Carlton Haney to Bluegrass Hall of Fame

Don Reno, Fred Bartenstein, Carlton Haney, John U. Miller. Watermelon Park, Berryville, VA 1969 (Photo: Ron Petronko)Carlton Haney, creator of the first series of multi-day bluegrass festivals, is to be inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place during the final day of the 4th Annual Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Uncle Pen Days Festival, held September 24-27, 2008 at the Bill Monroe Memorial Bluegrass Music Park & Campground in Brown County, Indiana.

Haney, born September 19, 1928, produced the historic first weekend-long bluegrass music festival to be held at Fincastle, Virginia. The first such festival took place during Labor Day weekend, September 3rd to 5th, 1965 at Cantrell’s Horse Farm. It triggered a movement towards the wider production of bluegrass festivals bringing incalculable economic benefits to the industry and creating a larger and more diverse audience for the music.

The citation on the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s Hall Of Honor plaque continues:

“Subsequent annual festivals that he produced regularly included his innovative ‘workshops’ and his emotional narration of ‘the bluegrass story,’ dramatizing the genre’s history with appearances by performers who were part of its rich tradition. Haney’s most memorable and enduring festivals were those in Camp Springs, North Carolina and Berryville, Virginia, during an exciting era when most first generation players were in their prime. He was additionally a promoter of major country music concert tours and from 1969 until 1975 published an important early bluegrass magazine, ‘Muleskinner News.’ Haney began his colorful music career in the 1950s as agent and manager for Bill Monroe and later for Reno & Smiley. During the 1980s he entered private business in his hometown, Reidsville, North Carolina.”

Fred Bartenstein, host of Banks of the Ohio: Music From the Homeplace of Bluegrass and former editor of Muleskinner News magazine, can’t speak highly enough about Haney …..

“Carlton Haney was my primary mentor in bluegrass music. I spent seven summers working very closely with him in producing early bluegrass festivals and country music package shows. His love of bluegrass is pure; his knowledge and insight remarkable; and the innovations he put into action are still reverberating in the bluegrass world today. He is as eccentric and unforgettable as any character in bluegrass history, and totally deserving of recognition in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.”

Warren Amberson, bass player with the Roanoke-based quintet Acoustic Endeavors, has known Haney for close to 30 years. He shares one of the hundred bluegrass stories he knows about Haney …..

“I met Carlton in the early 1980s, when I was with a group called Crossroads. Carlton was very kind, but very hard in his ways, which started my friendship with Carlton. He would call our house, and I would always get really excited when I heard the voice on the other end say, ‘Hello, this is Carlton Haney.’ Carlton would talk for hours on the phone and fill a young bluegrass musician’s mind with visions of the past and possibly the future.

And then days later he would call me back and in a round about way, would quiz me on what he had taught me days before. This practice still continues today I am proud to say.

Hershel Sizemore, John Palmer and I were invited to Camp Springs, Reidsville, North Carolina, (see the great movie Bluegrass Country Soul) where in years past Carlton had held a very famous festival there. Carlton went through the park one evening and gathered a group of young musicians, Jeff Michaels, Ramona Church, Chris Hart and myself, and began to teach a class on bluegrass. We listened for hours – it could have been all night – on the stage of this old bluegrass festival in one of the worst electrical storms I’d ever been in. Carlton has always been a teacher of bluegrass and worthy of any award that might be bestowed on him.

Now that’s a bluegrass story…and in Carlton’s famous words, ’nuff said.’ “

Carlton has been retired from any active role in the music business for the last three decades, but his opinions and remembrances are still sought out by those who seek him out in his hometown of Reidsville, North Carolina.

Bluegrass Today
has written about Haney and the Fincastle festivals, with a few links to other informative articles.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.