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Photograph of Helena Triplett Helena Triplett at her home in Elkins, West Virginia, October 1997. Photo by Geoff Eacker  

HELENA TRIPLETT was raised in New Zealand and arrived in the United States at the age of twenty-five. She first moved to Brooklyn where she learned to play clawhammer banjo from her father, an important musical figure to the folk revival of the sixties.

She was lured to the Mountain State by the banjo music and simple lifestyle of the Hammons family, the well-known banjo musicians and ballad singers of Pocahontas County. When she first moved to the county, Helena lived in a run-down cabin in Lobelia, “which is kinda like a ghost town. It used to be a town but there was nobody there anymore except hunters. That cabin was so rotten that it collapsed after we moved out.”

Helena listened to old recordings of Maggie and Lee Hammons on banjo and has adapted many of her banjo tunes from their style. She describes her banjo technique as follows: “I donít cram in a lot of notes. I try to keep it very tasteful, simple. Iím not interested in playing s fancy or as fast as I can. Iíd rather do whatís best for the music than whatís best for my ego.”

Helena now [1997] lives in Elkins, West Virginia, and plays banjo with The Raincrows, an Appalachian string band that includes her husband, fiddler Jimmy Triplett. The Raincrows have garnered awards at numerous old-time music festivals in West Virginia, including their selection as one of the best traditional bands at the Clifftop Festival.

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