43rd Annual Carter Memorial Music Festival Marking 90 Years Since the First Carter Family Recording!

10:31AM October 16, 2018
Written by Pam Vance

We’ve all heard the story of the trio of Poor Valley musicians known as the Carters making the long, hot drive to Bristol in early August 1927 to audition for the Victor Talking Machine Company, only to make it big as the first country music superstars. Of course, the real story is not nearly as simple. While we romanticize the idea of a dusty road trip to make a record, we forget that A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter left Bristol without any idea that they would ever be asked to record again. At first, Victor didn’t even release the songs recorded by the Carters despite the fact that they recorded more material than any other artists who took part in the sessions. A.P. and his family undoubtedly thought their musical talents went unnoticed.

Of course, the Carter Family did have their first record issued on November 4, 1927 – “Poor Orphan Child.” The record was a small local hit (akin to having one’s picture in the local newspaper), but certainly nothing to sustain any kind of musical career. It wouldn’t be until the following year when the release of “Single Girl, Married Girl” changed American music and along with it the lives of the Carter Family forever. But despite the massive success of “Single Girl,” there is something unique about that very first record. While other records would go on to sell more copies, “Poor Orphan Child” marked the beginning of a new and unexpected chapter in the lives of the Carters, their community, and the rest of the nation – a leap into previously uncharted territory, a wide open future rooted in the traditions of the past.

The Carter Family invites you to its’ 43rd Annual Memorial Music Festival the first weekend in November. This year’s festival weekend marks the 90th anniversary of the release of that very first Carter Family record. Doors open Friday, November 3rd, at 3:00 pm, and the music kicks off at 6:00 pm. On Saturday, November 4th, the doors open at noon, and the music will begin at 3:00 pm. Friday’s show features the Mountain Park Old Time Band. Saturday’s performers are Larry Sigmon and Martha Spencer – the Unique Sound of the Mountains, Carson Peters and Iron Mountain, and the Whitetop Mountain Band. Carter Family music will be featured both days with Maybelle’s granddaughter, Lorrie Carter Bennett, and long time Carter Family friends Ronnie Williams and Eugene Wolf. A special guest, Ms. Charly Markwart, will be featured on the Carter Family sets showcasing songs she wrote about the Carters. Raised in rural Michigan, she came to the mountains of Appalachia to trace the roots of America’s music. An emerging Americana artist, Charly has ingrained those roots into her musical foundation.

Carter Fold on Saturday Nights!Now known as the Carter Family Fold, music shows actually began in the one-room grocery A.P. Carter built and ran as a country store in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Presenting weekly concerts was Janette Carter’s way of honoring not only her family’s legacy and our Appalachian culture, but a promise she made to her father just prior to his death in 1960 that she would see that his music lived on. Starting to present music shows in 1974, as her father had in what he called the A.P. Carter Park, the early days of the Fold’s weekly concerts were much like the first Carter Family 78. Janette had no idea what would happen; she just did the best she could with what she had. In the process, she created something that went further than anyone could have imagined. On this 90th anniversary of that first Carter Family record, we invite you to come celebrate this special anniversary with us. Sing, dance, jam, shop for some unique homemade mountain crafts, help yourself to some good home cooked food, and take time to stroll through the cabin birthplace of A.P. Carter and the Carter Family Museum (both historic landmarks and located on site). Each note you will hear, and each dance step you take, is a new like stepping back in time while embracing the future of Appalachian mountain music. Rooted in the traditions of the past, mountain music is here to stay. Come be a part of living history and join us for this very special anniversary year and annual festival.

This year’s festival is dedicated to Mark Wolfe, great grandson of A.P. and Sara Carter; Papa Joe Smiddy, a much-loved regional treasure and proponent of mountain music; Walt Salyer, husband of Fern Carter Salyer (daughter of A.P.’s brother Ermine and his wife Ora Carter); and Juanita McConnell, wife of Burdette McConnell who served as a volunteer at the Fold from the time music shows began. The loss of each of these people is felt deeply as each of them represented a special part of our Carter 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 pm Friday and at noon on Saturday. Music on the stage gets underway at 6:00 pm on Friday night and at 3:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Performing on Friday, November 3, 2017

  • Mountain Park Old Time Band


Performing Saturday, November 4, 2017

  • Whitetop Mountain Band
  • Carson Peters and Iron Mountain
  • Larry Sigmon & Martha Spencer – the Unique Sound of the Mountains


Performing Friday, November 3rd and Saturday, November 4th

  • Lorrie Carter Bennett
  • Ronnie Williams
  • Eugene Wolf


Carter Family music will open each set – Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night. Friday’s performance by the Mountain Park Old Time Band will feature their group on two sets. Saturday’s performers will be featured on afternoon and evening sets. Music begins at 6:00 pm Friday and lasts until 10:00 pm. On Saturday, it begins at 3:00 pm and runs until 6:30 pm., with a supper break from 6:30 to 7:15 pm. Saturday evening’s performance starts at 7:15 pm and lasts until 10:45 pm.

Ticket gates, craft and outside food booths open at 3:00 pm on Friday and at noon on Saturday. Visitors may take chances to win a homemade quilt. 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 pm. There will be lots of music and jamming on the grounds in addition to the scheduled performers inside the Carter Fold. A special area for jamming will be set up adjacent to the museum. Limited rough camping is available.

The official biographies of the acts performing at this year’s festival follow. If you 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, you may also call 276-386-6054. Normally used to obtain recorded show information for the upcoming week, it will be answered during the festival.  For additional information, visit the Carter Fold website .




Carter Fold Festival - Williams & BennettWhen 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.

Born with county music in her blood, Lorrie was touring with the Carter Sisters by age 14 and soon with Johnny Cash. Mr. Cash made sure to tell the masses how Lorrie’s voice was every bit as breathtaking as her mother’s. Lorrie has always done everything she could to showcase the beauty of the Carter Family’s music. Living in Nashville, she doesn’t get the chance to perform at the Fold as often as she’d like. Her voice is unlike any other, and it’s unmistakably that of a Carter. For more info, go to Lorrie’s FB page – https://www.facebook.com/LorrieCarterBennett.


Carter Fold Festival - Mark & Nancy GentryMountain Park Old Time Band was formed nine 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. Mountain Park 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. In addition, he’s the newest member of the Carter Music Center’s Board of Directors.

The Mountain Park Old Time Band has played at the Blue Ridge Music Center, the Alleghany Jubilee, and the Rex Theater. 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 has performed at previous Carter Family Festivals and many other times at the Fold. Their group has very quickly become a Carter Fold favorite. For more information on the group, go to their site: http://www.mountainparkoldtimeband.com/.


Fiddlin Carson Peters Iron Mountain BandCarson Peters started playing the fiddle at the ripe old age of three when his parents bought him a 1/8 size fiddle. By age four, he was playing in fiddle competitions and jamming at music festivals. Carson has continued to hone the fiddling and singing talent. At 12 years old, Carson is a seasoned performer playing numerous venues with his band throughout the region – Dollywood’s Bluegrass and BBQ, Asheville Bluegrass First Class, Song of the Mountains, WDVX’s World Class Bluegrass concert series, and at the Carter Family Fold. Carson has had the honor of playing on national TV as a guest on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He played with Jimmy Fortune on the floor of the Tennessee State Senate. Carson’s dream of playing on the Grand Ole Opry stage was realized in 2014 when he was invited by Ricky Skaggs to perform with him and his band Kentucky Thunder. The same year, Carson was asked to make a re-appearance at the Opry – this time with his own band. Later that year, Carson made his Ryman Auditorium debut playing again with Ricky Skaggs during the 2014 Bluegrass Nights series.

Carson’s new band, Iron Mountain, help him entertain audiences performing old time, bluegrass, and gospel music. The band consists of Carson’s father, Jamie Peters, Eric Marshall and Ben Marshall of Mount Airy, North Carolina, and Austin Tate of Marion, Virginia. Carson feels truly blessed to have these fine Christian young men in his band, and especially blessed to be playing with his dad.

Eric Marshall, who plays banjo, was raised in a region known for its’ traditional music, so it was natural for him to be drawn to bluegrass. Playing since his early 20s, Eric is best known as a traditional style banjo player, vocalist and songwriter.

Going to his first bluegrass festival at 18 months old, Ben Marshall truly grew up surrounded by music! Ben first started playing at eight years old. He told his dad he wanted to play, so Eric sat Ben on a picnic table at the Galax Fiddler’s Convention, stood a bass fiddle up in front of him, and there’s been no looking back! Before joining Iron Mountain, Ben played with the youth group, Oldgrass. Now 15 years old, Ben has a bright future in bluegrass.

Austin Tate, from Marion, Virginia, is 17 years old and plays the mandolin and sings for the band. He has had some great opportunities to play music with some amazing bluegrass artists, including the Queen of Bluegrass – Miss Rhonda Vincent. Like Ben, Austin has a great future in bluegrass music to look forward to.

Jamie Peters plays the rhythm guitar in the band and has loved bluegrass music since starting to play guitar at age eight. After a long break from playing, his love for pickin’ was reignited when Carson began playing. One of the finest musicians around, Jamie is a special blessing to everyone he meets. A true old time southern gentleman, Jamie sets a high standard.

He and his family have been a wonderful blessing to the Carter Family Fold. Be prepared to be amazed by Carson Peters. His talent and stage presence rival the most seasoned of performers. Dancers won’t be disappointed because he’s as fine a fiddler as any that ever graced the stage of the Carter Fold. There will also be beautiful vocals, instrumentals, and gospel music – something for everyone. For more information on the Fiddlin’ Carson Peters Band, go to http://www.carsonandironmt.com/ – the band’s web site. You can also see them perform on YouTube. Carson, his family, and his band have been Fold favorites since the first time he set foot on our stage. Carson, his family, and his group represent all the finest things Appalachian culture and music truly represent. You’ll fall in love with them, just as everyone at the Fold has.


Carter Fold Festical - Unique Sound of the MountainsIf you ever saw Larry Sigmon and the Unique Sound of the Mountains, you know the sound was unlike anything you ever heard before. Over the course of more than ten albums and several years of performing, Larry Sigmon and his late partner Barbara Poole continuously brought the house down with a variety of fast-paced mountain music tunes fueled by Sigmon’s high-speed claw hammer banjo picking and Poole’s infectious “heartbeat” bass plucking. While there were several groups out there that could get you onto the dance floor, no old time band could wear out your clogging shoes faster than the Unique Sound of the Mountains.

Both played mountain music from childhood, learning their craft from their families while growing up surrounded by the rich musical heritage and scenic beauty of southern Virginia. They first jammed together at a local fiddlers’ convention. The more the duo performed together, the more their audiences grew until they decided to work together long-term, dubbing themselves the Unique Sound of the Mountains. That partnership continued and flourished until Barbara’s death in 2008 after a long battle with cancer.

Playing alongside Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Jimmie Martin, Grandpa Jones, Mac Wiseman, Jim & Jessie, Porter Wagner, Mike Snider, and Johnny and June Cash, and performing at the Grand Ole Opry, Larry and Barbara were truly an American treasure, delighting their fans. Proud craftsmen who knew hundreds of both classic and obscure musical treasures, they often left audiences wondering how so many sounds can come out of only two people.

After Barbara’s death, Larry stopped performing publicly. He and his wife Linda cared for Larry’s father during an extended illness. Never able to find anyone who could play quite the way Barbara did, Larry wasn’t sure he would play again. Enter Martha Spencer of the Whitetop Mountain Band.

She and Larry had been doing some playing, but they weren’t actually booking shows together. We’re exceedingly grateful that our 2015 annual festival in August brought Larry back onstage.

Two car accidents on two of the interstates leading to the Fold caused traffic delays that meant the scheduled performers couldn’t take the stage as some of their members were in the resulting traffic jams. Reluctantly, Larry agreed to play till the performers could make it to the Fold. When Larry and Martha took the stage, they brought the house down. Tears were flowing, and they received four standing ovations. Tommy Sells of Big Country Bluegrass later said that God had a hand in them taking the stage, and that couldn’t be more true. Since that time, they have played the Albert Hash Festival and many other shows. Go to www.facebook.com/uniquesoundofthemountains/ for more information.


Carter Fold Festival - Whitetop Mountain BandThe 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 tradition of old time music. This band has deep roots in mountain music. The group has done a great deal to preserve the Whitetop region’s style of old time fiddling and banjo picking, and they are legendary teachers of the style.

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. 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 locally and throughout the nation. They have 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/.


Carter Fold Festival - Williams & BennettRonnie 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 – covering three generations. He 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.


Carter Fold Festial - Eugene WolfBorn in Greeneville, Tennessee, Eugene won a talent contest at the Capital Theater in his home town at the age of two. From that time on, he has been active as a musician, storyteller, actor, narrator, and director. In 1986, he joined fellow musician Ed Snodderly to form the Brother Boys after they performed together in the Road Company production of Echoes and Postcards. They released two CDs and still perform together when they can. From 1997 through 2015, Eugene was one of Barter Theatre’s lead actors. Eugene will tell you that his favorite role was that of A.P. Carter in Barter’s Keep on the Sunny Side. From the introduction of the play in 2002, Eugene could not be surpassed in his portrayal of A.P. He became a Carter Family member the night Janette and Rita first saw his performance, and he will always be part of our family and hold a special place in our hearts. He graciously helps out at the Fold as often as his busy schedule permits. Whether he’s collaborating with Russian musicians or performing his latest one-man show, Eugene captivates audiences and always portrays the culture and music of Appalachia with the honor and dignity it deserves.

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