Sexton Family

Also Known As: Morgan Sexton, Lee Sexton, Phillip Sexton

Updated: March 01, 2011

Traditional musicians.

For several generations, members of the Sexton family played traditional Appalachian music in Line Fork, Kentucky. As a child, Morgan Sexton (b. January 28, 1911) began to play a banjo made of “an old molasses bucket and tanned ground- hog hide,” learning from his father, Shaderick, and his sister, Hettie. After retiring from the coal mines at age sixty-five, Morgan began playing publicly at such festivals as Seedtime on the Cumberland and the Augusta Heritage Festival. His two recordings, Rock Dust and Shady Grove (both on the June Appal label), display an unusual two-finger picking technique, frequent use of nonstandard tunings, and repertoire of older songs and tunes. Morgan received the National Heritage Award in 1991. He died on January 30, 1992.

Morgan’s nephew Lee (b. March 23, 1928) played the banjo clawhammer style as a child, but at age twenty-three, his right hand was crushed in a coal-mining accident, and he was forced to develop an original variation of the drop-thumb style. Also becoming an accomplished fiddler, Lee performed on radio and at square dances with the Jolly Mountain Boys in the 1940s. After retiring from his job in the mines, Lee pursued music full-time. In 1960 he was documented on the album anthology Mountain Music of Kentucky (Smithsonian Folkways), and in 1987 he recorded an album, Whoa Mule (June Appal), with noted fiddler Marion Sumner. Lee received the Kentucky Governor’s Arts Award in 1999.

Lee’s son Phillip (b. August 26, 1953) absorbed and then personalized his father’s style and mountain fiddle tune repertoire. Phillip made two traditional recordings, The Banjo Still Rings and Fifth Generation (both on June Appal), before devoting himself to gospel music and making several recordings for the Master’s Harmony label. Phillip died in an automobile accident on September 9, 2000.

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MLA Style

"Sexton Family," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2018, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 17 Oct 2018 <>

APA Style

"Sexton Family." (2018) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved October 17, 2018, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: