Hiltons, VA -- Clinch Mountain Music Fest is gearing up for its ninth-annual celebration of mountain music in Scott County, Virginia, on Saturday, May 3, 2014. Like last year’s festival, it will be held at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons. The goal of Clinch Mountain Music Fest is to preserve and perpetuate the heritage of the Appalachian region through its’ music. This year’s festival is once again dedicated to Jay Dixon who chaired the festival for five years and passed away in January of 2012. The festival features special talent and relies heavily on old time mountain music. Featured artists are the Whitetop Mountain Band, Mountain Park Old Time Band, Nick McMillian and Backstep, and the Dry Hill Draggers. All of these groups are well known to Fold audiences. Expect a day of traditional Appalachian style music and fun!
Gates open at 12:00 noon for early seating. Admission is $15.00 per person – all day. Artisan and food vendors will be found around the grounds of the Carter Fold. In addition, there will be demonstrations of chair caning and wood carving. The festival begins at 3:00 p.m. with welcoming speakers and festival history. The Dry Hill Draggers kick off the festival followed by Nick McMillian and Backstep. Following a dinner break, Mountain Park Old Time Band will start the evening set with Whitetop Mountain Band closing out our festival. Dinner break will allow festival goers to visit the tents and attractions on the grounds. There will be a short break between the afternoon & evening bands for stage setup. The Carter Family Museum and A.P. Carter birthplace cabin will be open from noon to 7:00 p.m.
Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop is an area rich in old time music tradition, and this band has deep roots in mountain music. The band’s members have worked tirelessly to preserve the region’s style of old time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style. Their shows are high energy and unlike any other show you have ever seen. There’s 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, four-part mountain gospel songs – and some flat foot dancing. Well-known for their charisma on stage and their ability to engage audiences of all ages, this group has been performing at the Carter Fold since shows first began at the A.P. Carter Grocery in the 1970s.
The Whitetop Mountain Band is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. They have a great following at square dances all over Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky at venues like the Carter Fold. The group has performed throughout the U.S. at festivals, concerts, competitions, and colleges. The Smithsonian Folklike Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in New York City, the Carter Family Festival, the Dock Boggs Festival, the World’s Fair, the Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival, and Merlefest are a few of the many festivals that have featured the band. The group has toured in England, Wales, Ireland, and Australia. They have taught at workshops and classes all over the U.S. Arhoolie, the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities, JuneAppal, Heritage, and Rounder Records are a few of the labels they have recorded for. In addition, they have been featured in many magazines, TV shows, and radio programs.
The band originated with Albert Hash in the 1940s. Albert was a well-known and beloved fiddler and luthier. As a teenager, Albert played with Henry Whitter of Grayson & Whitter. Grayson & Whitter recorded in the 1920s. The tune “Hangman’s Reel” that Albert recorded is the same version played by so many old time musicians today. He taught Wayne Henderson, Audrey Ham, and many others to build instruments.
In the 1970s, Albert’s brother-in-law, Thornton Spencer, and his wife Emily joined Albert in the Whitetop Mountain Band. The three also started an old time music program at Mt. Rogers School, a small K-12 public school in Whitetop. The students learn fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, and dancing. Emily Spencer has carried on the program, and it has received regional and national attention for its’ uniqueness – including Grammy and CMT nominations. The Whitetop Mountain Band is still carried on today by Thornton Spencer on fiddle and Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals. Their daughter, Martha Spencer, plays with the band as well. She is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, fiddle, and bass) as well as a fine vocalist and an excellent dancer. Jackson Cunningham plays mandolin, guitar, clawhammer banjo, and the harmonica; and he does vocals for the group. Jackson is originally from Oregon, and he’s played music since early childhood. He has performed with duet and trio groups and recorded on the VFH label. Debbie Bramer moved from Michigan to Fancy Gap, Virginia. She plays bass in the band and dances. Debbie has been part of several clogging teams and has been active in many dance workshops and competitions. Ersel Fletcher plays guitar and adds his vocal talent to the group.
The fast-paced mountain music of the Whitetop Mountain Band of Grayson County is definitely a family affair. Lots of people play old time music, but no one plays it with as much fierce intensity – or absolute fun – as the Whitetop Mountain Band! For additional information on the group, go to http://whitetopmountainband.com/.
Mountain Park Old Time Band was formed six years ago as a group of friends who happened to enjoy old time music got together to have a good time. Over the past several years, the Mountain Park Old Time Band has been creating a stir in old time music circles. The group has five members - all of whom are very versatile and talented musicians. Nancy and Johnny Gentry played for years with the Whitetop Mountain Band. Johnny plays guitar, dobro, and fiddle as well as doing vocals for the band. Nancy drives the rhythm with her excellent bass playing. She and Johnny both teach music, and Johnny also makes beautiful banjos. Roger Stamper handles the fiddling for the group and he plays guitar and bass as well. C. T. Janney plays the washboard – an “instrument” rarely played today. C.T. also cuts a mean rug when he dances. Dr. Mark Handy plays banjo and does vocals – he’s also a champion clogger. When he’s not playing old time, Dr. Handy practices medicine in Abingdon, Virginia, and helps run his family’s farm.
The Mountain Park Old Time Band has played at the Blue Ridge Music Center, the Alleghany Jubilee, the Rex Theater, 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. Their group has very quickly become a Carter Fold favorite. 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.mountainparkoldtimeband.com/.
Backstep performs old time stringband music in the “Round Peak style” native to Mount Airy, North Carolina. Known for its driving rhythms and prominent melodies,Round Peak music is just the thing to make you kick up your heels and dance. Back Step features Chester McMillian (a founding member of the band) on guitar and his son Nick McMillian on fiddle (he also plays banjo and bass).
Chester McMillian, one of the band’s founders, was born in Carroll County, Virginia, into a musical family and community. He has played traditional old time Round Peak style music since his childhood. By the time he was eleven or twelve, he was living in Surry County and taking an active part in the Round Peak music community. In 1962, Chester married into Dix Freeman’s family, and the two began playing a lot of music together. Chester played guitar with Tommy Jarrell for years, and he developed his guitar style specifically to play with Tommy. He also played and recorded with Dix Freeman, Kirk Sutphin, and Greg Hooven – with whom he founded Backstep.
Nick McMillian was raised in the Round Peak community surrounded by music. He is truly of the tradition, bringing a whole family history into his banjo, fiddle, and bass playing. He first learned to play banjo from his grandfather, Dix Freeman, whose style he can closely imitate. He also plays Round Peak style fiddle. Steeped in music from an early age, Nick made his first recording – Backstep – at age eleven. He has performed in public since the ripe old age of eight. He also recorded with the New Pilot Mountaineers on fiddle and banjo. Nick’s musical mentors include Fred Cockerham, his grandfather Dix Freeman, and his father, Chester McMillian.
Backstep has performed at the Fold in years past, and recently returned to begin playing again. The Fold is proud to welcome them back. Backstep has won first place in the old time band competition at the Mount Airy Fiddler’s Convention and the Fiddler’s Grove fiddler’s convention. The group was featured on Mike Seeger’s Old Time Banjo Styles instructional video featuring Kirk Sutphin on banjo. For more information go to www.myspace.com/backstepmusic.
The Dry Hill Draggers started out in 1981. From Franklin County, Virginia, the group included Jimmy Boyd on banjo and his brother, Billy. Although several founding members are now gone, the group has continued in the mountain tradition of a multi-generational, traditional, old time string band. While jamming in the 1970s in the Dryhill and Ferrum area, some of the musicians were falling behind. Edgar Crowe said since they were dragging behind on their timing, he was going to call the group the Dry Hill Draggers. That name has stuck now for the past 30 years. The Ferrum, Virginia, area is home to most of those performing in the group today. They played at the 1982 World’s Fair, and they’re favorites at the Floyd Country Store and the Blue Ridge Music Center. Their knock-down driving beat is anything but “dragging.” In 2011, they placed second in the old time band category at Galax.
The group cut their first album in 1982. Over the next several years, the Draggers recorded and released eight albums and CDs. In 2011, they released an anniversary CD which celebrated 30 years. They’re now working on their 10th release. Stacy Boyd plays the doghouse bass. Jamie Boyd plays claw-hammer banjo. Billy Woods and Chris Prillaman play both fiddle and guitar. Jason Hambrick plays guitar, and founder Jimmy Boyd still performs with them just as he has for the past 30 years.
If old time is what you like, the Dry Hill Draggers will deliver. Flat-footers and two-steppers are welcome to come out and shake a leg with the Draggers. The group is known for their knock-down, hard-driving beat, and there will be lots of fiddle tunes and rare old time tunes that aren’t often heard commercially today.
Clinch Mountain Music Fest 2014 is presented by the Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc. Donations to support the continuation of our Appalachian music heritage are welcome and may be mailed to Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc., P.O. Box 111, Hiltons, Virginia, 24258, or given to our volunteer staff at the event.
Thank you to our sponsors the Scott County Virginia Star, Bryant Label Company, the Appalachian Cultural Music Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. For information on Clinch Mountain Music Fest 2014, go to the Carter Music Center web site or the Clinch Mountain Music Fest web site: www.clinchfest.net.
Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Incorporated, is a nonprofit, rural arts organization established to preserve traditional, acoustic, mountain music. For further information on the center, go to http://www.carterfamilyfold.org. Shows from the Carter Family Fold can be accessed on the internet at http://www.carterfoldshow.com.
Carter Music Center is part of the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. You can visit the Crooked Road Music Trail site at http://thecrookedroad.org. Partial funding for programs at the center is provided by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For recorded information on shows coming up at the Fold, call 276-386-6054. The Fold is on Facebook – page Carter Fold – and Twitter – Twitter @carterfoldinfo.