Hiltons, VA -- In today’s fast-moving world, it’s understandable to be concerned that Appalachian heritage will give way to modern times and be virtually forgotten in the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced lives. Fortunately, dozens of studies have demonstrated that today’s generation is hungrier than ever for positive cultural experiences firmly rooted in age-old traditions, and young people are aching to learn from those who possess the wisdom of earlier times. A great place to watch this happening is at the annual Carter Family Memorial Music Festival, which takes place on August 2nd and 3rd at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia. Take in Appalachian Mountain Music, Bluegrass and Old-Time all at once place.
At the festival, it’s customary to observe a packed dance floor filled with all ages of old-time and bluegrass fans, from young people just breaking into their first clogging shoes all the way to revered veterans showing off a lifetime of buckdancing know-how. This year’s festival commemorates the 86th anniversary of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter’s initial recording sessions in Bristol, which began an illustrious musical career that has since united many generations of music lovers.
The very existence of the Carter Memorial Music Festival can be credited to a younger generation honoring the generation before it: Janette Carter, A.P. and Sara Carter’s youngest daughter, conceived the Carter Fold as a way of carrying on the musical traditions she had learned from her parents. Since then, the Carter Fold has earned a reputation as a place for music fans of all ages to congregate, including multiple generations of Carter descendants. Today, the Carter Family Fold is proudly managed by Janette’s daughter, Rita Jett Forrester, who works alongside other Carter descendants and volunteers from around the world to ensure that the newest generation of young people will discover the wonders of our treasured mountain music.
The festival will feature music from both Appalachia’s most renowned performers and its newest break-out mountain music and bluegrass stars, proving that true talent knows no age. Things get started on Friday with performances from the Whitetop Mountain Band and Lonesome Will Mullins & the Virginia Playboys. Saturday’s lineup includes performances from the Hillbilly Gypsies, New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, the Tyler Williams Band, the Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers, and a headlining performance by Folk Soul Revival. Both Friday and Saturday will feature performances from Ronnie Williams, a longtime friend of the Fold and accomplished musician and performer.
Now in its 39th year, the Carter Family Memorial Music Festival remains true to Janette Carter’s original vision: the festival still proudly boasts “good music and good food” while remaining affordable, family-friendly and supportive of traditional mountain music and crafts. Each year, the young ‘uns and the young-at-heart unite in Hiltons to share their love of a good song and a good time on the dance floor. It’s been said that culture survives one generation at a time, and this year’s festival will leave you knowing that this generation of young people, thanks to all the wisdom and hard work of those who came before them, will keep our mountain traditions and heritage alive for many years to come. 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 39th Carter Family Memorial Festival!
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.
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 is dedicated to the memory of Patricia Windrow Klein. Mrs. Klein was a founding board member of the Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc. in 1979, and she served actively in that capacity until her death in early March of this year. Her oil portraits of Janette Carter, festival scenes, and landscapes of the Clinch Mountain area grace the Carter Family Museum and the homes of the family she and her husband Howard lovingly adopted and supported from the first day they met the Carters. Howard currently serves as president of the board of the Carter Music Center. Pat and Janette were the best of friends for over 30 years. Tireless, creative, feisty, and fearless, she tackled everything she did with boundless enthusiasm.
Whether helping expand the Fold stage, sewing curtains for the renovated museum, erecting a storage building, working in Nig Hensley’s woodshop to create an exhibit, or cooking to feed endless numbers of friends and volunteers, she gave her all and encouraged everyone around her to do the same. She left behind a loving husband, three sons, five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren – each completely unique and unbelievably talented. In addition to her art, she acted in films, radio, in soap operas, and on Broadway. She ran an art gallery, hosted a weekly educational TV art show for twelve years, renovated over 42 homes and other structures, painted countless murals, avidly gardened, designed clothing, and had friends all over the world.
Born in London, she grew up in France and moved to the U.S. prior to the invasion of France by the Germans in World War II. Her father, Stellan Sven Windrow, was the first Tarzan of the Apes. Renovating the 1880s house in Front Royal, Virginia, she and Howard lived in was her last project. She left behind thousands of works of art – each as unique and breathtakingly beautiful as she was. Pat made the lives of every person she met better and infinitely richer for having known her. We will miss her wit, wisdom, support, and talent more than words can express.
Tickets are available at the gate only; all seats are festival seating. Tickets are $10 for adults on Friday, $25 for adults on Saturday, or both days $30 for adults. Children’s tickets (ages 6 to 11) are $5 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.
All artists will perform one set. Carter Family music will open each set, and Folk Soul Revival 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 11:00 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.
Here is a bit more information on the acts who will be performing at this year's festival.
Folk Soul has shared the stage with Jesse McReynolds, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Goose Creek Symphony, and many others. The Blue Plum Festival, Floydfest, and Rhythm and and Roots are some of the festivals they have played. Recently named the 2011 Band of the Year by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Folk Soul has been featured on the Music City Roots radio program from Nashville as well as Sirius/XM’s Outlaw Country radio. Virginia Living magazine named them among the top three bands in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Their first album, Good Enough, was released independently in April of 2009. Words Off a Tongue, their second release, followed in August of 2010. No Depression Magazine placed it in the Top 15 releases of 2010. Folk Soul recently released a third CD – Prompting the Dapperness. Completely fan-funded, it reached number 12 on the iTunes country charts and number 99 on the overall charts on the day of release. It has already charted on Billboard Magazine’s Heatseekers Charts at number 10 (the south Atlantic division). Folk Soul’s members are Daniel Davis – guitar and vocals, Brandon Sturgill – upright bass, Justin Venable – guitjo, harmonica, kazoo, and vocals, Daniel Vanover – guitar, harmonica, dobro, and vocals, and Dan Witt on drums. For more information, go to www.folksoulrevival.com. Myspace and Facebook both have Folk Soul Revival sites, and they can be found on YouTube.
While at first glance Folk Soul Revival may not seem like the typical band you would expect to see at the Carter Fold, they exemplify where the music of our region began and how it will always be the basis of other music that followed – bluegrass, country, and rock. Expect to see the family-oriented show the Fold is known for – no alcohol permitted. Folk Soul fans - “The Congregation,” as they are affectionately known, often attend shows that are standing room only. With seating for over 800, they won’t have that problem at the Fold. Both Fold regulars and the Folk Soul faithful love to dance…and FSR’s uplifting energy and superb song selection will keep everyone dancing the night away! We have the largest dance floor in the Tri-Cities and will easily accommodate fans who love to dance to the music of Folk Soul.
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 to perform at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View every summer. 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.
Formed from a chance meeting in 2001 in Morgantown, West Virginia, they have been pickin’ and grinnin’ ever since. Trae Buckner and Jamie Lynn Buckner, Jason Teel, Ty Jaquay, and Dave Asti are the members of the group. Trae is featured on guitar and vocals. Jamie Lynn does both lead and harmony vocals. Jason does the bass fiddling for the group. Dave Asti plays banjo, and Ty does the fiddling. The Hillbilly Gypsies truly are a close knit family, mindful of tradition but boldly exploring new styles of acoustic music. Their gospel tunes are reminiscent of the old time tent meetings, and there will be music to suit everyone’s taste. Be prepared for some high-energy, no holes barred family fun! To learn more about the Hillbilly Gypsies, go to their site at: http://thehillbillygypsies.com/.
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 Gary Moore 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. Gary Moore plays mandolin as well as guitar for the group and adds his vocal talent as well. Formerly with Ernie Thacker and Route 23 and later with Sapling Grove, he also plays with the Junior Blankenship Band.
Lonesome Will and the Virginia Playboys have played shows all over the U.S. and Canada. The National Folklike Festival, the Kennedy Center, and Ralph Stanley’s Hills of Home Festival are just a few of the venues they’ve played. A Kentucky Colonel, Will has played with Earl Scruggs, Rhonda Vincent, Ralph Stanley, Ralph Stanley II, and many other bluegrass greats. He now makes his home in Hiltons and often helps out with emceeing and other tasks at the Fold. He captivates his fans, and he holds his audiences spellbound. Performing officially since 2006, Will has released five CDs. For more information, go to www.lonesomewill.com.
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/.
Tyler is blind and has cerebral palsy, but he has never let that hold him back. His interest in music began when he was just a year old. His first instrument was a keyboard his grandfather gave him, and he was playing it by age four. At age five, Tyler started taking classical piano lessons by ear. When he was six, his Uncle Derek - a guitar picker - introduced him to bluegrass. Tyler’s uncle took him to his first bluegrass festival. It was there that he met Alison Krauss. His interest in bluegrass kicked into high gear when he was 16. Tyler honed his vocal skills by listening to CDs of his favorite artists. By age 17, he was participating in jams and became part of the Hocking Valley Bluegrass Boys. When he turned 18, he developed an interest in guitar and mandolin. In 2006, he joined the ETSU Bluegrass program. He graduated in December of 2011.
Ashley began reading music when she was young, and her mom gave her piano lessons. After she saw the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, her musical interests shifted to bluegrass. She began attending local jam sessions and sought out musicians who would instruct her in bluegrass style fiddling. By 2005, she was hired to play in Bill Jordan’s band. In 2007, she joined a group called the Parsons. Ashley became part of an all-female group Sweet Potato Pie in 2008. She’s now joined Tyler, and they have formed their own group.
Watching the two of them perform is spellbinding. Tyler’s vocal range and instrumental talent are nothing short of amazing. Ashley is already one of the best fiddlers around. We can only imagine how their talent will grow in years to come. Their show is more than just entertaining – it’s inspirational. There will be lots of fiddle tunes, unbelievable vocals, great instrumentals, and amazing harmony. For more information on the band, go to http://www.tylerwilliamsband.com/. You’ll also find them on Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube.
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/.