Cootie Stark was one of the last traditional African American bluesmen living in Upstate South Carolina. Stark grew up near Abbeville, where he began playing guitar at a very early age. By age 14, he was playing on street corners in downtown Abbeville. Born with poor vision, Stark went completely blind in his early 30s. By that time, a resident of Greenville, his musical talents provided him income through his performances at square dances, on street corners, at private homes, and in local restaurants.
The Carolina Piedmont blues are a traditional African American blues form that evolved in the Piedmont regions of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. It is based on string picking techniques that evolved from the banjo, which originally came from West Africa. Stark was one of the very few individuals in South Carolina who still played this very traditional style of the blues. Every time Cootie Stark picked up the guitar, he became the living, breathing embodiment of the Piedmont blues tradition. Stark received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2005.