100 birthday candles and textured type

A friend recently gave me a vintage poster from an old-time and bluegrass festival. She was doing some spring-cleaning when this relic of her 20s surfaced. “I knew that you would appreciate it,” she said. The poster features a pencil illustration of a banjo player and one of the headliners is none other than Janette Carter, of Carter Family fame.

Folk Festival of the Smokies poster

Folk Festival of the Smokies, courtesy of Charlotte Coley

Anyone who has conversed with me for more than five minutes knows my roots run deep in southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina, where music is part of a culture that reaches back in time to the Scots-Irish immigrants who traveled down the Great Wagon Trail. I grew up surrounded by this music, but not truly appreciating it until well into adulthood. My grandfather, Albert Hash, was a local celebrity, who was a talented musician and luthier. An eclectic collection of characters crossed the threshold of my grandparents’ home in Mouth of Wilson, to be educated, entertained, and fed. Biscuits and cornbread were also a part of my childhood.

One of these sojourners was Mark Sanderford, who captured Granddad, his fellow musicians, relatives, and visitors in rich black & white photographs. Others, such as Wayne Martin, did field recordings. The man who made Eric Clapton’s guitar —Wayne Henderson — got his start crafting instruments when his father saw an interest in the youngster and said, “We need to go visit Albert.” Countless others sought his council on music, woodcraft, and life in general.

We knew he was a great and talented man, but mostly to us grand kids, Albert Hash was the grown-up who didn’t mind acting silly to entertain us. He was the man who could fix anything, who pulled my first loose tooth, and gave me a quarter when my big sister laid a hurtin’ on me (in her defense, it was probably deserved) so I could buy a candy bar at my Uncle Thornton’s store. The list of kindnesses, big and small, goes on and on.

Why is any of this noteworthy? Because today marks the 100th birthday of Ab and Della Mae’s third son, Albert, in Rugby, Virginia. In music circles, people who knew him remember him fondly and those who never met him lament they missed the chance to meet such a creative, warm, and giving person.


The worn painted lettering of a Pepsi crate, which served as a seat for a jam session. The folk art illustrations of festival posters. Flowers drawn on love letters to my grandmother from decades long gone. Visual reminders of a wonderful childhood coupled with the loving memory of a granddaughter. Happy 100, Granddad!

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