Music News & Reviews

Algia Mae Hinton, one of the last surviving Piedmont blues greats, has died

Algia Mae Hinton, one of the last surviving old-style Piedmont blues players, has died at age 88.

She died Feb. 8, at her home in Middlesex.

“It was expected,” said her daughter, Minnie Hinton Wilma. “She just shut down.”

There will be a wake from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 13, at William Toney’s Funeral Home in Zebulon. Funeral servies are at 1 p.m. Feb. 14 at Zebulon Baptist Church.

Hinton’s family has established a fund to cover funeral expenses with $2,020 raised so far of their $9,000 goal. To contribute, go to

Hinton played music and buckdanced since childhood, and she became a regular on the blues-festival circuit starting in the late 1970s. Eventually Algia Mae Hinton came to rank behind her better-known peers Elizabeth Cotton and Etta Baker as the best old-school Piedmont blueswomen.

Tim Duffy described himself Thursday as “torn up” about the news of her death. He had worked with Hinton since the early 1990s through the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit he founded that seeks to preserve Southern musical traditions by giving financial support to musicians.

“I’ll miss Algia Mae,” Duffy said. “She was a great major artist of Piedmont blues and gospel, and an incredibly powerful woman. Hard worker, too. She must have picked a million cucumbers while supporting seven kids alone, raising them up right.”

Hinton’s life wasn’t easy. She was one of 14 children born to a farming family in 1929. She married in 1950 and had seven children, becoming a single parent after her husband’s death in 1965.

“I raised my kids up, salt and pepper and switch,” she said in an interview last year. “I bet you whip yours, too. Right? You’ve got to. If you don’t, there’ll be trouble.”

One of Hinton’s career highlights came in 1984, a gig at New York City’s fabled Carnegie Hall. But as soon as she returned from New York, Hinton’s house burned down after her wood heater caught on fire. She lost everything.

“That’s very much been her life, a very hard one in every dimension,” said Glenn Hinson, a UNC-Chapel Hill folklorist, in 2017. “Occupational, family, you name it. She’s had a hard life of ‘bad luck and trouble,’ as she’d say.”

In recent years, Hinton’s health declined, and she no longer could perform. Even confined to a wheelchair, however, she’d still perform a little soft-shoe dance for visitors while singing sly songs like “Cook Cornbread For Your Husband (And Biscuits For Your Outside Man).”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Algia Mae Hinton in 2000. 2000 News & Observer File Photo - Scott Sharpe
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