Bill Clifton (born William August Marburg on April 5, 1931) is an American bluegrass musician and singer who is credited with having organized one of the first bluegrass festivals in the United States in 1961.
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Bill Clifton was born William Marburg into a wealthy family in Riderwood, Maryland. From an early age, he listened to country music radio stations. While still in college, he formed the Dixie Mountain Boys together with his friends Paul Clayton and Dave Sadler. Because his family was opposed to his musical activities, he took the stage name "Bill Clifton". In 1949, he attended the University of Virginia to pursue his degree in business. In 1952, Clifton made his recording debut with the Dixie Mountain Boys. With the addition of banjo player Johnny Clark, the group signed with Blue Ridge Records in 1953 and began playing traditional bluegrass. They soon appeared on the Wheeling Jamboree radio barn dance show on AM station WWVA. Clifton published a songbook in 1955 called 150 Old Time Folk and Gospel Songs. In the mid-1950s, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was discharged two years later. He recorded for Starday Records and Mercury Records, paying for the sessions himself. On July 4, 1961, Clifton organized one of the first bluegrass festivals at Oak Leaf Park in Luray, Virginia (an earlier one-day event had taken place at Watermelon Park near Berryville, Virginia on August 14, 1960). The festival featured many of the biggest acts of the day in bluegrass music including Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Jim & Jesse, Red Allen, Frank Wakefield & The Kentuckians, Mac Wiseman and the Country Gentlemen. In 1963, Clifton's family moved to England and he toured all over Europe playing in local folk clubs. In 1967, he joined the Peace Corps, serving three years in the Philippines. Meanwhile, he recorded with a local New Zealand band, The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band. In later years, he recorded both in Europe and in the United States. In the 1970s, he signed with County Records and formed the First Generation band, consisting of Clifton on guitar, Red Rector on mandolin and Don Stover on banjo. Clifton and his family returned to the United States in 1978 and settled down in Virginia. In 1980, he began recording for his own label Elf Records. In 2008 he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Fame.