Briarhoppers to play for Flight of Honor veterans
The WBT Briarhoppers, a bluegrass-country music band that World War II G.I.s in Europe heard over the radio, will play for the war’s veterans Sept. 17 before their airport departure on Rotary District 7680’s seventh and final Flight of Honor.
The WBT Briarhoppers no longer has any of the original band members, but the current members keep alive the legacy of the original group.
Some of the approximately 120 World War II veterans who will be waiting to board their Flight of Honor at Charlotte Douglas International Airport may have heard the band during the war when CBS Radio broadcast its music to the troops in Europe.
The veterans on the flight will be on a one-day all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial and other sites of interest to the veterans.
More than a dozen of the veterans are from Rowan County.
The WBT Briarhoppers pre-date World War II. In 1934 WBT Radio announcer Charles Crutchfield formed a spur-of -the-moment musical group to satisfy a potential sponsor looking for a “hillbilly” radio program to showcase its products. Known as the WBT Briarhoppers, this group went on to become one of the longest lasting bluegrass/country ensembles in America, staying on the air until 1951 and continuing to perform today.
The 50,000-watt radio show was heard from “Maine to Miami” five days a week. The Briarhoppers have received many awards for their work, including the North Carolina Brown Hudson Folklore Award, the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, the North Carolina Legislature’s Joint Resolution Bill 2058 saluting the band’s achievements, and entry into the WBT Radio Hall of Fame.
Fiddling Dwight Moody was born in Lacrosse, Va. He formed The Virginia Playboys in 1946-47 and played his first radio program over WHNC-AM in Henderson. He also worked with Homer A. Briarhopper beginning in 1947. He has played in 29 countries for Rotary International to eradicate polio. He is the father of the Moody Brothers.
Alana (banjo), Hannah (fiddle) and Dillon Flowers (mandolin) are award-winning musicians who, with the Flowers Family Band, have played at venues throughout the United States, and they represent the WBT Briarhoppers’ future.
Dobroist Richard Hollis has shared the stage with some of the country’s greatest musicians including Little Roy Lewis, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, The Osborne Brothers, George Hamilton IV, Bruce and Lee Jones and The Log Cabin Boys, the Moody Brothers and others. Richard is considered one of the smoothest Dobro players in the country.
Bass player Tom Warlick is the group’s emcee who uses the original Peruna, Kolor-Bak, Zymole Torkey and Radio Girl commercials text during a WBT Briarhopper show.