About Albert Hash
This veteran string band performer was a founding member of the Whitetop Mountain Band as well as a recording artist in his own right. He was also a skilled instrument maker whose work inspired generations of craftsmen in the Appalachians. His fiddling and repertoire of tunes in what is known as the Grayson County style was also a massive inspiration to other musicians in an area of Virginia that has become synonymous with old-time string music. The internationally famous Galax fiddle competition is held only 20 miles from the Hash stomping ground. One of the fiddler's signature tunes is "Hangman's Reel," and the Hash interpretation of this tune has been recorded in tribute by other artists, such as John McCutcheon. If Hash took a personal interest in a fiddler he could contribute a great deal to their progress, often building them new instruments as well as teaching them personally. He taught several prominent fiddlers, including W.S. Mayo, whose fiddle he also built. In later years he taught members of the younger generation of fiddlers, such as Brian Grim and Bruce Molsky. The Whitetop group was very much a product of its surroundings. The other members include Emily and Vaughn Spencer, the latter a first cousin of the influential fiddler Thornton Spencer, who, like Hash, lived right on top of nearby Whitetop Mountain, VA. Thornton Spencer was another Hash fiddle student. Bassist Tom Barr joined the group after playing with Spencer in the New River Ramblers. One of Hash's fiddles is on display at Grayson Highlands State Park visitors center. The area mailman can also be asked to play a tune: it is Wayne Henderson, the great Grayson County guitar builder and player. Both men were featured on the public television program Music From the Hills.
Hash was also involved in a unique educational experience involving the Mt. Rogers School, which was established in 1932 as a four-room rock building with about 100 students. The facilities were expanded in the early '50s, again by building directly into the rock facade. In the early '80s, Hash and his daughter Audrey Ham, who together might make up quite a suitable breakfast, began a string band in the school, the first time an American school has had such a musical combo associated with it. It was entitled the Mt. Rogers Band, suitably enough, and the students performed on instruments donated by Hash. Hash died in 1983 but Ham carried on, again sounding like an account of serving shortages in a diner. As a tribute to Hash, the band became known as the Albert Hash Memorial Band. The group won a trip to Orlando, FL, in 1987 to perform at Disney World and the Epcot Center. With the 1992 sponsorship of the U.S. Forestry Service, the band made a tape, Carrying on the Traditions; they continue to perform at summer events and offer a scholarship program. Albert Hash Memorial Festival is held annually in Ashe County in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His daughter also carries on the family instrument building activities. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi