Shelton Straps – How They’re Made

James Alan SheltonWhile it would be nice if life could consist of all bluegrass, all the time, that’s definitely not the reality for most musicians. In their off time, many bluegrass musicians have other careers, often somehow related to the music business. James Alan Shelton, longtime guitar player for Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, is one of those musicians. From his home in Church Hill, TN, he makes Shelton Instrument Straps.

Numerous bluegrass musicians use Shelton’s straps, which are custom made to the player’s specifications. Those who wear Shelton Straps include J.D. Crowe, Larry Sparks, Ralph Stanley, Adam Steffey, Dan Tyminski, and Pete Wernick. Straps can come in one of several colors, and with several designs. My personal favorite is the mahogany colored strap, with a basket weave design, which Shelton says is also his most popular combination.

I recently had the chance to visit with Shelton in his shop, where he showed me how his straps are made.


For more information, visit Shelton’s website at

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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.

  • Dick Bowden

    Very interesting! I have a number of James Alan’s guitar straps bought years ago. I seem to remember there were a few years back along when he didn’t sell these any more, so I’m glad they are really available. Good gravy! Every impression is hand-stamped one at a time??? I thought surely he must have some sort of embossing wheel to do those big patterns! They really are excellent straps.

    • Jim Britton

      I have used the same Shelton Strap on my banjo since 1989 and on my guitar since 1992. You can’t go wrong with this kind of quality craftsmanship. Made in the U.S.A.!!