Bluegrass Festival Supports Allegheny Highlands Trail

A Nashville artist will be the featured performer Saturday at the fifth annual Allegheny Highlands Trail Bluegrass Festival taking place from 12 noon to 7 p.m. in Montrose.

Fiddle wizard, guitar and banjo maestro, singer, and songwriter Clinton Gregory will bring his amazing talent to the tiny stage of the Montrose Community Park.

Known for country music singles such as “Play, Ruby, Play” and “If it Weren’t for Country Music I’d Go Crazy,” Gregory’s roots are in bluegrass.

“I’m just a hillbilly fiddler,” Gregory said. “I grew up in bluegrass and old time music with my dad and his dad, for five generations as far as I know.”

Festival guests will enjoy tunes from the autobiographical album “Roots of My Raising,” recorded in 2013 by the Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band, and other selections.

Gregory was born in Martinsville, Va., a small town close to the southern border between Virginia and North Carolina known for NASCAR racing. He was just 12 when he left Virginia for Nashville, where his father Willie Gregory was playing at the Grand Ole Opry. Word spread around Music City about the young fiddler, who soon was playing on records by country and Bluegrass stars such as Suzy Bogguss and the McCarters.

A cover of “Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine” by Gov. Jimmie Davis became Gregory’s first solo single. The single “Play, Ruby, Play,” made the Billboard country Top 25 in the spring of 1992. He charted eleven billboard country singles between 1991 and 1995, earning praise from some country legends in the process.

“Clinton is one of the best young traditional country singers in Nashville right now. Maybe the best ever,” said Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Cochran, who wrote or co-wrote such country classics as “I Fall To Pieces,” “Make The World Go Away,” and “The Chair.” The Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band will take the stage in Montrose at 5:30 p.m.

The festival will also welcome old friends and newcomers to the community park, located on Salt Lick Road ¼ mile off US Rt. 219 in Montrose.

Two of the area’s most popular and talented fiddle players will return in 2015.

Four-time state fiddle champion Johnny Cochran and the Johnny Cochran Trio will take the stage at 1:30 p.m. Cochran will be joined by Mark Hamrick on guitar and Lee Sines on electric bass.

A child prodigy, Cochran began performing for the public at age four on WWVA’S live Radio Show and “The Wheeling Jamboree,” broadcast from the Capital Theater in Wheeling.

He also performed with his father, sister and three brothers in a family band. Hailing from Diana, W.Va., “The Cochran Family” traveled extensively during the 1970s. Over the course of his career Cochran has played with legendary icons including George Jones, Johnny Paycheck and Lynn Anderson.

Local fiddle favorite Jesse Milnes will make his fourth appearance at the festival. Milnes, who also plays guitar and performs vocals, will be joined by Emily Miller on fiddle, guitar and vocals; Nate Druckenmiller on guitar and mandolin; and Joe DeJarnette of Floyd, Va., on bass.

Milnes has performed far and wide at venues such as the West Virginia State Folk Festival, the Appalachian Stringband Festival, the Los Angeles Old-Time Social, and the nationally syndicated radio program, “A Prairie Home Companion.” His music is comfortable in various genres from old time and bluegrass to an occasional swing or blues tune.

Druckenmiller is a music instructor and banjo builder. In addition to performing, he also repairs instruments. Miller is a member of the internationally known group, “The Sweetback Sisters.”

The group will also feature flatfoot dancer Becky Hill of Elkins on several numbers. A dance instructor at the Augusta Heritage Center, Hill is also the director of the Appalachian Ensemble Dancers of Davis & Elkins College.

Jesse Milnes and Friends recently performed on Mountain Stage during the 2015 Augusta Festival. The group will perform at 3:30 p.m. in Montrose.

Leonard Stalnaker of Ireland, W.Va., will open the festival with the first set at 12 noon. Stalnaker recently retired as music therapist at Sharpe Hospital in Weston, and is a former member of the Stonewall Resort house band, The Stalnaker Brothers. A favorite at honkytonks and festivals, Stalnaker is at home in blues, country and bluegrass. He will perform on guitar, harmonica and vocals.

Montrose resident and award-winning bluegrass banjoist Joe Gainer has participated in past events and will return to the 2015 festival as announcer.

“This festival has always featured top-notch performers and I am glad to be a part of it,” Gainer said. “The event promotes the music. It’s great entertainment and lots of fun. And, you can’t beat that barbeque meal they serve.”

The Allegheny Highlands Trail Bluegrass Festival is made possible by support from Carte Hall Associates, the City of Parsons, ComforTech, Davis Trust Company, Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, Elkins Physical Therapy & Sports Injury Clinic, the F.L.Y. Market, First Energy Foundation, Hendricks Station, Joey’s Bike Shop, Liberty 1 Construction, Papa John’s Pizza, Peter Pan Cleaners, Stonewall Resort, T.J.S Tire, Talbott Frameshop, The Inter-Mountain, and West Virginia Radio Corporation.

Advance tickets are available at Joey’s Bike Shop or online at Ticket price includes a pulled pork BBQ meal with sandwich, fresh homemade coleslaw, corn on the cob, baked beans, drink and dessert. Music and food will be served from 12 noon to 7 p.m.

Children are welcome and can enjoy the park’s playground during the festival performance. Dogs and alcohol are not permitted.

All proceeds of the Allegheny Highlands Trail Bluegrass Festival will benefit the Highlands Trail Foundation. HTF has worked since 1995 to develop and promote the Allegheny Highlands Trail in Randolph and Tucker counties. Find Highlands Trail Foundation on Facebook or email for more information and directions.