NC is clog wild

I just happened to catch a news item that current Miss North Carolina Adrienne Core won the talent portion of the 2011 Miss America Pageant with “a fast-paced, contemporary clogging routine.” Many may already know that clogging is NC’s official state folk dance. I remember doing a bit of clogging (terribly) in my youth in Boone, and seeing some pretty amazing performances by clogging troupes, but I know nothing of the dance’s origins. According to Wikipedia,

Clogging is a type of folk dance with roots in traditional European dancing, early African-American dance, and traditional Cherokee dance in which the dancer’s footwear is used musically by striking the heel, the toe, or both in unison against a floor or each other to create audible percussive rhythms. Clogging was social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century.

Fascinating to consider how those European, Cherokee and African American influences might have come together! From Wikipedia I also learn the interesting tidbit that “in the U.S. team clogging originated from square dance teams in Asheville, North Carolina’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (1928), organized by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in the Appalachian region.” (Mr. Lunsford has been discussed on this blog a few times in the past, including in detail in one of our “Worth 1,000 Words” essays).

Hugh Morton took many photos of the world-renowned Grandfather Mountain Cloggers troupe, including the one above, which shows the Cloggers performing during halftime of a 1974 UNC-Maryland basketball game, and those below taken at the 1977 White House Easter Egg Roll and during the taping of a segment of Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road.”

I’m curious to learn more about the origins of the Grandfather Mountain Cloggers. Who founded the troupe? What became of it? Internet searches turn up little except for a very small Facebook group, whose description intriguingly invites “all those who were members back when clogging was a precision dance.” Is it no longer considered as such? Are there raging stylistic debates in the world of clogging? I’m dying to know.

16 thoughts on “NC is clog wild”

  1. Those were high school kids in the Watauga County and surrounding area who clogged on that team back in the 70s. We had a younger team for us elementary kids that clogged at the NC State Fair back in 73 (I think). Clogging is still big in the area. Some clogging teams are still traditional, like the Grandfather Cloggers were, with contra style dancing and frilly skirts. Others have more modern music with a cheerleading style of formation dancing. It’s lots of fun and kids still enjoy it. I wanted so much to be able to dance like Tommy and Marette! Thanks for the memory.

  2. When The Grandfather Mountain Cloggers, led by David Alexander, clogged for Charles Kuralt’s “On The Road” one of the male dancers was a student from the NC School for the Deaf. Charles was deeply impressed that the young man performed without missing a beat. I am ashamed that I cannot remember his name, but he was a splendid dancer and a fine athlete to be able to meet the Grandfather Cloggers very high standards. Charles told me once that he told the production staff to turn off the music for thirty seconds while running the film so the viewers could better understand the scope of the young dancer’s feat. They cut the music off for only half of that time which annoyed Charles. I think his call was correct; viewers would have been more able to empathize with the young man who danced to such profound sulence.

  3. Just to be clear, the young man who was was deaf was dancing with the Cloggers at Grandfather Golf and Country Club when the picture you posted was taken. I don’t believe he was a member of the team for most of their many years of celebrity. I know they danced for Jerry Lewis’ Marathon ( Is that what they called those long fund raisers on TV? )They danced on the NC float in the Inaugural Parade for President Carter. (Carter, I think!)The list was endless. They were splendid dancers and generous with their skill.

  4. I believe David Alexander was the founder of the Grandfather Mountain Cloggers. In addition, he taught clogging at NC School for the Deaf under a federally funded arts project. There were two deaf students on the Grandfather Team, Robin Garrison and a pretty little red head named Debbie Turner, pictured above.

  5. For Julia Morton,
    It’s Robin Garrison, previous clogger and celebrity 1974-78 with Grandfather Mountain cloggers and Granfather Mountain deaf cloggers won state champion and best couple cloggers in 1976 proudly. Yes, Julian that’d be me who you said you are shame to forget famous deaf clogger’s name from NC school of the Deaf, Morganton, NC. MY NAME IS ROBIN GARRISON. Currently, I live in Florida and I do still visit my home state North Carlonia,Proudly native
    Still do dancing ! ! !

  6. Absolutely inspiring to see such talent, perserverance and determination in each and every one of the team. Robin, you have inspired others to reach out to follow their hearts desires and dreams. Thank you. Interestingly, a friend just received the On the Road with Charles Kuralt, watching you and the dance team was beautiful!

  7. Grandfather Mountain Cloggers were founded by David Alexander (my teacher) and for most of the years that they danced the male dancers were David, his brother Mike and Tom and Willie Light. The girls were Linda Cook, Mariette Winkler, Beverly Brooks, Kim Haysacker. There were some other from time to time, Robin, mentioned above stared dancing with the team some back in 77. There were two other girls, Liz and Amanda that danced some, but I cannot recall there last names. I was an alternate for the team but always danced on the junior team and was the teams caller. Sometime around 1979 there was a split up and the Light brothers (including a 3rd brother, Wally), Kim, Liz, Amanda, Debbie Cook from the junior team and myself formed our own team (The Goodtime Cloggers). We had a fifth couple as well made up of two members of David’s little team, Melissa Cook and Tom Tolf, but they did not dance in the routines. Some of the pictures you may have saw on the Facebook page that I was a member of but it now appears to be gone, were of us. That page was put together by Tom Light.
    As far as the difference between the clogging then and now, I will say that I do not recognize most of what I see these days. It has been over 30 years now, and I know that things change over time, so who knows. I know that we all had great times back then, traveling to places and dancing before big crowds and in competitions. It has been more than 20 years since I last ran into David Alexander in Boone, but I will always remember him fondly as a great teacher and a friend.

    1. The beginning of the original girls were The Andrews sisters, Tina Greene and myself and Mariette. The guys were David Mike Greg Tommy Willy and Wally starting in 1970ish. We did the movie ‘Somebody Moved My Mountain’ in 1972; Joined Bob Hope for a show at Freedom Hall in JC; many Grandfather Mountain Club shows; Grandfather Singing on the Mountain; two or three seasons of CW Chelsey NCAA halftime shows; Bush Gardens; Atlantic City Miss America Parade; Gov Broyhill inauguration and many more miles we traveled. It was the best years of my life. David was amazing!! The Alexander’s treated each of us as their own and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience it all. Thank you to the Morton family for the belief and support! Mr Hugh adopted us all!

      Ingrid Brown

      1. Soo many amazing dancers came in the days like Rick Ruckart, Rob, Pam Banner and all already listed. We were all one family even if we weren’t dancing!!!

        1. And I’m sorry not forgetting other groups that many of us started with like Morris Hampton Daniel Boone Cloggers. Mo is amazing as well!! There’s so much history it can’t fit on one page.

          I would LOVE to see if the Morton family has the photo history from the start on the mountain and events at the club?! That would touch us all!!!

          Thank you again

  8. The Cultural Arts Program at NC School for the Deaf hired David Alexander in August, 1975. Robin Garrison and Debbie Turner did not start dancing with the Grandfather Mountain Cloggers until a year after that and I believe they danced for less than a year with the troop. I could be off a month or two but not much more than that. David was amazing teacher, mentor and friend to the students at NCSD. He absolutely changed their lives for the good.

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