It’s been 85 years since A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter’s first recording sessions in Bristol, Va., marking the beginning of an illustrious career that earned them a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame and the nickname “The First Family of Country Music.”
Their legacy lives on at the annual Carter Family Memorial Festival and Craft Show, to be held this year Aug. 3 and 4 at the Carter Family Memorial Music Center, a stone’s throw from the Carters’ old stomping grounds in Maces Springs, Va.
This year’s 38th festival opens with a Friday performance by two of the region’s premier old-time bands, the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters and the Whitetop Mountain Band.
Saturday’s lineup includes Big Country Bluegrass, the Mountain Park Old Time Band, the Great Smoky Mountain Cloggers, Lonesome Will Mullins and the Virginia Playboys, and Michael Cleveland and his band Flamekeeper. Both Friday and Saturday will feature performances by Lorrie Carter Bennett, the daughter of Anita Carter and granddaughter of Mother Maybelle Carter, along with Ronnie Williams and Bill Clifton, both long-time friends of the Carter family.
One of Williams’ most cherished memories is playing for Sara and Maybelle Carter at the Fold in 1976. He performed “Gold Watch and Chain” and “Black Mountain Rag” for “Mommy and Maybelle” at the request of A.P. and Sara Carter’s daughter Janette. Williams, who plays a Gibson guitar similar to Maybelle’s, is also a great cook and often can be spotted in the Fold’s kitchen.
Clifton traveled to southwest Virginia as a young man in hopes of meeting A.P. Carter, with whom he formed a close friendship. Over the years, Clifton has shared the stage with many legendary musicians, including all three original Carter Family members.
He occupies a special place in music history for organizing the Bluegrass Day Festival on July 4, 1961 in Luray, Va., featuring such acts as the Stanley Brothers, the Country Gentlemen, Jim & Jesse and a reunion of Bill Monroe’s original Bluegrass Boys. Folk scholars agree that it was the world’s first-ever bluegrass festival.
In addition to his credit as the originator of the modern old-time and bluegrass festival, Clifton was also one of the chief organizers of the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, in which both Doc Watson and Bob Dylan attained their mainstream breakthroughs. He also compiled a songbook, “150 Old-Time and Gospel Songs,” which was highly influential in the folk and bluegrass circuit.
By 1966, he was playing regularly and hosting a BBC radio show called “Cellar Full of Folk,” and recorded a program of old-time music for Radio Moscow in 1966. After spending a considerable amount of time overseas, Clifton and his wife now live in Virginia, and he has remained a staple of the Carter Fold for many years.
Gates open at 3 p.m., Friday and at noon, Saturday. Music on the stage gets under way at 6 on Friday night and at 3 on Saturday afternoon.
Concessions and handmade mountain crafts will also be sold on-site throughout the weekend. The A.P. Carter Cabin Birthplace and Carter Family Museum will be open from the time the gates open each day until 8 p.m., and there will be lots of music and jamming on the grounds in addition to the scheduled performers inside the Fold.
Limited rough camping is available.
Tickets for adults are $10 on Friday, $20 on Saturday or $25 for both days. Tickets for children ages 6-11 are $2 a day; youngsters under 6 get in free. Tickets are available at the gate only; all seats are festival seating.
The third-generation of Carters now run the Carter Family Fold, started by A.P. and Sara’s daughter Janette, who also presented the first Carter Family Memorial Music Festival in 1974.
Before he died in 1960, A.P. asked Janette to do all she could to see that the Carter Family’s music was never forgotten. She did just that, working tirelessly until her death in 2006 to present live, acoustic-only old-time and bluegrass music each Saturday night — first in the old one-room grocery her father ran in the 1940s and ’50s, then, beginning in 1976, in the Carter Family Fold she built with help from her siblings Joe and Gladys.
Despite the fact that she never graduated from high school, Janette established a nonprofit rural arts organization and a museum. Along the way, she won the National Endowment for the Arts’ Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Award for her lifelong advocacy of the performance and preservation of Appalachian music.
Today, the Carter Music Center is managed by Janette’s daughter, Rita Forrester, who works alongside other Carter descendants and volunteers to keep the region’s musical heritage alive.
For more information, call (276) 645-0035 or visit www.carterfamilyfold.org.
|Johnson City Christmas Parade|
|The Annual Christmas Parade In Downtown Johnson City, December 3rd 2010.|