Article by Martha Spencer-  From the time I was a baby, I remember Enoch being around, going to music festivals, dances and classes with my parents. He was always good to me, and called me his "little darling". I always loved Enoch's playing and enjoyed being around him.  
I want to thank Harvey Allen Rutherford for all his help with interviews, photos and information, Dale Morris for his help with the article and photos, Chris Testerman for helping with the interview and sharing music, and Kilby Spencer for sharing recordings.
PicturePhoto by Mark Sanderford
Enoch Rutherford (1916-2004) was an old time musician from Grayson County, VA. Coming from a long line of old time pickers, Enoch was well known for his hard driving banjo style and also his old time fiddling; he inspired many banjo pickers and fiddlers to come. Enoch was also a true character and friend to many in the Blue Ridge and beyond. 

Childhood & Early Years

       Enoch Allen Rutherford was born in 1916 in the Gold Hill community of Independence, VA to Harvey Jackson Rutherford and Carrie Maude Phipps Rutherford.  He grew up in a log cabin built in 1848 by his great uncle and then moved by his grandfather, Allen Rutherford; both were soldiers of the Confederate army. Like a lot of families during the Depression, their family made a living by farming, hunting and living off the land.  Several of Enoch's neighbors and kin also made and sold moonshine; when Enoch was a youngster, he said he could walk to seven different stills. Enoch's daddy ran moonshine along with his nephew, Lee Hash. They were once caught with a still, and had to go to Abingdon, Virginia for court, but ended up getting set free and making whiskey for the government.
     Enoch came from a long line of fiddle and banjo players, as far back as he could remember. His father, Harvey Jackson, was a great fiddler, banjo picker, and dancer. Enoch's mother would say that in one holler of Gold Hill, you would hear a fiddle ringing, and on the other side of the holler, you'd hear a banjo playing. Enoch's father would often go to play for dances, house parties, and box suppers at neighbor's houses and in the community. Harvey Jackson's favorite tunes to play were "Stillhouse" and "Jaybird" or often called "Sugar Hill". 
        He started Enoch out on the fiddle when he was 5 years old. He set him on his knee and helped him hold the bow. Enoch's first tune was "Groundhog". Enoch related in an interview, that his father sold 30 packs of garden seeds to afford to buy Enoch his first fiddle for $3, a small half-size fiddle.  A couple years later, Enoch picked up the clawhammer style banjo, learning from his father and older, first cousin, Lee Hash. Both played the drop thumb style with Enoch's father separating his strings a bit more, and Lee frailing a little heavier. Enoch's brother-in-law made his first banjo out of a wooden cigar box with a groundhog hide stretched over it, and window screen wires for the strings. Below you can hear Enoch talking about learning to fiddle and play banjo in an interview.
      Enoch was influenced by several other local musicians as well. When he was young, a lot of musicians would come to their house to pick with Harvey Jackson, and have dance parties. Often pickers would come on Friday night, and pick through til Sunday. One of those was, his cousin, Jincy Stitts Darnell, who Enoch thought was one of the best banjo players he ever heard, and he learned a lot from her. Enoch's son, Harvey Allen, remembered seeing her often wearing a black hat, and carrying her purse on the stub of her left arm. Her left arm had been cut off while working in a cotton mill in Mouth of Wilson, so she played the banjo by noting it on the back of a chair. Enoch said she picked so much she had worn halfway through the back of chair. Enoch also learned to play that way in addition to noting with his fingers. 
     Lester Anders, of Piney Creek, NC, was a fiddler that played with and taught Enoch a lot as well. Glen Halsey of the Bridle Creek area was a guitar picker that used to play a lot with Enoch's dad.
      Other musicians that influenced Enoch early on were Dean Ward, Wade Ward, Harold Ward, Ross Halsey, and Mike Crouse. Enoch also recalled listening into the radio to hear Cousin Emmy pick the clawhammer and liking her style. He learned his version of "Banjo Picking Girl" from hearing Cousin Emmy.


      In 1931, when Enoch was a teenager, he caught at ride in a Model T to the Whitetop Folk Festival. He entered the banjo and flatfoot dance competitions. He received a silver dollar and won $5.00 in the dance contest. The following year, he returned and played "Old Jimmy Sutton" in the banjo contest, winning $5. 
      While working in Pennsylvania for a few months in the 40's, Enoch entered the banjo contest at Sunset Park and also won a blue ribbon there.  
      In the 40s, Enoch would play for box suppers at Potato Creek schoolhouse in Grayson Co, VA almost every weekend. And for several years in the 40s and 50s, Enoch played with Roscoe Halsey, a multi-instrumentalist and Riley Puckett style guitar player, and Lester Anders for square dances in Sparta, NC. 
And on one occasion, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs came to perform at Bridle Creek School, and Enoch got to play banjo with Earl. Enoch said he had busted his thumb while working on the schoolhouse there, but still played anyway. He said by the end of the song, his thumb was bleeding, but Enoch said you couldn't have stopped him if his thumb had fell off from playing with Earl. Earl had said that Enoch was one of the best clawhammer pickers he had ever played with.
     Enoch took a hiatus from playing while raising a family; he would attend conventions, but never enter, just jam out in the field. But in 1972, Enoch got dragged up on the stage by a friend, Harold Ward, at the Independence Fiddlers' Convention. Enoch tore into "Banjo Picking Girl", won first place, and after that, he kept going, never looked back, winning countless old time banjo competitions. 
Not long after that, Enoch played a season with the New River Ramblers, one of the tightest bands on the fiddlers convention circuit who won quite frequently in the 70s. The 1976 line-up consisted of Enoch along with brothers, John and Arnold Perry on guitars, Gilbert Suitt on bass, and James Burris on fiddle.  Dale Morris commented in an interview with Enoch on how the New River Ramblers always tuned their instruments above standard tuning to give them a higher pitch and advantage against other bands. Playing and winning several conventions with the Ramblers got Enoch stirred up and excited about competing.
      Another one of his first bands was the Buck Mountain Boys with fiddler, Dean Ward, Harold Ward, Gene Hall and Enoch's son, Harvey Allen. Along with competing in conventions, they also played for senior dances in Independence, at Starlight Pizza in Independence and Sparta VFW dances. 
      Over the next 25 years, Enoch played with several groups. In the mid-80s, along with a young, Greg Hooven on fiddle, Gene Hall on guitar, and Nancy Bethel on bass, Enoch played in the Iron Mountain Stringband, where they were a part of the film, Music in the Old Time Way. In the early 90s, Enoch rejoined the group with the new line-up of Gene Hall, Nancy Bethel, Dale Morris on guitar and vocals, and Wiley Mayo on fiddle. They recorded an album on Heritage Records Music from the Mountain which was chosen by the Library of Congress for their 10th Anniversary Edition of Selected List of Recordings. The Iron Mountain String Band also were first place victors at the 1991 Galax Old Time Fiddlers' Convention.
     In the late 80s, Enoch teamed up with Dale Morris, Alice Gerrard, Lynn Worth, and Carol Holcomb in the Gold Hill Band. They performed at several shows, festivals, and recorded the album Old Captain Rabbit on Heritage Records. In 1993, the Gold Hill Band regrouped with Enoch, Wiley Mayo, Debbie Larsen, Dale Morris, and Dave Lawson; this line-up was captured on the album, Going Down the Road on Heritage Records. Other line-ups of the Gold Hill Band (Boys) included Frill Taylor, Harvey Allen, Dale Morris, Dean Ward, and Enoch.
     Enoch also performed from time to time with Thornton and Emily Spencer at fiddlers' conventions as well as shows, dances, and festivals with the Whitetop Mountain Band. Enoch's son, Harvey, recalled that Thornton was Enoch's favorite fiddler, and one of his fondest memories was performing at the Carter Family Fold with the Whitetop Mountain Band. Enoch was featured on Heritage Records Old Five String- Volume Two, which was also caught on a video documentary. Thornton and Emily Spencer accompany Enoch on several numbers on the cd and video. 
    Some of Enoch's favorite tunes and showpieces included "Johnson Boys", "Hollyding", "Jimmy Sutton", "Banjo Picking Girl", "Sugar Hill", "Sally Anne" and "Fall on My Knees". Along with playing fiddle and banjo, Enoch also played the dulcimer, piano, and Carter-style guitar. 

Adulthood & Family

    Besides working a couple months in Pennsylvania as a teenager, Enoch spent his whole life in Grayson County, VA. In 1948, Enoch married Louise Anderson of Grubbs Chapel. They had four children, daughter Mary , son Harvey Allen and two children who died at birth. Enoch got his first job working for WPA making 10 cents an hour. To add to his salary, Enoch bootlegged whiskey at work during the day, and ran shine at night, making as much as $30 a day from shining, one of the ways he kept from starving to death back in Hoover times. 
    In an interview with Dale Morris, Enoch told a few tales about a "certain young man" running moonshine. One story involved hiding pint-size moonshine jars inside the tires of '37 Chevy and driving it to WV to sell for big profit. Another involved working for a man who owned a ferry that crossed the New River. The ferry owner also bootlegged whiskey; he sold charred liquor and to make the whiskey bead up real well, would spit tobacco juice in it and then skim off the residue before selling it. When someone wanted to purchase some shine, they would holler across the river for the ferry and then toss a rock in the river for each jar of moonshine they wanted to buy. 
     Through the years, Enoch worked a variety of jobs, as a janitor for many years at Bridle Creek School, then for Davis and Sons in Galax for almost 18 years, and for 4-5 years at the furniture factory in Galax before retiring. Enoch also farmed a little, kept a big garden, and enjoyed hunting. 

Later Life & Legacy

    Over the years, Enoch won many competitions, his whole living room wall was lined with over 350 ribbons from conventions with 65 first place blue ribbons, and 30 or 40 ribbons just from Galax. Enoch won and attended such conventions as Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention, Union Grove, Sugar Grove, Pulaski, Bluefield, Laurel Bloomery, Grayson County, Ashe County, and many, many more. He also performed at festivals, dances and venues throughout the Blue Ridge such as the Whitetop Fire Department Maple, Molasses and Ramp Festivals, Carter Family Fold and VFW dances. Enoch was also featured in several documentaries, books, radio programs, and articles on mountain music like Music in the Old Time WayA Hotbed of Musicians, a French documentary on old time, and a 2003 feature article in the Old Herald written by Dale Morris. He was also awarded the Harold Mitchell Pioneer Award in 2006 for his contribution to old time music. Enoch was also elected the Grand Marshall in the Independence parade. He has also been featured in exhibits at the Blue Ridge Music Center and Ferrum Folklife Festival. 
    Enoch also shared his knowledge with many. He attended music classes and jams at Sparta, Jefferson and Whitetop. Many people also came to visit Enoch to learn his style and tunes at his home. He inspired and taught such musicians as Harvey Allen Rutherford, Allen Rutherford, Emily Spencer, Trish Kilby Fore, Chris Testerman, James and Joey Burris, Lucas Pasley, Dale Morris, Lynn Worth and countless others. 
     Enoch's son, Harvey Allen, carried on the family tradition of music making. Harvey started on fiddle around 8 years old; Enoch learned him Sally Anne for his first song. Harvey went on to not only be a good ole time fiddler, but also an award winning clawhammer banjo picker, guitar player and dancer. Harvey performed in several groups along with Enoch through the years. He also performed in the Old Time New River Boys with James and Joey Burris, and Terry Simones (Gilbert Suitt also played with band). They won at many conventions throughout VA, NC, TN, and WV along with performing at festivals and shows. Their band also was asked by Ralph Stanley to perform several shows with the Clinch Mountain Boys at Sunset Park and other venues. 
    Harvey has two children, Allen and Angel. Allen Rutherford, has also carried on Enoch's driving clawhammer style as well as his old time fiddling style. Allen spent a lot of time learning to play from Enoch. Before Enoch passed away, he got to see Allen win his first blue ribbon in the banjo contest, and was very proud of Harvey Allen and grandson, Allen's playing. Allen and Harvey Allen both currently perform with the Cabin Creek Boys, and have won at many conventions and performed at several festivals throughout the Blue Ridge. They also recorded a Cabin Creek Boys album along with Chris Testerman on fiddle and Mark Rose on bass. Below is a  video of Harvey and Allen performing with the Cabin Creek Boys at the Galax Fiddlers' Convention, where they took first place in 2008.

Stories from Friends & Family

From Harvey Allen, son and bandmate
I loved my Dad, we had more fun. If every person could enjoy their Dad as much as I did, it would be a different world. Dad was my hero, he never gave up the music. One thing he asked was for me and Allen to stick with playing.

I'd ask Dad to play a tune, and sometimes he'd say if you'd played as many tunes as my thumb, you wouldn't even ask me that. We picked at so many conventions and we'd play so hard that his thumb would have pure blood coming out of it. 

Dad was always ready to go somewhere first. We'd be getting ready to go somewhere and he'd get irritated at us for being too slow and he'd take off walking. We'd drive and he would almost always beat us to the place somehow. 

Dad liked to play practical jokes sometimes. One time, my stomach was bothering me and I sent Allen down to Dad's to get something to help. Dad gave him a bottle of milk of magnesia and told Allen that I only needed a couple drinks out of it, but to tell me to drink the whole bottle. I did, and I couldn't leave the house for a week. Dad and Allen both thought it was pretty funny. 

From Thornton Spencer, friend and musician
Enoch liked to play and he liked to play fast. I liked to play with him because I liked to play fast too. He had everyone beat on Sugar Hill in my opinion, played that awful good. And I thought he had everyone beat on Old Time Sally Anne, too. Enoch also could play with a lot of volume. One time at the Sugar Grove Fiddlers' Convention, the pa set wasn't working, but when Enoch played, he was loud enough so people could hear him and played real good. He played Sugar Hill, some folks said, "well, the rest of these banjo players might as well go home. He who plays loudest wins." The other banjo players you couldn't hear well without the pa system, and I suspect might not have played as well anyway.

Enoch went with us to play at the Carter Fold, and when Flurry was gone, Enoch would also fill in with the band. He played with us at the Helton Fiddlers Convention and won first place, and I can remember Emily fiddling at Helton Fiddlers' Convention and Enoch backed her up, and she won second place. Enoch tried to be good to people and would help anyone out if he could with their music or whatever. He tried to treat everyone nice who visited him. 

From Emily Spencer, friend and musician
Enoch was always ready to go somewhere. He didn't drive in his older years, and he liked to go places. He liked to go Long John Silver's. He would go with us to Sparta to the Crouse House for music classes and jams. He also went several places we played with us like the Maple Festival, and he would catch rides up to music classes in Whitetop and Jefferson. He would call every week, about once a week and talk for long time. 
One time, he called the house, and asked for Trish Kilby's number. He said, "I tried to call her the other day, and I got that same ole dang lady on the phone again, saying "ne, ne, ne, you got the wrong number, try again. I can't stand that old lady."

The first time we saw Enoch was at Independence Fiddlers' Convention in the early 70s. Right after he started playing in the competitions, he won several. We got to know him, I backed him up in several conventions, we played together a lot, and I learned a lot from watching him and playing with him. Enoch was a good un', and we miss him a lot. 

From Lucas Pasley, friend and musician
 I loved how proud Enoch was of his ribbons, I remember sitting in his living room and him looking around and showing us his ribbons just as proud as he could be. Along the same lines, I loved how hard he was on crooked judging. Enoch also drop-thumbed the banjo a lot. Overall, I remember his humor and his great, great smile.


Richard Dunlap
07/10/2013 5:39am

Great music and good research.

Did he have any West Virginia connections?

Frank Osborne
10/29/2014 10:24pm

thanks to all that took the time to wright this i loved my uncle and miss him i spent a lot of summers visiting him in the late 60s and 70s he was a real blast to be with.


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