Pieter Groenveld (NL) sends the sad news that Wade Mainer of North Carolina died on 12 September at the age of 104. Mainer belongs to the generation of American rural musicians who took up playing and recording 'hillbilly' music professionally in the 1920s and 1930s, forming a transition between traditional old-time music and bluegrass. His personal innovations included a thumb-and-index-finger-picking style on the banjo. In 1937 he married Julia 'Hillbilly Lily' Brown, herself a pioneer woman singer-musician, and they performed together into later life. An account of his career, with discography, is on Wikipedia, and a UNC-TV programme on him can be viewed here.
More details are on the Prescription Bluegrass Blog; his death is being widely reported on the internet, and further coverage is expected on the original Bluegrass Blog. A well illustrated biography, Banjo on the mountain: Wade Mainer's first hundred years, by bluegrass scholar Dick Spottswood, was published last year by the University of Mississippi Press and is also available from County Sales and other mail-order suppliers.
Photos from Wade Mainer's career, and of his original 1933 Gibson RB Granada banjo, can be seen here.