Impresario Carlton Haney Dies In Carolina

Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Carlton Haney, once dubbed “The P.T. Barnum of Country Music” died Wednesday afternoon at age 82.

Haney inaugurated the first multi-day bluegrass festival – there are now more than 500 such events annually. He was the publisher of the national periodical Muleskinner News. He ran the New Dominion Barn Dance in 1956-64, booked Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys in 1953-55 and managed Reno & Smiley & The Tennessee Cut-Ups in 1956-65.

He played important roles in the careers of Porter Wagoner, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and The Osborne Brothers. He was also a songwriter, television producer, promoter and spoken-word recording artist.

Haney was featured prominently in the 1971 movie Bluegrass: Country Soul, which was reissued on DVD in 2006.

Carlton Haney started the bluegrass-festival movement with a Labor Day weekend event at Fincastle, VA in 1965. He promoted early bluegrass festivals in Berryville, VA; Camp Springs, NC; Gettysburg, PA and Escoheag, RI. He also worked on the landmark 1964 Newport Folk Festival. At his peak, the colorful entrepreneur promoted more than 100 major shows in some 30 cities.

During his time with Reno & Smiley, he wrote songs for the group, including “He Will Forgive You,” “Kneel Down,” “Never Get to Hold You in My Arms Anymore” and the 1961 top-30 novelty hit “Jimmy Caught the Dickens (Pushing Ernest in the Tubb).” He also helped initiate the group’s Top O the Morning TV show on WDBJ in Roanoke, VA.

The International Bluegrass Music Association gave him its Award of Merit in 1990. He was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1998.

Carleton Haney suffered a stroke on March 3 and died of its complications two weeks later in Greensboro, NC. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Citty Funeral Home at 308 Lindsey Street in Reidsville, NC (


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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