Whitetop Mountain Band

Whitetop Musicians of the Past
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Photos, unless otherwise noted by Mark Sanderford

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Jont Blevins, the Whitetop banjo player who taught Flurry Dowe and Emily Spencer.

Jont Blevins was born in the year 1900. He learned to play the banjo from Emmet Long, Albert Hash's uncle, who had learned to play the banjo from his uncle. Jont's style can be traced back to AT LEAST the Civil War. In the 1970s, he taught Flurry Dowe, the first banjo player for the Whitetop Mountain Band, and later he taught Emily Spencer a great deal. Through his students, many folks have learned the style, which differs from the style Kyle Creed played. Kyle Creed once commented that his father played a good deal like Jont. The song you can listen to above is "oldtime" Cumberland Gap played by Jont. The recording was made by Emily Spencer when Jont was around 81 years old.

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Corbit Stamper

Corbit Stamper was born in the early 1900s and is responsible for a great deal of the fiddle playing in Whitetop today. Even at the age of 12, he was teaching people twice his age how to play. He was one of Albert Hash's primary teachers and influences. His influence wasn't limited strictly to Albert, as he taught and influenced a great many fiddle players who were never recorded. He hung up his fiddle for nearly 30 years unfortunately, but in the late 60s/early 70s was inspired to play again. His health was declining, but he fortunately was recorded a few times and appeared on a volume of Old Originals LP, produced by Rounder. Corbit had a timing and rhythm to his music that is impossible to duplicate, as well as an impossible to duplicate bowing style. Today, his granddaughter Crystal Mahaffey Blevins and great grandson Blake Rash carry on his fiddling, as do many other Whitetop fiddlers. The song you can listen to above is Corbit's great rendition of Arkansas Traveler, recorded in 1973 by Blanton Owen. Corbit is on fiddle, Thornton Spencer on guitar, and Blanton Owen on banjo. Thanks to Steve Green for the material and to Kerry Blech for helping it be found to be enjoyed by Corbit's family and other Whitetop musicians.

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Albert Hash, photo by Martin Fox

Albert Hash was a famous fiddle player and maker from Whitetop. He was born in 1917. He learned to play from Corbit Stamper, Jim Reedy, his uncle George Finley, and was influenced by G.B. Grayson. After Grayson was killed, Albert played with Henry Whitter. Albert also played with many other musicians through the years, including the Virginia Carolina Boys with Wayne and Max Henderson, and of course the Whitetop Mountain Band with Flurry Dowe, Emily and Thornton Spencer, and Tom and Becky Barr. Albert's kindess and willingess to help all is well-known. Much more will be added about Albert in the near future. The song above is "Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?" from a fiddler's convention recording. Albert-fiddle, Thornton Spencer-fiddle, Flurry Dowe-banjo, Becky Barr and Emily Spencer-guitar, Tom Barr-bass.

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Corbit Stamper-fiddle, Rudy Hash-banjo, Alice Stamper-background, photo provided by Barbara Mahaffey

The above song that you can listen to is Howard Wyatt playing Salt River from the Whitetop Folk Festival in 1938. Wyatt was said to be one of the best fiddlers in Whitetop at the time. He learned a good deal from Corbit Stamper, who was likely younger than him at the time.There's a great deal of musicians that were never recorded commercially or on home recordings from Whitetop that need to be given credit for being great musicians who were influential on Whitetop music. Amongst these are Lee Weaver, Gaither Farmer, Huck Sturgill, Frank and Henry Blevins, Jim Reedy, George Finley, and Charlie Miller.

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Above song is of Harold Hensley playing Cumberland Gap, a widespread fiddle tune, that was and is particurly popular among many Whitetop fiddlers of the past and present in the version in which Mr.Hensley plays it. Harold Hensley was a Whitetop fiddle player who made his way to Hollywood, playing in westerns and providing the fiddle music for TV shows like the Beverly Hillbillies. He recorded 4 LPs for Crown and some other labels. 3 of them were straight ahead fiddle tune albums, featuring songs that other Whitetop fiddle players like Corbit and Albert played like Cumberland Gap, Flop Eared Mule, Black Eyed Susie, Sourwood Mountain, and a variety of others.

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Munsey Gaultney, photo by Mark V. Sanderford

Munsey Gaultney was from Ashe Co., NC and was an old-time fiddle player. He played many old-time pieces that were somewhat rare, including Sally Was a Poor Girl, the Walls of Jericho, Chicken in the Breadtray, and Turkey Buzzard. He was known for his great bow shuffle and timing. Very few recordings of him exist but we hope to add some to the site soon. The above song is "Chicken in the Bread Tray", a song similar to Sally Was a Poor Girl, except slower with a "Few different notes"..was recorded by Blanton Owen in 1972.