Hoppy Hopkins passes

Bluegrass lost a great supporter, entrepreneur, and friend in the passing of Glenn ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, 74, of Gold Hill, NC, on June 2. He was married to former North Carolina Bluegrass Association president, Vivian Pennington Hopkins. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on April 14.

Though he never played, Hoppy was a devoted advocate for bluegrass music.

“He always said he was a better listener than a picker,” shared his wife.

In 1970, Vivian met Hoppy at Dudley’s Filling Station in the small central North Carolina town of Rockwell. Jams were held in the backroom.

“Hoppy always enjoyed bluegrass,” Vivian recalled. “He asked me to go for a ride and drive his Mustang. He had an 8-track player which was state-of-the-art at that time, and he popped in a Jimmy Martin tape. It was one of his favorites back then. He had tapes by Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs.”

Their mutual love for the music (Vivian’s dad, Ralph Pennington, was a well-known and respected North Carolina fiddle/mandolin player, and Vivian played bass), led to marriage and a family.

Hoppy became co-owner with Vivian of the Fifth String and Company, a music store catering to the bluegrass and traditional music industry. Together they enjoyed traveling bluegrass festivals throughout the southeast, providing an on-site music store booth at the bluegrass festivals.

Vivian explained how it all came to be…

“I opened Fifth String and Company in order to help promote my dad’s instruments. He built fiddles, guitars, mandolins, etc. I thought that would be a good outlet. Then we were approached by John Maness about bringing our music supplies to Bass Mountain Bluegrass Festival, and Milton Harkey and Brown Loflin approached us about coming to Doyle Lawson’s Festival also. We started with those two festivals and that grew.

Hoppy was still holding down a day job, five days a week. From the early ’80s we were providing music supplies, setting up booths at bluegrass festivals on the weekends. Then it transitioned into promoting the North Carolina Bluegrass Association in 1996. We were on site at bluegrass festivals throughout the southeast for almost 20 years. We retired from the road in 2014.

He didn’t grow up traveling like I did in a bluegrass family, but once he got hooked, it didn’t matter. He would be ready to go! We traveled from Jekyll Island to Myrtle Beach to Elizabethton, TN to Mineral, VA and everywhere in between. It was a fun time. We would set up at festival and a lot of times, we would have people knocking on the camper door, wanting strings and stuff before we could get parked and set up. Hoppy would be out in a minute! He loved meeting all people and talking to the musicians and getting to know them. We had some very dedicated regular customers.”

Due to health complications, travel became harder for Hoppy. In more recent years, a new chapter opened for the music lovers. For the last 18 years, Hoppy and Vivian have been proprietors of Montgomery General Store in the historic town of Gold Hill, NC. 

“We opened a smaller version of our music store, and held a jam on Friday nights. Our first one had three musicians and myself,” Vivian recalled. “It grew. Hoppy delighted in hosting the music in the store. We purposefully didn’t stock a lot of displays because we had to move it every Friday night to make room for music. That was the main reason we opened the store because there was nothing in our region like that for people to gather.”

While operating the country store, they continued their love of bluegrass music, catering to musicians from all over the region, sometimes 20-30, who would come every Friday night to play bluegrass and enjoy fellowship. On weekends, he was often seen greeting visitors to their historic village. He enjoyed talking about the town’s gold mining history. (His great-great-great Grandfather discovered the first gold in Gold Hill in 1824.) Sporting his signature black fedora hat, Hoppy delighted in serving up hand-dipped ice-cream and long-neck bottled sodas, often treating the kids to a special kid-sized ice-cream scoop.

“Hoppy loved the kids that came like Peden Williams (Gospel Plowboys), Alex Edwards, Daniel and Will Thrailkill (Trailblazers). All of them grew up under our feet. There’s a group, Fairfield Bluegrass, with sisters Payton and Taylor Brown, that started coming. He loved those two girls so much. They even came and sang for him at Autumn Care (nursing facility).”

Vivian summarized her husband. “He was a devout Christian, dedicated to family, loved life, and loved music, bluegrass and bluegrass gospel most of all. He loved Doyle Lawson, the Country Gentlemen, the Seldom Scene, Larry Sparks, and many others too numerous to mention, but those were some of his favorites.”

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at Gold Hill United Methodist Church with Rev. Beverly Maulden officiating, joined by Rev. Randy Mauldin of Midland, NC. Burial will take place in the Gold Hill Cemetery on St. Stephens Church Road following the service. The family will receive friends from 1:00 – 1:45 p.m. at the church prior to the service. There will be a memorial jam on Friday, June 16, 2023, at Montgomery General Store. Weather permitting the jam will be held in the picnic area across from the store. 

Hoppy is survived by his wife of 50 years, Vivian Pennington Hopkins, and two sons, Matt and Shaun. 

R.I.P., Glenn ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.