Bluegrass Bus Museum

 

You are here

37th Carter Family Memorial Festival August 5th

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

The Carter FamilyHiltons, VA -- In the early 1970s, the only place you heard old time or bluegrass music in southwest Virginia was at a festival. With the exception of a monument on State Street in Bristol, Tennessee, there was no area recognition of our region's rich musical heritage. So 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. The stage for that first festival was the flatbed of an 18-wheel truck on loan from the National Guard. Sara Carter came from California, and Maybelle Carter came from her home in Nashville. Very small by today's standards, that first festival was truly a labor of love.

After the festival, Janette began presenting shows of acoustic-only old time and bluegrass music in the grocery her Dad ran in the 40s and 50s. 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. Janette died in 2006, having devoted the last 32 years of her life to the Carter Music Center.

The Music Center is humbled and honored to present the 37th Carter Family Memorial Music Festival August 5th and 6th, 2011. 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, the history of the region's place in music history is strengthened by Virginia's Heritage Music Trail - The Crooked Road.

On Friday, August 5th, the festival gets off to a rousing start with performances featuring the Whitetop Mountain Band and the Whitewater Bluegrass Company. Saturday, August 6th, kicks into high gear with music by the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, Tyler Williams & Ashley Davis, Lonesome Will Mullins and Surefire, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers will be there, marking their 37th year at the festival. Carter Family descendent Lorrie Carter Bennett, along with longtime family friend Ronnie Williams, will be performing on both days.

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.

All artists will perform one set. The Carters will open each set, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops 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):

LORRIE CARTER BENNETT:
When Mother Maybelle Carter began touring with her three daughters in the 1940s, listeners everywhere fell in love with the beautiful singing of Anita Carter, whom many consider to be the greatest voice in the history of country music. Anita shared the stage and recorded true country masterpieces with several music legends, including Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Snow. And though she passed away in 1999, her daughter Lorrie Carter Bennett, carries on the Carter tradition with a voice that is every bit as heartbreakingly stunning as that of Anita herself.

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.

CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS:
The Carolina Chocolate Drops formed after band members Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, in 2005. It was there that they met Bob Carlin - author of Birth of the Banjo - and Mike Seeger and listened to the music of Joe Thompson. They have toured continuously since the band's inception. All three trained in the Piedmont banjo and fiddle musical tradition under the tutelage of Joe Thompson. The members come from diverse musical back grounds, share singing duties, and swap instruments throughout their sets.

Considered a string band, the Chocolate Drops play old time music. Because slave owners often wanted Irish jigs played in their parlors, black fiddle players picked up the European violin. Taking that instrument back to their cabins, they added classical-style fiddle to banjo and percussion - thus blurring the boundaries between African music and the music European immigrants brought with them to America. Some suggest that string bands disappeared after the Civil War because the musicians no longer wanted to play music white plantation owners once forced them to play. Musicians like Joe Thompson are proof that string band music did not disappear. Rather, it was passed down by family members and played for dancers and gatherings in both the white and black communities.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops take their name from the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, a group that performed and recorded in the 20s and 30s for both white and black audiences. Members of the group are Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, Hubby Jenkins, and Adam Matta. Lovers of old time music will marvel at the versatility and intensity of the Chocolate Drops' music. We guarantee that you've never heard old time quite like this! For more information on the Carolina Chocolate Drops, go to www.CarolinaChocolateDrops.com.

THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN CLOGGERS:
The Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers of Asheville, North Carolina, was formed more than 30 years ago by Mr. Floyd King with the mission of giving its' audiences a riveting dosage of traditional Appalachian dancing. Though Mr. King passed away in 2004, the Cloggers show no signs of stopping, maintaining a heavy performance schedule and continuing to showcase only the best in mountain clogging.

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.

LONESOME WILL MULLINS AND SUREFIRE:
Lonesome Will Mullins grew up near Clintwood, Virginia, in a house that was filled with family musicians and plenty of bluegrass, old time, and country music. He learned to play the banjo and guitar as a teenager, and before long he was playing in several bands while honing his trade by studying the work of bluegrass legends like Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, and Dr. Ralph Stanley.

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.

Officially formed in December of 2007, Surefire consists of Tom Isaacs, John Bryan, and Robby Norris. Tom is the senior member. He's an accomplished instrumentalist and singer who's been performing since he was 12. His talent has enabled him to share the stage with Ralph Stanley and many other noted musicians. He has taken part on multiple recordings. John made his debut performance at age 15. Featured mainly on the banjo, he possesses a natural high lead and tenor voice that makes bluegrass fans take notice. Robby, the group's youngest member, first publicly performed at age 7 and recorded by the time he was 13. Robby won't be with Surefire as he's getting married August 6th.

Lonesome Will Mullins and Surefire are one of the hottest bluegrass groups around. Expect hard driving bluegrass, old time claw hammer banjo, and some great old time gospel tunes.

NEW BALLARDS BRANCH BOGTROTTERS:
Over a dozen years ago, a talented group of musicians from the Galax, Virginia, area formed a new band. The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters took their name in part from the original Bogtrotters of the 1930s and also because band leader Dennis Hall lives on Ballard's Branch. Rounding out the Bogtrotters lineup are Eddie Bond on fiddle, Josh Ellis with claw hammer banjo, Jesse Morris on bass, Leon Frost on mandolin. The group is a leading force in carrying the traditional music of the Virginia/Carolina Blue Ridge into the new millennium.

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 NewBallardsBranchBogtrotters.com.

WHITETOP MOUNTAIN BAND:
The fast-paced mountain music of the Whitetop Mountain Band of Grayson County is definitely a family affair, dominated by the presences of the nationally known Spencer family. While not every member of the group is of the Spencer clan, they may as well be, as the band is just as personally close as they are professionally solid. Whitetop, Virginia is an area rich in the old time music tradition. This band has deep roots in mountain music. The members have done much to preserve the Whitetop region's style of old time fiddling and banjo picking, and they are legendary teachers of the style.

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 famed concert series took place in A.P. Carter's general store. 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. All five 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 WhiteTopMountainBand.tripod.com.

WHITEWATER BLUEGRASS COMPANY:
For over 25 years, the Whitewater Bluegrass Company of Asheville, North Carolina, has captivated audiences throughout the southeast with a blend of bluegrass music, country ballads, mountain swing, and down-home humor. With Whitewater, mountain culture is a celebration of music, song, and dance.

With true southern charm and manners, Whitewater's emcee, square dance caller, and bass man, “Uncle Ted” White, will put you right at ease. His country wit and solid delivery on the bass make him an audience favorite. The driving rhythm of Bill Byerly's Martin guitar provides the backdrop against which the group's melody of sound is woven. These two founding members have brought together some of the finest musicians North Carolina has to offer. David Pendley plays mandolin, and Steve Sutton does the banjo playing for the group. Gary Mackey is one of the most animated fiddlers in bluegrass today.

Whitewater Bluegrass Company has served as the host band for Folkmoot USA, the Smokey Mountain Folk Festival, Kanuga Conference Centers, and the historic Horse Barn on the Biltmore estate. They have been featured entertainers at the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University and the Grove Park Inn. For more information on the Whitewater Bluegrass Company, go to: WhitewaterBluegrassCo.com.

RONNIE WILLIAMS:
Ronnie has been playing since 1975. One of his best memories is playing for Sara and Maybelle

at the Fold in 1976. He remembers playing Gold Watch and Chain and Black Mountain Rag for “Mommy and Maybelle” at Janette's request. Ronnie plays a Gibson guitar similar to Maybelle's, and he also plays autoharp and sings beautifully. He's been a friend of the Carter Family for years, and often visited various members of the family - a tradition he continues to this day. A great cook, Ronnie often helps out in the Fold's kitchen. You won't find anyone who knows more about the Carter Family and their music or anyone who plays it with more reverence than Ronnie Williams does.

TYLER WILLIAMS & ASHLEY DAVIS:
Tyler Williams grew up in Ohio and moved to Johnson City, Tennessee, to study bluegrass music. Ashley Davis is from Fayetteville, North Carolina. When the two of them met at the Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention in 2007 it wasn't long before they teamed up to form a band.

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. They keyboard was the first instrument he played. Today, he plays the keyboard his grandfather gave him when he was four. At age five, he began classical piano lessons. When he was six, his Uncle Derek - a guitar picker - introduced him to bluegrass. 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.

Ashley began reading music when she was young, and her mom gave her piano lessons. After seeing 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.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer