Rodney's Notes

JMSHM presents
Whitetop Mountain Band

The Whitetop Mountain Band will be making a rare NC High Country appearance for Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music Concerts, this Saturday, August 27th at the First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock. The concert begins at 7:30pm.

The Whitetop Mountain Band hails from Whitetop Mountain, Virginia, a mere 50 miles from Bowing Rock. They are a family-based old-time band, founded in the early 1940’s by the legendary Albert Hash(1917-1983), a beloved and well-known fiddler and luthier. In the 1970s, Albert’s brother-in-law, Thornton Spencer(fiddle) and his wife, Emily Spencer (banjo, vocals), joined Albert in the band. These days the group includes the Spencer’s daughter, Martha(banjo, fiddle and vocals), along with Ersel Fletcher(guitar, vocals) and Debbie Bramer(acoustic bass, vocals). Their shows are very versatile and entertaining - containing everything from fiddle/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. They are well known for their high energy and charisma on stage.

JSMHM director, Rodney Sutton states, “The Whitetop Mountain Band represents a link to the past that has pretty much been lost here in this area of North Carolina. They are an authentic old-time family band who, in the time-honored tradition, have learned directly from their old-time mountain music ancestors. While there are many really great “revivalist” bands to be found locally, nothing compares to the genuine traditional sound in the music and singing that can be only be achieved from having that genetic family connection.”

The band has won many awards throughout the years at competitions and fiddlers conventions like Fiddlers Grove, Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention, Sugar Grove, Jefferson, Fairview Battle of the Bands, Laurel Bloomery, etc. They have over a hundred ribbons/trophies altogether in band, fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, folk song, duet singing, and dancing awards. In 2012, they were recognized by a bill passed by the Virginia State Senate and House for their contribution to Virginia mountain music. The Whitetop Mountain Band also won ACMA Old Time Entertainers of the Year in 2013.

The band currently has recordings on the Arhoolie Record Label and Virginia Foundation of the Humanities. The band has also been recorded by JuneAppal, Heritage and been on compilations for Rounder Records.

Over the past 45 years, The Whitetop Mountain Band has played more shows than any Old-time Appalachian band. Their tours have taken them to every major North American folk festivals and to foreign countries from Ireland to Australia. For a chance to hear “the real deal” when it comes to Old-time Mountain music and singing, make sure to catch this JSMHM concert.  

*Please note the venue change from earlier promo - The First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock is located at 350 Sunset Dr. in Blowing Rock.

Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Student tickets are $10. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. Advance tickets may be purchased online at and at the Mast General Store (Boone and Valle Crucis), Fred’s Mercantile on Beech Mountain, Stick Boy Bread Company(345 Hardin St, Boone), also Footsloggers and Pandora’s Mailbox on Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.

New Director Introduction - April, 2014

My name is Rodney Sutton and as some of you have probably already read in other articles covering my becoming the new director of Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music (JSMHM), I never met Joe Shannon in person. I continue to be amazed at how many of my friends from across the tri-state region were also very close friends with Joe. In addition to mutual friends, another wonderful aspect of the similarities that Joe and I shared is our involvement and passion for promoting traditional mountain culture. I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of directors of a number of highly respected educational non-profits that have a shared mission with JSMHM - to provide an opportunity for audiences to experience the talents of traditional mountain musicians, singers, storytellers and dancers. These organizations include; the Folk Heritage Committee which produces Shindig on the Green and The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, the Regional Junior Appalachian Musicians, the Madison County Arts Council and the Green Grass Cloggers.

Mountain Home Music is a gift given to the folks of The High Country by Joe Shannon. It belongs to each of you who will attend a concert this summer and to everyone who has ever been an audience member in the past 20 years. My goal is to make this transitional year from the MHM that Joe created, to what it might be going forward without him, as seamless as possible. Your thoughts and input on how to proceed will be much appreciated. Each of you can play a role in the continued success of JSMHM by attending some of our incredible concerts this summer. I hope to see many of you at our first concert, this Sunday May 25th at 7:30pm. The concert will be held at Boone United Methodist Church and features Dave Johnson and the Studio Band performing a variety of musical styles, including patriotic tunes relative to Memorial Day. Directions and more info can be found at our website -

Mountain Home Music has a New Executive Director

The Board of Directors has selected Rodney Sutton of Marshall NC as Executive Director of Mountain Home Music, the position vacated by Joe Shannon after 20+ years, due to terminal illness. Like Joe, Rodney is a member of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Traditional Arts Directory. A native of rural eastern North Carolina, where his family has danced and played music for generations, Rodney Sutton is a prominent and highly respected representative of the dance and music traditions of his home state.

Sutton is particularly known for his expertise in traditional mountain dance. He is adept at both flatfooting and clogging, and is also in demand as a dance caller. In recent years, Rodney has honed his skills in both storytelling and ballad singing.

Sutton was an early member of the Green Grass Cloggers, and today is part of the GGC Asheville Team, who have danced in recent years at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF), the Appalachian Stringband Music Festival, and MerleFest. The Green Grass Cloggers were inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Trail Hall of Fame in 2014. Sutton is also a co-founder of the Fiddle Puppets, now known as Footworks, a traditionally based dance team that has toured around the world. Rodney Sutton has traveled across the United States and Canada and throughout the British Isles performing, teaching, and calling dances. He has taught traditional dance in western North Carolina schools through the NC Visiting Artist Program, and is a regular instructor at such camps as the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, Augusta
Heritage Center programs in West Virginia, and Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps in New York.

In 1995, Rodney organized and produced the Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs NC, featuring traditional mountain music and dance. Though he stepped down as director of the festival after 15 years, he still plays an integral part in its production. The Bluff Mountain Festival has grown to become one of the largest fund raisers for the Madison County Arts Council.

Over the years, Sutton has served on the Board of Directors of many nonprofits whose missions closely match Joe Shannon's Mountain Home Music. These boards include the Mountain Heritage Committee that produces Shindig and the Mountain Music and Dance Festival in Asheville and the Regional Junior Appalachian Musicians that oversees over 40 JAM groups that are teaching
hundreds of kids to play traditional music.

Currently, Rodney lives near Marshall in Madison County with his wife, Jennie Barnhardt and their daughter Kelsey, a Morehead-Cain Scholar, on her way to UNC at Chapel Hill. Their son, Clay, will graduate from UNC Chapel Hill on May 8th, 2016.

Also see this article about MHM’s new Director in the Blowing Rocket.


Mountain Home Music, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit North Carolina corporation.

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