Encyclopedia of UNCG History

An online resource for exploring the history of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Emmylou Harris in The Tempest, 1965
Emmylou Harris in The Tempest, 1965

Born in Alabama and raised in North Carolina and Virginia, Emmylou Harris entered UNCG in the fall of 1965 on a drama scholarship. While on campus, she appeared in plays, such as Shakespeare’s The Tempest and a children’s theatre production of The Dancing Donkey, before deciding that she would rather pursue a musical career.

It was during her time at UNCG, that Harris became part of a folk music duo called “The Emerald City” with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate, Mike Williams. Singing primarily folk songs by artists such as Bob Dylan and the Everly Brothers, they booked local venues as well as clubs as far afield as Virginia Beach and Washington D.C.

Harris also sang at the Red Door, a bar on Tate Street that had a “coffee house” atmosphere. She later admitted to actively trying to imitate the sounds of Joan Baez and Judy Collins, popular folk singers of the time.

Realizing that her true love was not drama but music, she dropped out of college and headed for Virginia Beach, singing and waiting tables. After brief stints in New York and Nashville, Harris landed in the Washington D.C. music scene where she would catch her big break.