Hiltons, VA -- If we believed everything we read in the newspapers or saw on television, we would think that America is a bitterly divided nation. Music, however, remains a great unifier to bring everyone together through the power of a good song. The music of our Appalachian ancestors has been uniting people of various cultures, faiths, and world views for generations, and one of Appalachia’s most celebrated groups was Scott County’s legendary Carter Family.
On August 3rd and 4th, the Carter Family Memorial Music Center invites you to celebrate the 85th anniversary of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter’s initial recording sessions in Bristol. The Bristol sessions marked the beginning of a long and illustrious career that bonded the nation (and the world) through their haunting and unforgettable songs. The Carter Music Center is humbled and honored to present the 38th Carter Family Memorial Music Festival. The Original Carter Family and the second generation of the Carter Family are now gone. Third generation family members now run the Center with the help of hundreds of friends and supporters. Today, our region’s musical history is further strengthened by Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail – the Crooked Road.
The Carter Family Memorial Music Festival will be held at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia. In 1974, Janette Carter decided to present a festival dedicated to her father, A.P. Carter. Before he died in November, 1960, he asked his daughter to do all she could to see that the Carter Family’s music was never forgotten. She told him Daddy I will try. She did just that, and the Carter Family Memorial Music Center now stands as a tribute to the love and devotion she felt for her father and the music he created. Today, the Carter Music Center is proudly managed by Janette’s daughter, Rita Forrester, who works alongside other Carter descendants and volunteers to be sure that all who come to the Fold will have an unforgettable experience that highlights the musical heritage, grace, and dignity of Appalachian culture.
Janette presented shows of acoustic-only old time and bluegrass music in the grocery her Dad ran in the 40s and 50s from August, 1974, until her death in January, 2006 – devoting the last 32 years of her life to the music center. The shows quickly outgrew the one-room structure. In 1976, Janette – along with her siblings Joe and Gladys – built the Carter Family Fold. Despite the fact that she never graduated from high school, Janette Carter established a nonprofit, rural arts organization and a museum. Along the way, she won the NEA’s Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Award. NEA’s highest honor, the award paid tribute to her lifelong advocacy of the performance and preservation of Appalachian music.
This year’s festival opens with a Friday performance from the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters and the Whitetop Mountain Band – two of the region’s premier old time bands. Saturday’s lineup features Big Country Bluegrass, the Mountain Park Old Time Band, the Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers, Lonesome Will Mullins and the Virginia Playboys, and Michael Cleveland and his band Flamekeeper. Both Friday and Saturday will feature performances by Lorrie Carter Bennett - the daughter of Anita Carter and granddaughter of Mother Maybelle Carter – Ronnie Williams, and Bill Clifton.
Though the Carter Family Memorial Music Festival is now in its 38th year, it remains true to Janette Carter’s original vision. The annual festival still proudly boasts good music and good food while remaining affordable, family-friendly, and supportive of traditional mountain music. Every year people from all over the world travel to Hiltons to share their love of a good song and a good time. Leave your cares at the door and spend a weekend listening to some of the most beautiful and heart-felt music God ever created. In addition to some of the best music and food the region has to offer, there will be lots of craft vendors on hand displaying and selling homemade mountain crafts and treasures. Join us for the 38th Carter Family Memorial Festival!
Tickets are available at the gate only; all seats are festival seating. Tickets are $10 for adults on Friday, $20 for adults on Saturday, or both days $25 for adults. Children’s tickets (ages 6 to 11) are $2 a day; under age 6 free. Gates open at 3:00 p.m. Friday and at noon on Saturday. Music on the stage gets underway at 6:00 p.m. on Friday night and at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Performing on Friday, August 3, 2012: The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, Whitetop Mountain Band
Performing Saturday, August 4, 2012: Big Country Bluegrass, Mountain Park Old Time Band, Lonesome Will Mullins and the Virginia Playboys, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers
Performing Friday, August 3, & Saturday, August 4, 2012: Lorrie Carter Bennett, Bill Clifton, Ronnie Williams
All artists will perform one set. The Carters will open each set, and Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper will close out the festival. The music begins at 6:00 p.m. Friday and lasts until 11:00 p.m. On Saturday, it begins at 3:00 p.m. and runs until 6:00 pm, with a supper break from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Saturday evening’s performance starts at 7:00 p.m. and lasts until 10:30 p.m.
Craft and outside food booths open at 3:00 p.m. on Friday and at noon on Saturday. A homemade quilt will be raffled off during the festival and given away during Saturday night’s performance. The A.P. Carter Cabin Birthplace and the Carter Family Museum will be open from the time the gates open each day until 8:00 p.m. There will be lots of music and jamming on the grounds in addition to the scheduled performers inside the Carter Fold. Limited rough camping is available.
If you’ve ever witnessed a Carter Family Memorial Festival at the Fold, you know you’re going to have a great time. However, if you’ve never been to one of the annual festivals or the Fold itself, we encourage you to stop on by, do some dancing, and enjoy our famous mountain hospitality. After only a few minutes, you will surely agree that the music and traditions of Appalachia are by no means fading away – they’re stronger than ever.
PERFORMER INFORMATION (Alphabetical Order):
All the band’s members live in communities along the Virginia/North Carolina border in close proximity to Galax, Virginia – and their music reflects much of the deep musical heritage found in this region. Tommy Sells plays mandolin and handles most of the emcee work. Teresa Sells plays rhythm guitar and sings lead and tenor parts. Eddie Gill handles most of the distinctive lead vocals and plays the guitar. Lynwood Lunsford plays banjo and sings harmony for the group. Tony King plays upright bass. Don Rigsby plays fiddle and also adds his vocal talent to the band.
Big Country stands out as one of the finest traditional bluegrass acts around. The band’s rhythm and timing are solid, their instrumental work is clean and tasteful, and their vocals are from the heart. For more information, go to http://www.bigcountrybluegrass.com/.
Lorrie Carter Bennett was born with country music in her blood. As soon as she learned to walk, she toddled onstage with her mother, her grandmother, and her aunts - Helen and June. As a child, Lorrie had the unique opportunity to learn the music business from both her celebrated mother and her father Don Davis - a steel guitarist, producer, and Alabama Music Hall of Fame member. By age 14, Lorrie was touring with the Carter Sisters and soon with Johnny Cash, who made a point to tell the masses how Lorrie’s voice was every bit as breathtaking as her mother’s.
Lorrie’s vocals have been in high demand for many years, and she has been an active performer at the Carter Fold. Since the deaths of Joe and Janette Carter, Lorrie has taken as much time out of her schedule as possible to make more frequent appearances at the Fold and do everything she can to showcase the beauty of the Carter Family’s music. So when you get a chance to hear Lorrie sing, make sure you take it, cause one listen is all it takes before you’re anchored in love divine.
Considered one of the premier bluegrass fiddlers of his generation, Mike picked up a fiddle at age four, and his talent was recognized early. In 1993, he was chosen to be part of the Bluegrass Youth All Stars. Later that year, Mike made his Grand Ole Opry debut as a guest of Alison Krauss. His list of guest appearances over the years is a who’s who of bluegrass legends including Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse, and Ralph Stanley.
After high school, Mike toured with Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek before joining Rhonda Vincent and the Rage in 2000. At the 2001 IBMA awards, Mike took his first Fiddle Performer of the Year award, and shared the title of Entertainer of the Year with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. In 2001, Mike rejoined the Dale Ann Bradley Band. That year he won the Fiddle Performer of the Year award, and he won it again in 2004. Since 2006, Mike has swept the Fiddle Performer of the Year award, and he now has nine. Mike and his band have released five recordings – all five have won numerous awards.
Backing Mike will be Glenn Gibson on vocals and banjo, Charlie Lawson on vocals and guitar, Nathan Livers on vocals and mandolin, and Tyler Griffith on vocals and bass. Together, the members of Flamekeeper have worked for a veritable who’s who of bluegrass performers, and they have decades of experience in bluegrass music. For additional information, go to Flamekeeper’s web site: www.flamekeeperband.com .
In addition to his credit as the originator of the modern old time and bluegrass festival, Bill Clifton was also one of the chief organizers of the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, in which both Doc Watson and Bob Dylan attained their mainstream breakthroughs. He also compiled a songbook, 150 Old-Time and Gospel Songs, which was highly influential in the folk and bluegrass circuit. By 1966, he was playing regularly and hosting a BBC radio show called “Cellar Full of Folk,” and recorded a program of old time music for Radio Moscow in 1966. After spending a considerable amount of time overseas, Clifton and his wife now live in Virginia, and he has remained a staple of the Carter Fold for many years. Despite all of his historical accomplishments in preserving Appalachian heritage, Clifton’s musical talents are unsurpassed. Still going strong in his seventies, Bill Clifton is proud to once again return to the Carter Fold stage in honor of Janette Carter and the rest of the family he remains so close to after all these years.
The Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers have performed for many local conventions throughout the southeast, including shows at the Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore Estate. They also travel to Arkansas every summer to perform at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View. The Cloggers forged a special friendship with Janette Carter that lasted 32 years, and they have performed regularly at the Carter Family Memorial Music Festivals. To see the Cloggers perform is the chance of a lifetime, as there are few clogging groups out there that can perform a traditional mountain clogging routine with such fierce, unyielding energy.
To say he learned well would be an understatement. Today, Lonesome Will is one of the most accomplished singers and musicians around. Also influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis, he mixes traditional bluegrass music with a breathtakingly energetic stage show. When Lonesome Will takes the stage, audiences are swept away by his range, talent, and showmanship.
The Virginia Playboys will be backing Lonesome Will. The Burrows brothers – Adam and Jake – and Junior Blankenship are the Virginia Playboys. From the mountains of North Carolina, Jake and Adam Burrows have a history of bluegrass in their family. The McPherson Brothers Band, who played on the Grand Ole Opry and shows with the great Jim and Jesse McReynolds in the ‘60s are their uncles. Their love of bluegrass began there, and they’ve learned well. Jake and Adam can play pretty much any instrument they pick up. Junior Blankenship was raised where bluegrass music was a corner stone of many mountain families. His father, Hillard, drove the bus for Dr. Ralph Stanley. Junior and his father formed a band called the Rocky Mountain Boys, but Junior left the group after Keith Whitley’s death to join the Clinch Mountain Boys playing lead guitar.
He played with Ralph until 1989. Since that time, Junior has played with Ralph II, Ernie Thacker and Route 23, and Sammy Adkins and the Sandy Hook Mountain Boys. His cross picking style put him in the recording studio with the likes of George Jones, Vince Gill, Emmy Lou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Dwight Yoakam, and Bill Monroe.
Officially the newest adopted Carter, Will Mullins has been helping Rita at the Fold with emceeing and many other tasks during her recovery from recent surgery. He captivates his fans, and he holds his audiences spellbound. Performing officially since 2006, Will has released four CDs. For more information, go to http://lonesomewillmullinsandvirginiaplayboys.webs.com/ .
The Mountain Park Old Time Band has played at the Blue Ridge Music Center, the Mountain Music Jamboree, and at Bristol’s Rhythm and Roots Festival. They have also been featured on National Public Radio. The group has released two CDs – Fire on the Dance Floor and Dancing with Sally Goodin.
Fans of groups like the Whiteop Mountain Band will love the Mountain Park Old Time Band. Nothing gets you out of your seat and on the dance floor faster than a rousing old time band. For more information on the group, go to: http://www.myspace.com/mtnparkoldetimeband
Eddie Bond’s four great grandfathers were old time banjo players. Raised by his grandmother – who sang and played guitar – his family on both sides is packed with musicians who played the traditional music of the Blue Ridge. Eddie began performing at age 3 for quarters. He plays guitar, autoharp, banjo, and fiddle and handles the lead vocals for the group.
Dennis Hall is a grand nephew of Uncle Eck Dunford – the droll-voiced fiddler and spokesman for the original Bogtrotters. The original Bogtrotters were a Galax area dance band that was recorded by Alan Lomax in the 1930s and left a treasure trove of important recordings at the Library of Congress. Conscious of his Ulster Irish heritage, Uncle Eck gave the group its’ name – thus paying tribute to his Irish roots. Dennis plays lead guitar for the group.
Jesse Morris is a bassist and the son of a bassist. From a musical family, Jesse’s father Dale has been a string band musician for many years. Jesse’s grandfather was the original bassist for the Bogtrotters. Josh Ellis once preferred Clapton-style rock and roll guitar. Converted to old time, he now plays banjo for the group. Leon Frost’s mandolin playing is full of intensity and provides the drive for the Bogtrotters. Several members of his family were among the earliest pioneers to record Galax area music.
Like the Whitetop Mountain Band, the Bogtrotters were born to play old time. For information on the group, go to http://newballardsbranchbogtrotters.com/ .
Whitetop Mountain Band shows are very versatile and entertaining, containing everything from fiddle and banjo instrumentals to powerful solos and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honky tonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old timey ballads, originals, and four-part mountain gospel songs. Shows also include flat foot dancing. The band is well-known for their high energy and charisma on stage.
The Whitetop Mountain Band has been performing for over three decades, first making a name for themselves at the Carter Family Fold back when the A.P. Carter Store concerts began. The band features the masterful fiddle playing of Thornton Spencer, who learned to play from his brother-in-law, legendary fiddler (and band founder) Albert Hash. Thornton’s wife, Emily, picks a driving old-fashioned claw hammer banjo, while their daughter Martha Spencer plays everything from guitar to fiddle to banjo. Martha can’t resist the urge to join in on the dancing during the fast numbers, either. Jackson Cunningham plays mandolin and guitar and does vocals for the band. Debbie Bramer plays bass for the band and dances. Ersel Fletcher helps out on rhythm guitar and vocals. All the band members grew up immersed in old time Appalachian musical tradition from birth. Anyone can pick up a fiddle or banjo and learn to play, but the Whitetop Mountain Band proves that to truly excel at mountain music you must be “born into it.”
The Whitetop Mountain Band has a dedicated fan base and receives high critical acclaim throughout the nation. They’ve had the honor of playing such recognized events as the World’s Fair, the National Folklife Festival, Merlefest, and the Smithsonian Institution. The band has toured England, Wales, Ireland, and Australia. The group has a variety of recordings to their credit, and several members of the group have taught classes and programs on old time music. For more information on the group, go to http://whitetopmountainband.tripod.com/ .