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

4:35AM April 20, 2019
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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