The Legendary WBT 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 WBT 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 WBT 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 WBT Briarhoppers' storied past and the bright future that is ahead. Don't turn that dial...Hit's Briarhopper Time!


Music at the Depot!

Here is a link to purchase tickets for our concert on Friday, March 28, starting at 7PM.  Hope to see y'all there!
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/469784

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!

Dwight Moody's Funeral Arrangements

Memorial services will be held Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at Hickory Grove United Methodist Church, 6401 Hickory Grove Road, Charlotte, NC, beginning at 11:00 AM

In lieu of flowers, the Moody Family requests that memorials be made to the NC Korean War Veterans Association (www.koreanwarmemorialnc.com) or the Fender Foundation (www.fendermusicfoundation.org) in Dwight's honor.

Dwight Briarhopper Moody Remembrances, Part 1

From the award-winning and WBT Hall of Famer, H.A. Thompson:


Tom,
Thanks so much for this sad news on one of the nicest, warmest human beings I ever met.  I've got goose bumps thinking about him.  Dwight Moody was always the same.  He loved his music and got so much joy out of sharing it.   And what a family man he was.   He and his wife raised 3 talented men ......all in the music business.   When the 4 of them played together it was magic.  One of his sons heads up the music of Disney in Paris.   The secret in life is to find something you love to do and they did it.   The Moody Brothers wrote a Grammy nominated song a number of years ago....."Midnight Flyer".   God it was good.   "Cotton Eyed Joe" was another one.  And there is a newer song on one of their CD's.....they wrote, "If It Ain't Love".    Just the cutest song and lyrics.   They often played at retirement centers around Charlotte.  I'd go out and kibitz with them and we'd have a ball.    
Dwight Moody made all of us better and I'm so glad our paths crossed.   What a lovely man he was.   His life was long and full.  May you rest in peace good man and thanks for leaving such a great legacy.    
 
H.A.Thompson

Dwight Briarhopper Moody Passes

We are sad to announce Dwight's passing on July 12, 2013, at the age of 83.  He had been in declining health for a while and had not performed with the band for about 2 years, but he remained a Bhopper.

When we know about funeral arrangements, we will let you know.

The WBT Briarhoppers Prepping for a Gig!

Here is the band talking about the song list at our last gig.  We always have fun during a concert, but you need to come early sometime and watch the fun we have cutting up!

Here is the family of Big Bill Davis!

Here are the daughter and grand-daughter of original BHopper, Big Bill Davis!  Shirley McLellan and her daughter, Faith McLellan, are shown in France!  Faith works for the World Health Organization in Geneva and had her mom go over to enjoy Europe.  They look like they are having a great time!  Big Bill is smiling!  He knows hit is still "Briarhopper Time!"

Homer Drye and Roy Rogers?


We got a great email from Billie Burton Daniel (Little Billie Briarhopper, Class of 1936) regarding being at a theatre in Charlotte where Roy Rogers was playing...the message is short but is boundless in how popular Homer A. Briarhopper (Homer Drye) was.  Thanks Billie! 

"When Homer and I were children on the original Briar Hoppers, Roy Rogers came to Charlotte and appeared at the Criterian Theater, which was a B movie theater, (this was in 1937 or 1938, he was just beginning to be known) and he asked Homer to join his show, but Homer didn't want to leave our show. (Don't you know he regretted that decision.)"