Carlton Haney, Bluegrass Festival Pioneer, Dead at 82

Bluegrass and country music promoter Carlton Haney died Wednesday (March 16) at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, N. C., of complications from a stroke. He was 82. Born in Reidsville, N. C., Haney became interested in bluegrass music in the early 1950s through dating bluegrass originator Bill Monroe’s daughter, Melissa. This led to his booking shows for Monroe. From 1955 to 1964, he managed the bluegrass duo Reno & Smiley. Also during the 1960s, he began to book “package shows” that featured both bluegrass and country acts on the same stage. Country music historians credit him as having been influential in the careers of the Osborne Brothers, Porter Wagoner, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn. He can be heard introducing Haggard on two live albums, Okie From Muskogee (1969) and The Fightin’ Side of Me (1970). Haney is best known for co-creating the multiple-day bluegrass festival, an institution that would gradually develop into a principal showcase and source of income for bluegrass acts. Working with Ralph Rinzler, Monroe’s former manager and then member of the Greenbriar Boys, Haney organized a two-day show over Labor Day weekend in 1965 at a horse farm in Fincastle, Va. He continued staging the festival over the next few years at various locations. He was also a songwriter, penning or co-penning such Reno & Smiley staples as “He Will Forgive You,” “Kneel Down” and the novelty tune “Jimmy Caught the Dickens (Pushing Ernest in the Tub).” Haney was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1998. Funeral services are being arranged through Citty Funeral Home in Reidsville.