The Legendary Briarhoppers!

In 1934, a potential advertiser called WBT's Charles Crutchfield to ask if the station had a hillbilly band to help advertise its products. Telling a fib, Crutch said "Yes," which led to the birth of the Briarhoppers. The name comes from WBT announcer Bill Bivens who, during a hunting trip with Crutch, was startled by a rabbit jumping out of a thicket, and Bill yelled, "Look at that briarhopper!" At that moment, Crutch found the name for his hillbilly band.

The original band members were Johnny McAllister, Big Bill Davis, Don White, Thorpe Westerfield, Clarence Etters, and Jane Bartlett. The last original 1934 Briarhopper, Don White, died in 2003. Billie Burton Daniel, who joined the group in 1936, is happy and well in Wilmington, NC. Since that time, The Briarhoppers' fans are/were Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs (who filled in on banjo a few times), Curly Seckler, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and many other entertainment stars.

In keeping with the tradition, the band kept going through the years by adding new musicians to those who left the station or who died. Today, Tom Warlick, Alana Flowers, Hannah Flowers, Dillon Flowers, Donnie Little, and Little Ellie Flowers keep the band alive, with their stage show including the old Briarhopper songs, new songs, and the original scripted commercials of Peruna, Kolor-Bak, Zymole Trokeys, and Radio Girl Perfume! Enjoy this site and learn about the Briarhoppers' storied past and the bright future that is ahead. Don't turn that dial...Hit's Briarhopper Time!


At the Grand Ole McCelvey!

Photo by Dan Coston

Come On Out!


Our 80th Birthday Concert!


June 7th at The Feed and Seed, Fletcher, NC

The band will perform once again at The Feed & Seed in Fletcher, NC on June 7th, starting at 7PM!


If you have not been there before, The Feed and Seed is a restored feed and seed store in downtown Fletcher and is now one of the places to perform in western North Carolina.  Bands play, people dance, all in a family-friendly atmosphere!  Check out their site and come up the mountain to see us!
http://www.feedandseednc.com/

The Briarhoppers at Merlefest!


One of the first birthday presents to the Briarhoppers was an invite to perform at Merlefest. 
Sharing the same stages as The Kruger Brothers, Peter Rowan, T. Michael Coleman, Jack Lawrence, David Holt, The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, and many others, the BHoppers performed 3 sets on Saturday, April 26, 2014.  Approximately 80,000 people attended the festival.

Merlefest began in 1988 to honor the memory of Merle Watson, Doc Watson's son who died in a tractor accident in 1985.  The festival was to be a one-time event to raise money for a garden at Wilkes Community College but became a huge success.  The festival is considered one of the largest Americana/bluegrass/old-time music festivals in the world.

We thank Merlefest staff, including Steve Johnson, who treated us and all of the bands royally and we thank all of our fans for coming to our shows!

80 Years!

Happy birthday to the The Legendary WBT Briarhoppers!

Per Don White, it 80 years ago, March 1, 1934,when a call was made to WBT radio wondering if the station had a "hillbilly" band to promote its products. Since the day that Charles H. Crutchfield lied to get the business, the following are celebrating 80 years as a family:

Charles Crutchfield; Johnny McAllister; Don White; Thorpe Westerfield; Jane Bartlett; Clarence Etters; Bill Davis; Homer Drye; Billie Burton Daniel*; Charlie Davis; Roger Davis; Hank Warren; Gibb Young; Cecil Campbell; Martin Schopp; Harry Blair; Jack Gillette; Jane Leeper; Jean Leeper; Newell Hathcock; Fred Kirby; Claude Casey; Mildred and Floyd; Dewey Price; Eleanor Bryan Fields*; Whitey Grant; Arval Hogan; Shannon Grayson; Homer Christopher; Nat Richardson; Sam Poplin; George "Baby Ray" Stewart; Dave Moody*; Jim Scancarelli*; Homer Sherrill; David Deese; Dwight Moody; Tom Warlick*; Alana Flowers*; Trent Moody*; Hannah Flowers*; Dillon Flowers*; Richard Hollis*; Ellie Flowers*; Donnie Little*.
* = still around!

Hey Billie Burton Daniel, did you think it would last this long? Hit's still "Briarhopper Time."

Thanks to Alana Flowers, Hannah Nicole Flowers, Dillon Flowers, Ellie Flowers, Donnie Little, and Tom Warlick for keeping the tradition alive.

Happy Christmas

Throughout the decades, The Briarhoppers has entertained many a folk and many a soldier during its 79 Christmases.  Alana, Hannah, Dillon, Ellie, and Tom wish you a grand Christmas and a happy and safe New Year.  Thank you for your support in 2013; 2014 has more to come!

A Nice Message from Merlefest!

Imagine seeing this while you are checking Facebook!  When you hit the link, just scroll down a bit and you will see what we are talking about.

Yep, hits still Briarhopper Time!

https://www.facebook.com/MerleFest

The Briarhoppers Live at the Feed & Seed!

If you have over an hour to kill and want to relive the Golden Age of Radio, give a look at the following link where the Briarhoppers were filmed at The Feed and Seed in Fletcher, NC!

Fletcher?  Where?  Outside of Asheville near the airport.

Enjoy the music!  Enjoy the dancing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFTmg4W_UWk

Yep, it's true!


RIP Kate Drye Mangum



The Briarhopper members give condolences to the family of Kate Drye Mangum, sister to WBT radio star and BHopper member Homer Drye (Homer A. Briarhopper) and who, in her own right, was a legendary NC musician.

From her obituary:

She was the daughter of Benton and Lunora Drye, mother of Saundra M. Little of New Salem and Larry Mangum of Jacksonville, Florida (wife Christy), and grandmother of Brad Little, Tess Mangum Ocana, Tyra Little Harmon, Jesse Mangum, and Caitlin Mangum. She also was blessed with two great-grandchildren:  Yago and Nicolas Ocana.

Mrs. Mangum was born on the banks of Richardson Creek, near New Salem, in 1926, and lived within a quarter mile of her birthplace until the day of her death.  She and her 7 brothers and sisters were all taught by their father to play stringed instruments, and at age 9, she and her older siblings were offered an opportunity to join a traveling road show.  At their father's request, they chose to come back home and remain loyal to their land and family, although her brother Homer became a founding member of the well-known band called the "Briarhoppers," a rendition of which survives to this very day.

Her love of music lives on through the many students she taught, including her son Larry, her grandson Brad, and country music star Randy Travis.

To her son Larry Briarhopper and his family, we are sad for your loss;  Homer must be a happy soul right now.

MERLEFEST!

 
The Legendary Briarhoppers will perform at North America's premier music festival, Merlefest!

Tentatively, the band will play three shows on April 26, 2014, at the festival which is located on the campus of Wilkes Community College, North Wilkesboro, NC. 

2014 will be the band's 80th year in entertainment and we are proud to be a part of this super-duper festival!

The Briarhoppers was a favorite band of Doc Watson, who started Merlefest in memory of his son, Merle Eddy Watson.  When interviewed for the book, "The WBT Briarhoppers:  Eight Decades of a Bluegrass Band Made For Radio (McFarland, publishers)," Doc Watson said the following:

  • "When I was at the NC School of the Blind, a friend of mine snuck in a radio and we would listen to the Briarhoppers on WBT...that and the sound of the train passing by made the day better."

  • "When I was a kid, The Briarhoppers were performing in Boone, NC.  I sat on the sidewalk and played for money.  I heard a quarter hit my can.  My friend next to me said, 'Do you know who put that quarter in?  Whitey Grant of The Briarhoppers.'  Later on in the 1980s, I was playing at a festival and The Briarhoppers was there.  I had someone get Whitey and have him come to the trailer where I was.  When Whitey came in, I pulled out that same quarter and said, 'Remember this?  I bet you want this quarter now!"  Whitey said 'I think we made a fine investment in your career!'"


The Briarhopper Band is happy and honored to have been invited to Doc's country.


The Briarhoppers Recognized by NC Bluegrass Pavilion and Merlefest!

The NC Bluegrass Pavilion presented the band this certificate after our performance on the NC Pavilion Stage at IBMA in Raleigh.  Only 28 Carolina-based bluegrass bands received this honor.  The BHoppers would like to thank the Pavilion and Merlefest for sponsoring us at the 2013 World of Bluegrass!


The Briarhoppers Performing At IBMA's North Carolina Bluegrass Pavilion in Raleigh!

Through a sponsorship from Merlefest, The Briarhoppers performed on the NC Bluegrass Pavilion Stage at the IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh on Sept 28, 2013.  We were happy to have Tess Ocana (Larry Mangum's daughter) and niece of Homer Drye, running the show and having Steve Johnson from Merlefest helping us out.  What was fun was the surprise audience guests who showed up...The Ellis Family that grew up with Tom Briarhopper!  We had a great time and thanks again to Merlefest and the NC Bluegrass Pavilion for letting us perform!

The Briarhoppers with Homer Drye's Family!

Homer Drye joined the band in 1936 along with Billie Burton Daniel.  Homer left in 1940 and landed in Raleigh and WPTF.  There, he became Homer A. Briarhopper, formed the Dixie Dudes, the Homer A. Briarhopper Band, and the Daybreak Gang which performed mornings on WRAL TV.  Homer also founded the popular Briarhopper Club near Raleigh.

Well, The Briarhoppers performed at IBMA's World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC, on September 28, 2013, and guess who showed up?  Homer's son, Tim, and his wife, Lynda.  It was fun to hear Tim's stories and the see folks go to him when they found out he was Homer's son. 

It was great to see Homer's family for sure!

Fun time at the Romare Bearden Park Grand Opening in Charlotte!

On September 31, the band had the honor of being the finale for the Romare Bearden Park Grand Opening!  We thank the Charlotte Folk Society for sponsoring us, the Flat Possum Hoppers, and other great bands during the day!  In this photo, you see one of our youngest fans coming up and wanting to dance!

This photo is courtesy of The CamMan himself, Daniel Coston!

The WBT Briarhoppers at The Lincoln Cultural Center!

We had a great time at the Lincoln Cultural Center in Lincolnton, NC, on August 31, 2013.  It was an intimate affair where family and friends participated in the concert itself!  A lot of sing-alongs and a huge amount of laughing.  The band thanks Cathy Davis, Director, and her staff for making this gig special.  Photo on behalf of Jim Harkey.  For more photos, go to http://www.lincolnherald.net/main.asp?SectionID=41&SubSectionID=697 .

Read about Claude Casey in the June 1941 edition of Radio Mirror!

Don't worry that the last line of the article says, "continued," as the following page starts another article!

H. A. Thompson!



H. A. and Tom Briarhopper met for lunch at the Cracker Barrel across the road from Carowinds!

H. A.'s face is on a plaque next to a plaque with the faces of the Briarhoppers on a wall with plaques of other folks who are in the WBT Radio Hall of Fame. 

It was a fun time talking about radio history and his memories of the Briarhoppers.

We figured we had to have lunch there more often!

When the Briarhoppers Were Introduced to the World!



We found on a website the first article and photo of the Briarhoppers!  Billie Burton Daniel said she remembered that Radio Mirror magazine did an article on them but could not remember the date.  Well, in the April 1937 edition, here you go!  How neat!

Billie sent us an email about the day the photo was taken:

I remember so well the day this picture was taken. They sent me Duke Photographies (sp.), and made me up with this brown Macromatic makeup. I looked HORRIBLE!!!! and think I look just hideous in this picture. He took several pictures, and two were better than this. (all were pretty bad). He made my eyebrows black as coal, and my skin was chocolate brown, and in person I looked even worse. This was a wonderful write up, though, and was in Radio Mirror. Thank you SO much, I didn't think I'd ever see this again.

We also found out there was another member of the Briarhoppers we did not know about George "Baby Ray" Stewart was a musician with the band, Baby Ray and His Country Cousins.  He was hired as the lead singer in 1943 per another Radio Mirror article.  He must not have stayed too long, but we will add him to the roster!  If you know anything about George Stewart, please send us a message!

The Briarhoppers at the Gaston Library!


Here is the band at another sell-out concert at Gaston Library's main branch in Gastonia, NC.  Playing here is one of the highlights of our schedule and we thank Carol Reinhardt and the Gaston Library folks for making it fun for the audience and for the band!