Press Releases

40th ANNUAL CARTER FESTIVAL PRESS RELEASE (August 1 & 2, 2014)

40th ANNUAL CARTER FESTIVAL PRESS RELEASE (August 1 & 2, 2014):

Attending your first Carter Family Festival is something you never forget.  Now in its’ 40th year, the Carter Family Memorial Music Festival has attracted audiences from around the globe, all of whom come to the Carter Fold for its’ good music, down-home atmosphere, and food – and then leave with an abundance of precious memories.

My first Carter Festival – and for that matter, experience at the Carter Fold – was the 30th Memorial Festival in 2004.  I had discovered the Carter Family’s music while attending college and  I was absolutely hooked.  After graduating, I was extremely surprised and excited to hear that the Carter Family’s home place in Virginia not only still belonged to the family, but that people would drive from miles around to go dancing at this special place known as the Carter Fold.  I set off towards southwest Virginia just in time for the 30th festival.  As I pulled my truck off of Highway 81 and crept into beautiful Hiltons – in the shadow of the famed Clinch Mountain, no less – it became quite clear to me that I was in a place unlike anywhere else in the world.

The Fold was jam-packed when I walked in, and I considered myself lucky to find a spot in the grass to sit at the very back of the auditorium.  I munched on a delicious barbecue sandwich from the concession stand, ate a wild onion I found growing among the grass, and listened throughout the day to the musicians jamming from the porch of the old A.P. Carter store.  Then Joe Carter – decked out in his trademark overalls and Navy cap – took the Fold stage and delighted the audience with his imitations of barnyard animals.  Janette Carter, founder and matriarch of the Carter Fold, wore a beautiful black dress and received a huge ovation from the crowd.  Ever modest, she waved warmly and with a tired, loving smile.  Musicians Larry Sigmon and Barbara Poole then gave an incredible performance with their banjo and upright bass instruments while a seemingly endless throng of dancers clogged away on the floor.  After Sigmon and Poole’s set finished, Leroy Troy delighted us with the kind of banjo tricks and playing style that would have no doubt made Uncle Dave Macon proud.  My last memory of the night is of looking at a beautiful star-lit sky from the old store porch while the Fold’s audience erupted in a singalong of “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”

A lot has changed since then.  Janette and Joe Carter are both gone now, as are many of the beloved musicians, volunteers, and fans who have made the Fold such a special place for the past four decades.  However, I find myself loving the Carter Fold more and more with each visit.  The Fold and its’ accompanying museum have undergone beautiful renovations – including added seating in the Fold’s auditorium.  However, the food, admission, and souvenirs remain extremely affordable.  It’s especially exciting to see the newest generation of young musicians and fans who have come along join hands with the generations before them on the stage and on the dance floor.  Each time I visit, I marvel at how much passion is present among the Fold’s musicians, fans, and – of course – their amazing volunteers. For me, attending the Carter Fold is like going to church; it’s where I can get recharged and feel completely at home.

Many of you, no doubt, have your own favorite memories of the Carter Family Memorial Music Festivals.  As we celebrate 40 years of the Carter Fold, we look forward to the new memories that await us at this year’s festival and beyond.   Barry Weber – long-time Fold audience member and volunteer.

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, a visit to the annual Carter Family Festival will convince you otherwise.   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.    

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 a performance by one of Virginia’s most popular bands – Folk Soul Revival.  Saturday’s lineup includes performances from the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, Mountain Park Old Time Band, the Whitetop Mountain Band, Wry Straw (featuring John McCutcheon), and the Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers.  Both Friday and Saturday will feature performances from Lorrie Carter Bennett – Anita Carter’s daughter – and Ronnie Williams, a longtime friend of the Carter family and the Fold and an accomplished musician and performer.  The Whitetop Mountain Band and Wry Straw have been performing since the Fold opened in 1974.  They exemplify the strong ties that bind the Carter Fold “family.”  Folk Soul Revival demonstrates - as no other band could - the love, respect, and reverence of the mountains of southwest Virginia and all its’ traditions.  Their music shows a healthy respect for our area’s musical roots, presenting it in a way that appeals to people of all ages – especially today’s younger generation.           

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.  Leave your cares behind, 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 40th 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.

The very existence of the Carter Memorial Music Festival can be credited to a younger generation honoring the generation before it.  Since shows began in 1974, 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, volunteers from around the world, and a dedicated Board of Directors to ensure that the newest generation of young people will discover the wonders of our treasured mountain music.

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 (and later at the Carter Family Fold), until her death in January, 2006 – devoting the last 32 years of her life to the music center.  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 Fred “Skip” Dickerson and Barbara Bryant.  Skip married Joe and Nancy Carter’s daughter, Lisa.  A loving husband, father, and grandfather, Skip died recently.  We ask that you keep Lisa and her family in your prayers.  Barbara Bryant is the late wife of James Bryant, Carter Fold board member, volunteer, and long-time sponsor and supporter of the Carter Family Fold.  James and Barbara actually married at the Fold, and she supported the Fold for many years – volunteering her time and boundless energy every Saturday night as well as any other time her help was needed.  Barbara died last fall, and she is greatly missed by all her family as well as the Fold family. 

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 $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.

Performing on Friday, August 1, 2014:

Folk Soul Revival

Performing Saturday, August 2, 2014:

Mountain Park Old Time Band

New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters

Whitetop Mountain Band

Wry Straw featuring John McCutcheon

Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers

Performing Friday, August 1, & Saturday, August 2, 2014:

Lorrie Carter Bennett

Ronnie Williams

Carter Family music will open each set – Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night.  Friday’s performance by Folk Soul Revival will feature them on two sets.  Saturday’s performers will feature Mountain Park Old Time Band and the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters on the afternoon set with Wry Straw and Whitetop Mountain Band on the evening set.  The music begins at 6:00 p.m. Friday and lasts until 10:30 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.  

Ticket gates and 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  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.

Attached are official biographies of the acts performing at this year's festival.  If would like more information on the acts or the festival, please contact a Fold staff member at 276-594-0676 or Rita Forrester at 423-914-2700.  If there is no immediate answer on 276-594-0676, please leave a message and we’ll call you back as soon as possible.  During festival hours, it’s best to call 276-386-6054 (normally our show information line); it will be answered during the festival.  You can also visit the Carter Fold website at www.carterfamilyfold.org. 

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.

FOLK SOUL REVIVAL

Folk Soul Revival is a harmony drenched, boot stomping, rowdy and rootsy acoustic group from right here in the Appalachian Mountains.  Their diversity, creativity, and passion are evident to anyone who’s ever seen them perform.  With their distinct vocal approaches, back-porch instrumentation, haunting four-part harmonies, and sheer talent, the boys have garnered much success and have attracted a large following.  With strong songwriting, spot on vocals, earthy instrumentation, and an unreserved honesty, a Folk Soul Revival concert is consistently eventful. 

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.  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.  Ellen Degeneres is a big fan of Folk Soul’s.

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, Dan Witt on drums, and Emory Carty on guitar.  Honorary member Kevin Jackson will be doing the fiddling for the night.  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.  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:

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 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.

MOUNTAIN PARK OLD TIME BAND

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 to 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.  Mountain Park performs often at the Fold, and they have been featured on previous festivals.  Their group has very quickly become a Carter Fold favorite.

Fans of groups like the Whiteop Mountain Band will love the Mountain Park Old Time Band.  Be sure to bring your dancing shoes, and be ready for a night of down home fun.  Nothing gets you out of your seat and on the dance floor faster than a rousing old time band.  Don’t miss the Mountain Park Old Time Band at the Carter Family Fold!  For more information on the group, go to:  http://www.mountainparkoldtimeband.com/.

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, and 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.  Related to the Stoneman family, Leon has boundless energy.  His love of old time music – and people in general – is unequalled. 

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:

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 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/.

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.

WRY STRAW

No longer performing as a trio, all are incredibly talented in their own right and continue to perform old time music today.  John McCutcheon may be a folk music phenom now, but in his Virginia youth he played with a low-key Appalachian old-time string band Wry Straw.  The trio, which consists of the Gammy-nominated John McCutcheon, Tom Bledsoe, and Rich Kirby, have agreed to perform at the 40th Carter Festival for a special concert which will have the feel of homecoming for the musicians as well as their audience.  Though the trio hasn’t played together in over 30 years, all three have impacted the world of mountain music independently.  

John’s solo career has flourished, and he’s one of the most talented and well-respected musicians in folk and traditional music circles.  Tom still performs, acts, and promotes music shows and festivals.  Rich works at WMMT, produces, records, and performs.  A Wry Straw reunion was presented at the Fold as part of the first Clinch Mountain Music Fest.  Two more special reunion concerts have been done at the Fold, and this will mark the fourth.

John McCutcheon is one of America’s most loved and respected folksingers.  As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen traditional instruments.  His songwriting has been hailed by critics and singers around the globe.  He’s done over thirty recordings, and has garnered every imaginable honor – including seven Grammy nominations.  Whether he’s performing at an elementary school, a festival, a farm rally, or a major concert hall, John has boundless energy and consummate professionalism.  After college, he called Dungannon – and later Charlottesville, Virginia – home.  During the time he and his family lived in Dungannon, he was a regular at the Fold.  John was one of the original board members appointed by Janette Carter to help guide the Fold in its’ formative years.  One of her many adopted children, they had tremendous love and respect for each other. 

They toured together, and John would later say that Janette took in stray dogs as well as musicians – and the dogs were usually better behaved.  John and his wife Carmen now call Atlanta home. 

Tom Bledsoe grew up on Big Moccasin Creek in the shadow of Clinch Mountain.  In 1973, he started making music with some of his neighbors – Beachard Smith, Paul Davis, and Will Keys.  The group would come to be known as the Home Folks, and they were the closest thing to a house band the Fold ever had – appearing over 100 times at the Fold from the time music shows began in 1974.  They played every festival until just a few years ago, marking the end of an era at the Fold.   The heartbeat of the group - Tom played lead guitar and masterfully handled the lead vocals.  Tom was also one of Janette’s adopted sons.  They maintained a special, loving relationship from the time they met until her death.  Hardworking, good country people, the Home Folks typified everything that was good about traditional mountain music.  Tom and his family now call Saint Augustine home.

Rich Kirby, a descendant of vocalist Addie Graham, grew up in an east Kentucky family full of traditional music.  After performing with Wry Straw for many years, he began working at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky.  Rich currently produces radio shows and recordings of traditional music for WMMT.  He plays with an old time band, Rick and the Po’ Folks.

For information on John McCutcheon, go to www.folkmusic.com/.