Stephenson, Marshall

1937 - 2021

L to R: Curtis Lee, Joe Pessolano, Clyde Mattocks, Kenneth Glover, Clyde Mattocks’ arm

Marshall Stephenson was one of the foremost promoters of  bluegrass and traditional country music in East Carolina. He was also a fine musician and singer who performed with many acts, fronted several bands, and hosted frequent bluegrass jams at RAF. He and his brothers, Shelby and Paul, also performed with the Stephenson Brothers & Linda at RAF several times, including our grand opening in November 2004.

Marshall founded the Eastern North Carolina Bluegrass and Folk Festival and has been responsible for bringing many of the best known country and bluegrass artists to the region.  He had an ever-sunny disposition and an indomitable spirit. When I spoke with him a week before his passing, he sounded weak but insisted he was getting better and that he would see us soon at Fountain again.

It was the response we got to the Stephenson Brothers & Linda’s performance at our opening that made us re-configure our business to accommodate live music, and that night, seeing bluegrass performed live (and so beautifully) made a fan out of me. One of our most memorable shows, at Christmas the following year, closed with a transcendent rendition of “Silent Night” sung in a capelllo harmony, our house lights off and everyone holding candles.

The Bluegrass Train Band, L to R: Tim Myatt, banjo; Curtis Lee, fiddle; Joe Pessolano, mandolin; Marshall Stephenson, guitar

Marshall also performed here many times with his Bluegrass Train Band (named after his long-running bluegrass radio show), with brother Shelby, as well as host for our bluegrass jams. He introduced us to some of the best bluegrass talent around, including Tim Smith, Curtis and Ruth Lee, Tim Myatt, Joe Pessolano, and John Mark Batchelor, among many others. He was hosting our jam when Pattie Hopkins made her first public transition from classical violin to bluegrass fiddle, and everyone in the house knew they were seeing a very special talent emerge.

It was not unusual for Marshall to stop by, especially when he knew that Henry Bailey was making a Brunswick stew, and he always had a shout-out for our son, Silas, on his long-running Sunday night Big Dawg Bluegrass Train radio show. Marshall was a champion checker player, too, and he loved making a quick game of it with Silas or me.

I had known Marshall’s little brother Shelby since the mid-1980s, long before I’d ever had a thought about Fountain, and I had known his musical family from some of what Shelby had written during his long career as one of North Carolina’s most accomplished poets: he was inducted into the NC Literary Hall of Fame in 2014 and was our state’s 8th poet laureate. With their brother Paul on bass and comedy, they were always popular attractions here. It was clear, always, that “Brown,” as Marshall was known by family, was beloved by all.

He also had a fine talent for making excellent CDs in honor of his musical heroes, and they invariably include some of the best pickers around. 

–Alex Albright
Nov. 28, 2021

A copy of Marshall’s obituary appears below this partial discography.

A partial Marshall Stephenson discography

The Stephenson Brother & Linda Sig the Old Song. Out of print.

Tribute to Clyde Moody. Buy it

Little White Church: Traditional Gospel. Buy it.

Tribute to Flatt & Scruggs. Buy it

Marshall Stephenson & the Bluegrass Train Live. 2 CDs. Buy it

Back to the Fifties: Singing Country. Buy it. 

Back on Track. Buy it.

• • • 

William Marshall Stephenson

[Dunn, NC] Mr. William Marshall Stephenson, age 84, of E. Johnson Street passed away Wednesday, November 24, 2021 at his residence. Graveside Services will be 11:00 AM Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at Lakeside Memorial Gardens in Angier. Officiating will be Pastor Eddie White.

Mr. Stephenson was born on June 7, 1937 in Johnston County to the late William Paul, Sr., and Maytle Samantha Johnson Stephenson. He was preceded in death by his wife, Kay McLeod Stephenson; son, Ricky Stephenson; sister and brother, Rose Hollingsworth, Paul Stephenson, Jr. Mr. Stephenson was a North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inductee and a Radio Personality.

Mr. Stephenson’s professional career began with Hack Johnson and the Tennesseans performing on WPTF Radio, Raleigh, NC. He went on WDVA Barn Dance in Danville, VA, later joining The Bailey Brothers, former members of the Grand Ole Opry, on WNOX Tennessee Barn Dance in Knoxville, Tennessee. Founder of the Eastern NC Bluegrass and Folk Festive, Mr. Stephenson has jammed with Jimmy Capps, Bill Monroe, Benny Martin, Earl Scruggs and the Louvin Brothers, Allen Shelton, Roger Miller, Tater Tate, Clyde Mattocks, Little Red Rector, Dottie West, Hank Snow and scores of others.

For 10 years and more than 2,200 TV performances, Marshall played with Homer Brierhopper and Clyde Moody on WTVD-Durham, WRAL-Raleigh, and WETC-Wilmington, NC. Mr. Stephenson, who has been promoting bluegrass in eastern North Carolina for 40 years, was the host of the Bluegrass Train radio program, which began on 98.5 – The Big Dawg / WDWG-FM radio in Rocky Mount, North Carolina as a Sunday night featured radio program.

Surviving include his grandson, Michael Galey of Emerald Isle; brother, Shelby Stephenson and wife, Linda of McGee’s Crossroads; and several nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends following the graveside service.

Flowers are welcomed; however, memorials may be made to one’s favorite charity.
Condolences may be sent to the family at
Arrangement by Rose and Graham Funeral Home in Benson.