame’s official website.


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