Carolina Yellowhammers & Green Grass Cloggers

Location: R.A. Fountain

The Green Grass Cloggers perform at Fountain General Store this Friday night to the accompaniment of the Carolina Yellowhammers, an all-star bluegrass band of local super-pickers.

The Cloggers were formed in Greenville in 1971 by students, faculty, and former students at ECU. They perform a type of percussive dance known as team clogging, which traces its origins to 1928, when Bascom Lamar Lunsford founded the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. 

The Green Grass Cloggers eventually split into a western, mountain-based troupe and the eastern, Greenville-based one. Throughout their history, they have been known as innovators in partner-based choreography with an emphasis on performing to live music. Today, dancers around the world employ steps first invented by the Cloggers, some of which bear the names of original Cloggers who invented them.

Friday’s show will feature 17 dancers. Those still living in Greenville include Larry Carnes, Laura Challender, Julia MacKenzie, Mike McCraw, Marie Patterson, Gayle Rulifson, Chad Smith, Leanne E. Smith, Natalie Stewart, and Leslie Vincent.

Also clogging Friday night will be Ashley and Joshua Lewis, of Honolulu, N.C.; Bill Kochlin of Washington; Karen Modlin of Bath; and Jamie Wetherington of New Bern. Kochlin first danced with the troupe in 1978.

Others dancing will be Jerry Lovelace from South Boston, Va., and Rodney Sutton, from Marshall, NC, who both joined the group in 1972.

The Green Grass Cloggers have danced at R.A. Fountain several times before, but always with only a few members. “It’s a great place, with its old wooden floors, for our kind of dancing,” said Leanne Smith, the group’s historian.

“We’ll clear out part of the floor so they can really spread out,” said Alex Albright, Fountain General Store proprietor.

Performing with the cloggers will be the Carolina Yellowhammers, an occasional bluegrass band comprised of four of the region’s most outstanding pickers.

Bandsmen include Lightnin’ Wells of Fountain on guitar; Frank Harrison of Williamston on mandolin; Lane Hollis of Greenville on banjo and fiddle; and John Booker of Ayden on bass. 

The band takes its name from the East Coast Railroad line’s passenger train, which until 1965 ran from Tarboro through Fountain to Hookerton. Locals said the train sounded like the call of the norther flicker, the bird also known as the yellowhammer.

“This would be a terrific show if it were just the band,” said Albright. “With them behind the Cloggers, it’ll be one of those nights folks will say ‘you shoulda been there.'”

Also as part of the evening’s entertainment, Shelby Stephenson will be reading  some of his ‘possum poems. The unofficial poet laureate of East Carolina, Stephenson had not realized that his second volume of ‘possum poetry was being published in what the Cloggers had dubbed “the year of the possum,” in memory of their pet, Alfred, from their 1978 tour. 

“I’m excited to be a part of this big show,” Stephenson said.

Tags: Appalachian, bluegrass, clogging, Concert, tradtional bluegrass