Steve Sutton scholarship benefit raises $6K

Photo portrait of Steve Sutton displayed by the stage at his benefit concert  – photo by Wayne Ebinger

We had posted earlier this month about a special benefit concert for Steve Sutton that was being help in Canton, NC. Steve was a very popular musician and music teacher in that area, who died suddenly about two years ago at only 61 years of age.

Agreeing to appear on the show were Bill Kaman, Gena Britt, Crowe Brothers, Beth Lawrence, Whitewater Bluegrass Co, Marc Pruitt Band, Hazel Creek, Darren Nicholson Band, Larry Barnwell, all at no cost so that proceeds from the show could fund a scholarship in Steve’s name.

When the accounting was completed for the May 10 concert, a total in excess of $6,000 had been raised. In addition to admission fees and donations, food and other merchandise had been available for sale that evening.

The benefit was arranged by Darren Nicholson of Balsam Range, and he told us that the proceeds were split with half going to Tuscola High School, and the other half to the IBMA Trust Fund. Tuscola was where Sutton had attended high school, and got his start in music. Before turning fully to bluegrass, he was an ace trumpeter in school, receiving a full scholarship to study music at Western Carolina University.

While still in high school, Steve was hired to play banjo with Bill Monroe, but a chance fill-in with Jimmy Martin earned him an offer to go with The Sunny Mountain Boys. Steve took that gig because Martin offered him $10 more each week, and 10% of any merchandise he sold. Sutton stayed with Jimmy from 1974-1976.

During the 1980s, Steve had been a part of the band at Bill Stanley’s BBQ in Asheville. It was among the hippest spots for bluegrass in the southeast, with people traveling long distances to be there. Marc Pruett played banjo in the house band, with Steve on guitar, Mike Hunter on mandolin, Arville Freeman on fiddle, and Randy Davis on bass. They were on stage seven nights a week during the hey day of the restaurant, and held down the fort there for ten years.

It was at Stanley’s that Sutton met Bill Kaman, inventor of the Ovation guitar that revolutionized that industry in the ’80s. Steve went on to design a number of Ovation models for the company, and Bill was at the benefit show on the 10th to perform in Steve’s honor. Nicholson played Steve’s Ovation on the concert as well. Models that Sutton designed were played by top Ovation endorsers like Glen Campbell and Melissa Etheridge.

Well done, all involved in this special evening of music and memories.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.