Archived Arts & Entertainment

Steve Sutton Memorial Festival

The Lonesome River Band will play Black Mountain May 19. File photo The Lonesome River Band will play Black Mountain May 19. File photo

There will be a special concert in memory of late Haywood County banjo great Steve Sutton kicking off at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, on the big outdoor stage at Silverados in Black Mountain. 

Performers will include Lonesome River Band, Ashley Heath & Her Heathens, Darren Nicholson & Shawn Lane, Whitewater Bluegrass Co., Mountain Tradition Cloggers and J.A.M. All-Stars.

This event is a benefit for the Steve Sutton Memorial Charitable Trust. The trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to continue Sutton’s legacy of sharing joy and helping others through music. Proceeds from this event will benefit local music scholarships, as well as the International Bluegrass Music Association Trust Fund.

A longtime member of The Darren Nicholson Band and Whitewater Bluegrass Company, Sutton was 60 years old when he passed away in his sleep on May 13, 2017, one day shy of his 61st birthday.

“I basically owe my musical career to him,” said mandolinist Darren Nicholson formerly of International Bluegrass Music Association “Entertainer of the Year” bluegrass act Balsam Range, who was Sutton’s best friend and longtime collaborator. “He got me my first professional job, which led to all the relationships that are still relevant in my current career. Steve believed in me so much that he took me to Strains of Music in Waynesville and paid cash for a Gibson mandolin. Steve was kind to everyone he met and helped countless people — he just had a good heart.”

A Grammy-nominated, multiple IBMA award-winner himself, Sutton graduated from Tuscola High School in Waynesville. Upon graduation, he was simultaneously offered gigs with the “Godfather of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe and bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin.

Related Items

“But, Jimmy offered me something like $10 more a week, so I took it,” Sutton chuckled in a 2015 interview with The Smoky Mountain News.

In 1974, Sutton joined Martin on the road, kicking off a career that took him across the globe, ultimately gracing the Grand Ole Opry stage numerous times. Sutton also had stints with Alecia Nugent and Rhonda Vincent. And through his lifelong pursuit of bluegrass and mountain music, Sutton also remembered where it all began, alongside late banjo great and Bluegrass Hall of Famer Raymond Fairchild.

“[Steve’s] talent and free-flowing sense of humor constantly fed that professional effort to the highest levels,” said Marc Pruett, Grammy-winning banjoist of Balsam Range. “Steve was a valued, respected member of a heritage-schooled, living culture. He was ‘the real deal,’ and his warm smile and larger-than-life talent leaves a void in our mountains that can’t be filled.”

Tickets to the performance are $35 per person. Gates open at 1 p.m. The show will be all ages. For more information and/to purchase tickets online, go to

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.