Cloggers with shoes from hell at The Carter Fold

I’ve been going to the Carter Fold just across the Virginia state line from Kingsport almost as long as it’s been in existence–a one-of-a-kind acoustic performance center built and run by the First Family of country music. From the start, audience members have been welcome to get up and clog along with the songs. For years, people danced in whatever shoes they had on–sneakers, cowboy boots, work boots, and you name it. Now, however, cloggers are showing up with tap shoes designed to make as much noise as possible. Finally, a band said “Enough!”

The band that night was Hunter Berry and Friends. Hunter is a gifted fiddle player in Rhonda Vincent’s band, and he’s her son-in-law as well. His friends that night were a collection of talented pickers who delivered a wonderful show–when they could be heard.

Every time a fast song came on, the cloggers wearing shoes from hell came out on the concrete floor in front of the stage and began their racket. Overweight women clacked and clattered and displayed flapping chests that looked possessed. I have nothing against clogging groups with taps. Dancing in rhythm, their use of taps allows them to demonstrate their synchronization and talent.

But there was no such synchronicity at the Carter Fold. Every time a remotely fast song came on, the music had to compete with an industrial sound that transformed “Angel Band” into the “Anvil Chorus.” Hunter Berry, brave soul, asked the cloggers to hold off during slower songs so that the audience could hear the lyrics. You could tell that the noisemakers weren’t used to hearing that, but they began to back off. Later in the evening, a grey-haired woman took it on herself to walk out onto the floor and ask cloggers to sit down during the quieter songs.

Three cheers for Hunter Berry and his faithful companion who tried to keep the focus of the Carter Fold on where it ought to be: the music. Cloggers should leave their rackety taps at home.

6 Responses to Cloggers with shoes from hell at The Carter Fold

  1. Bill says:

    I was there and this is not what happened. The band would ask the dancers to come out when they played fast tunes. The “little ole lady” asked some dancers to leave the floor during a gospel song. She did embassass herself by asking Hunter’s mother and Rhonda Vincent’s husband to leave the floor when Hunter played a waltz he wrote for his parents. They were the only people dancing.

    As far as cloggers bothering me as a musician, the only time it bothered me was a group of girls clogging and not keeping time with the music a couple of years ago.

    So, there!!!

  2. Peggy says:

    I’ve have the privilege to play in a band several times at the Carter Fold. I love seeing the dancers, from the little kids to folks in their 80’s and 90’s, on the dance floor having fun! Isn’t that what we’re there for? The taps don’t bother us at all! As a matter of fact, if they didn’t come out on the dance floor when we play, THAT would definitely be a major let down. Carter Fold is a great place to go for anyone who wants to have a great time!!

  3. Randy says:

    I am a flatfoot dancer with shoes from hell! This is the first time I have seen, been told or heard of a complaint from anyone about dancers with taps at the Carter Fold. Have on many occasions had audience members tell me how much they enjoy the dancers.
    I also was present at the Fold the night Hunter Berry made his vocal request from the stage. I failed to hear him say anything directed especially to the dancers with tap shoes from hell. His statement was directed to dancers in general. Nor did I hear a thunders roar from the crowd cheering on his behalf.
    This article to which Tnguy has expressed his concern and dislike is much misleading. The Carter Fold, although an acoustical forum does have a very elaborate sound system which can definitely be heard over any noise a tap shoe from hell could make. Last time I checked the Carter Fold is still being promoted as a venue for preserving traditional mountain and folk music with lots of dancing. So one should expect to see dancers and hear some foot stomping.
    Anyone considering a trip to Carter Fold should not let this article from Tnguy discourage you. There is still plenty of music to be heard and fun to be had.

  4. tennesseeguy says:

    Thanks to all for stepping up, so to speak, on the subject of taps on clogging shoes at the Carter Fold. Randy, the flatfoot dancer who wrote on January 3, says “the Carter Fold is still being promoted as a venue for preserving traditional mountain and folk music with lots of dancing.”

    Randy hits the nail on the head; the key word here is “traditional.” For Carter Fold musicians, “traditional” means no electric instruments or drums. I’m saying that the same high standard should apply to flatfooters. Taps are not traditional. When my 80-some-year-old mother learned to clog as a girl in Scott County, no one used taps. When the Carter Fold first opened, taps were seldom seen. Back then audiences saw people get up and dance like Appalachian folks have done ever since we came to these hills. It was traditional all the way.

    Taps are entirely appropriate for an organized group of cloggers who have worked up a routine and practiced for hours and are the featured performers on the stage. The rhythmic sound of taps allows them to show off their talent and hard work.

    On most nights at the Carter Fold, however, there are no performances of organized flatfooters, and any benefit of taps for the spectators is lost. What the audience hears instead is pure noise, and a lot of it.

    Yes, the Carter Fold has a wonderful sound system, and yes, it can be cranked up to drown out the clatter of taps, but it shouldn’t have to be. The joy of watching the dancers–and it is a joy–is not in their sound but in their movement: the skills they bring to the floor, each person interpreting the music his or her own way, and the looks of happiness on their faces. I personally love to see the old folks get out there and for a few minutes become young again.

    So Randy and other flatfooters, keep coming to the Fold and keep on dancing. Your presence makes the concerts all that better. You are a link to the times when mountain people entertained themselves and didn’t depend on TV or iPods. You inspire young people to try something old and old people to get up and “cut the rug” one more time. Your dancing preserves and honors the traditions of the past and of the Fold.

    Just leave those noisemaking taps at home.

    • Tennessee Guy, I agree with you a 100%, unless it is a choreographed tap dance show its just noise, especially when the dancer is out of step with the band. I have been singing when it became hard to keep the actual beat to a song because of the tap dancing out of beat.

      Rev. Jack Thomas
      Southern Gospel Singer and Pianist

  5. megan says:

    dont listen 2 that tnguy he just wants pepole to stop going to the carter fold me personaly i dont like him…..and stop making fun of my friends and family jerk…..and yes i am related 2 the carters and i dont like wut u said …i was on the dane floor that nite u said that i do not like it at all so if u dont like the cloggers then stop comeing…………………..

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