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The Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop, Virginia is an area rich in the old time music tradition; this band has deep roots in mountain music. The members have done much to preserve the Whitetop region's style of old time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style.
At the same time, Whitetop Mountain Band shows are very versatile and entertaining containing everything from fiddle/banjo instrumentals to powerful solos and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honky tonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old timey ballads, originals, and four part mountain gospel songs. Shows also include flat foot dancing. The band is well known for their high energy and charisma on stage.
The Whitetop Mountain Band is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. They have a great following at square dances all over Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky at venues like the Carter Family Fold. The band has also performed at all sorts of venues throughout the United States from festivals to concerts, competitions, and colleges. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in NYC, Carter Family Festival, Dock Boggs Festival, World Fair, Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival and Merlefest are a few of the many festivals the band has performed at. They recently were featured on the NCTA Crooked Road Music tour of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho in October 2007. In September 2007, Members also toured the United Kingdom and Ireland playing the Cornish Bluegrass Festival and Open House Festival along with venues through England, Wales, and Ireland. In January 2008, members of the band also played at the Illawarra Folk Festival and Tamworth Country Music Festival in New South Wales, Australia. The band has also taught and been master musicians/dancers for workshops and classes in fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals, and dance all over the US. Some of these include Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, NC, Cowan Creek Music School in KY, Mountain Music School in Big Stone Gap, and Mt. Rogers Combined School. Thornton and Martha also participated in the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Master/Apprenticeship Program in Old Time Fiddling.
The band has also won many awards throughout the years at competitions and fiddlers conventions like Fiddlers Grove, Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention, Sugar Grove, Jefferson, Fairview Battle of the Bands, Laurel Bloomery, etc. They have over a hundred ribbons/trophies altogether in band, fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, folk song, duet singing, and dancing awards. In 2012, they received a bill passed by the State Senate and House for their contribution to Virginia mountain music. The Whitetop Mountain Band also won ACMA Old Time Entertainers of the Year in 2013.
The band currently has recordings on the Arhoolie Record Label and Virginia Foundation of the Humanities. The band has also been recorded by JuneAppal, Heritage and been on compilations for Rounder Records.
The Whitetop Mountain Band has been featured in many books, magazines, and tv/radio shows about Appalachian music such as The Guide to the Crooked Road, A Hotbed of Musicians, Strings of Life, In Good Keeping, Country Music Television, Travel Channel, PBS, Old Time Herald, and many tv news and radio programs.
The Whitetop Mountain Band is still carried on today by Thornton Spencer on fiddle, and Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals along with their multi-instrumentalist and dancing daughter, Martha Spencer, Ersel Fletcher on guitar/vocals, Debbie Bramer on bass, and Jackson Cunningham on mandolin/vocals.