Local News

Time Again to Pucker Up

Posted April 20, 1996 7:00 a.m. EDT

— April 21, 1996, 1:23 p.m. EDT "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."

Well, a sultry Lauren Bacall may not be on hand to offer instruction -- but lots of other folks have shown up once again for the National Whistlers Convention, held on the campus of Louisburg College.

Over the years, as people spread the word (whistle?) about the gathering, whistlers and fans of whistling from around the world have found their way to this small North Carolina town.

This year's convention is the 23rd. It began when an entrant in a local folk festival asked to pucker up rather than vocalize. Darrell Williams of Durham, N.C., wanted to whistle his original composition of "Little River Blues." The judges, an affable lot, accepted Williams for the solo vocal category.

He won.

After Williams won in 1975 as well, a separate whistling festival was created within the overall folk festival. Other folks began to practice their puckering and bolster their breathing. Oh, for a great pair of lungs.

Separate divisions were added for children and teenagers. Competitions were separated into classical and popular presentations. A Hall of Fame was created. And the National Whistlers' Museum opened in 1975, boasting a collection of rare and significant recordings, books, magazines, photographs, news articles, souvenirs and -- of course, whistles.

What began as one man's entry in a contest evolved into today's four-day program. This year, entrants blew into town from 27 states, Canada and Germany.

Accompanying all the whistleblowing are seminars and workshops, a street fair, arts and crafts, food and historical displays.

Contestants are not absent-mindedly whistling while they work. They may do that occasionally, of course, but whistling is a big part of their lives. They've appeared on TV shows from Ted Mack and Lawrence Welk to Real People and PM Magazine. One, New Zealand's Ronnie Ronalde, has presented whistling concerts in more than 200 cities, and is the author of "Around the World on a Whistle."

Greg Nye Smith of Raleigh, who works at IBM, was national champion in 1991 and 1992. He has also won awards as a whistling swing dancer. Smith whistles both inwards and outwards with a three-octave range. He began his whistling career at the age of six with the "William Tell Overture."

And for those who missed this year's convention, there's always next year. Guaranteed to be a trilling experience