The Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from Whitetop an area containing the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop is a region rich in the old time music tradition; this band has deep roots in mountain music. The members have done much to preserve the Whitetop region's style of old time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style. The Whitetop Mountain Band is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. They have a great following at square dances all over Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky at venues like the Carter Family Fold. In addition to local venues, the band has also performed at the Smithsonian Folk life Festival, National Folk life Festival, World Music Institute in NYC, Dock Boggs Festival, World Fair, Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival and Merlefest. They recently were featured on the 2007 NCTA Crooked Road Music tour of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. Members also toured the United Kingdom and Ireland playing the Cornish Bluegrass Festival and Open House Festival along with venues through England, Wales, and Ireland. In January 2008, members of the band also performed at the Illawarra Folk Festival and Tamworth Country Music Festival in New South Wales, Australia. Band members actively teach as master musicians and dancers for workshops and classes in fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals, and dance all over the US. Some of these include Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, NC, Cowan Creek Music School in KY, Mountain Music School in Big Stone Gap, and Mt. Rogers Combined School. Karl Cooler of Mountain Roads Recordings indicates that, 'while we really loved the music that they make, we were equally impressed that many individuals and bands credit members of this group with having a major influence on their musical talent and style'. The Whitetop Mountain Band has been featured in many books, magazines, and television and radio shows about Appalachian music such as The Guide to the Crooked Road, A Hotbed of Musicians, Strings of Life, In Good Keeping, Country Music Television, Travel Channel, PBS, Old Time Herald, and many television and radio news and special interest programs. The band originated with Albert Hash in the 1940s, a well-known and beloved fiddler and luthier. When he was a teenager, Albert played fiddle with Henry Whitter of "Grayson & Whitter" which recorded during the 1920's. Albert had a tremendous impact on the old time and bluegrass scene. The tune, "Hangman's Reel" that Albert recorded is the version played by so many old time musicians today. He also taught such luthiers as Wayne Henderson, Audrey Ham, and many others to build instruments. In the 1970s, Albert's brother-in-law, Thornton Spencer (twin fiddle), and his wife, Emily Spencer (banjo, vocals), joined Albert in the Whitetop Mountain Band. The three also started an old time music program at Mt. Rogers School, a small k-12 public school, in Whitetop. The students learn fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, and dancing. Emily Spencer carries on the program and it has much regional and national attention for it's uniqueness, including features on CMT, numerous articles and radio shows and a Grammy Award nomination. Current lineup: The Whitetop Mountain Band is still carried on today by Thornton Spencer on fiddle, and Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals. Their daughter, Martha Spencer, plays with the band as well. She is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass, vocals) and dancer. She has taken part in many Master flatfoot dancing workshops and performances also. Jackson Cunningham, plays mandolin, guitar, and vocals in the band. Jackson, originally from Oregon, has played music since early childhood. He grew up in a musical family as well and has performed in several bluegrass and old time groups from the West Coast to the East. Jackson also plays clawhammer banjo and harmonica. Debbie Bramer, originally from Michigan, moved to Fancy Gap, Virginia in the early 90s. Debbie plays bass and dances in the band. Debbie has been a member of several clogging teams and been active in many dance workshops and competitions. Whitetop Mountain Band 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. Shows also include flat foot dancing and the band is well known for their high energy and charisma on stage.
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