News Archive

Week of Aug. 25, 2004

Turner case set for trial Thursday
Pelzer picker Ansel Guthrie is a gospel, bluegrass music pioneer
Spring Water Festival this Saturday, Aug. 28
Candidates sign up for political offices
Shady Grove serious about area ministry

Turner case set for trial Thursday

The assault and battery case against former Williamston police chief Richard Turner will be tried in the town of Saluda before Judge W. Frank Partridge at 9 a.m. on Thursday, August 26.

Bill Mayer, of the Mayer Law Firm in Laurens, will represent the Town of Williamston.

Mayer agreed earlier this year to prosecute the case for a fee of $2,000.

He is a graduate of the South Carolina School of Law and has served as Assistant Solicitor for the 8th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

The  Thompson and King Law Firm, which normally represents the town, recused themselves from the prosecution and trial of Turner citing a working relationship with him in the past.

The firm agreed to give up fees to help with the expenses resulting from  hiring another attorney.

The case is being tried within according to the terms of a speedy trial motion signed on February 17, which was approved by Williamston Municipal Judge James M. Cox.

Turner’s attorney Bruce Byrholdt had asked for a change of venue motion over concerns that pre-trial publicity surrounding the case would make it impossible to pick an impartial jury.

Judge Cox stated in his order that he is recusing himself due to long standing relationships with the defendant and others involved in the case.

The order states the local court will retain administrative jurisdiction over the case until its resolution.

Turner was charged with assault and battery after an alleged shoving incident that developed at the Williamston police department between the former chief and police Sgt. Zack Gregory.

The alleged incident occurred June 23, 2003 after Turner’s son Steven was told by Williamston’s new Police Chief Troy Martin that his employment with the town had been terminated.

Pelzer picker Ansel Guthrie is a gospel, bluegrass music pioneer

Ansel Guthrie was one of the early pioneers in the bluegrass/gospel music industry and made a living playing bluegrass and gospel on TV, radio and on the road for most of his life.

He has played countless shows from Georgia to Pennsylvannia and is known throughout the area for his skills on the guitar, mandolin and fiddle.

Through the years he has recording three tapes and two records.

He has opened shows for the  legendary bluegrass musician, Bill Monroe and once borrowed Monroe’s famous mandolin which recently sold for more than $1 million.

He has instructed numerous area musicians on the art of playing guitar and picking mandolin and fiddle.

Guthrie, now 80, began his musical career in 1937 singing along with his dad’s quartet which was featured  on a radio station in Anderson.

Ansel took up the guitar and mandolin after hearing Charlie and Bill Monroe, two legendary names in bluegrass music, who had “come down from Kentucky to make music”and had a radio show at the time on WESC in Greenville.

Guthrie said he bought a cheap mandolin and old guitar and taught himself to play listening to old records.

“We liked their music and I was kindly catchin’ on to what they’s doin,” he said.  “I messed around with the guitar and mandolin and began to pick a few songs.”

At age 16 he began playing with his brother Clarge. “We began to pick a few songs” and soon they were playing on an Anderson radio station. Clarge played guitar, Ansel played mandolin.

Then he heard the Dixie Playhouse just north of Greenville was in need of a mandolin picker. “I went out there and met Carl Butler, a fiddle player who had been with Bill Monroe and recorded “Mule Skinner Blues” with him in Atlanta.

Guthrie said they picked 3 or 4 songs and Butler said, “Well, do you think you’d like to work with us?”

“Well I believe I would,” he replied.

Ansel said he picked with Butler for about 7 months until Butler got a radio show offer in Knoxville. Butler called Guthrie asking him to come pick fiddle and mandolin with the Dixie Partners on the new show.

“If you come up here, I’ll get you an F5 mandolin, and it won’t cost you a thing,” Guthrie said Butler told him.

Butler send Guthrie two more letters.

“I turned that down and it was one of the biggest mistakes I think I ever made in my life,” the musician said.

“It wasn’t long ’till he got Dolly Parton to come with him,” Guthrie said. “If  I had gone along I might have been pickin’ with her and gettin’ some of that good money she’s making,” he said.

Guthrie formed his own group after that.

“I pulled out and some of these boys went with me,” he said. 

Guthrie said he began playing piano with some guys from Belton on a TV station in Anderson.

Another well known musician, Piedmont’s Charlie Moore called wanting him to play with him.

About that time he met up with a “booker” named Jake Hand from Anderson, who had worked some with Bill Monroe.

Hand told Guthrie’s group, now called Ansel Guthrie and the Partners, “I’m gonna get you fellas on television.”

In addition to Guthrie on mandolin and Moore on guitar, the group included a banjo picker, fiddle player, and bass player.

At first it didn’t look so good. He went to channel 4 in Greenville. “They said they didn’t want it,” Guthrie said. Asheville also turned them down, but a TV station in Spartanburg said they would put them on if they had a sponsor.

They signed a sponsor, Martin Sausage, and Ansel Guthrie and the Partners went on for 30 minutes in the time slot formerly held by the Blue Ridge Quartet on Sundays.

It wasn’t long til they wanted the show to air every day, Guthrie said.

At the same time, Ansel Guthrie and the Partners got another TV show offer with WNOK in Columbia because they needed “somebody to advertise mobile homes,” Guthrie said.

“We had it going pretty good,” Guthrie said. “We kept rocking along one thing to another.” he said. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

The year was 1959 and Ansel Guthrie and the Partners was a five man group featuring Piedmont’s Charlie Moore on guitar and Ansel Guthrie on mandolin.

Through the 1960s Ansel Guthrie and the Partners played bluegrass festivals and shows from Georgia to Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania. They also played some local dates during the period.

During that time they rubbed elbows with some of the all time greats.

Ansel Guthrie and the Partners opened shows for bluegrass legend Bill Monroe several times.

Monroe played locally at Shoals Creek and the Powdersville Opry House once, according to Guthrie who said he had talked with the bluegrass legend, “a few times.”

“He could pick,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie recounts the time he borrowed Bill Monroe’s mandolin.

“We were pickin’ somewhere or another and I didn’t have mine, and I asked him would he, I didn’t know what he was gonna say, would you let me play your mandolin on this song?”

“And he (Bill Monroe) said “Yes sir, yes sir,” and handed it to me,” Guthrie said. That mandolin recently sold for over $1 million, Guthrie said.

Guthrie’s mandolin picking was recorded on three  tapes and two records. The first recording was a gospel album with the Stardate Nashville label.

The tapes at Stardate included original gospel music written by Guthrie and Charlie Moore and some traditional songs, Guthrie said.

He also recorded bluegrass with the American label in Indiana and  with Wayne Rainey on a home studio in Ohio.

His last recording was done about 10 years ago and he hosted his own radio show on WHPB in Belton for about five years.

Guthrie picks an F5 Gibson mandolin, which he described as “one of the best.” The instrument is priced around $500 to $600 and was made in 1980.

He also played an older version, an F2 Gibson for many years. Gibson personnel told him the F2 mandolin was probably made around 1911 to 1914.

He describes his country and bluegrass musical style as the traditional Bill Monroe style with flattop guitar and what he said was, “not real fancy stuff.”

His personal style is described as claw hammer style, which is picking and strumming with the hand.

When asked why he picked the mandolin, he responded, “I just love that sound.”

“The first time I ever heard a mandolin was Jimmy Davis,” he said, “on a song called “Beautiful Texas.”

Guthrie said he grew up listening to and prefers the traditional style of picking mandolin, the Bill Monroe shuffle style of playing.

“I love that beat.” Guthrie said. “You’ve got to know how to put that beat in it.”

He also plays fiddle. 

Soon after purchasing a $30 fiddle from a friend’s dad, Guthrie said he and the friend, Tom Williams, played a fiddlers convention near Walhalla. He said he hadn’t played long but, “I knew where the notes were.”

He recounts playing the fiddle on the Orange Blossom Special, along with Williams on guitar.

“I only had this fiddle for about two months,” he said. “He started off fast and played about two verses. He’s gettin’ faster and faster.”

As the song progressed and continued to get faster, Guthrie said he accidentally ran the bow up under the strings and while Tom was playing “faster and faster,” he was trying to get the bow out.

“It sounded like two cats fighting,” Guthrie said.

All the while the song kept building faster and faster and the people in the audience were hollering, “more, more.”

He said he later told Thomas, “I think those people thought I was a trick fiddler, “ he said laughing.

“We won the prize. It was an electric iron. We didn’t even have electricity in our house,” he said.

His family came to the area from Roanoke Virginia. His dad’s great, great granddad came to the area and his early relatives had connections to Guthrie Grove church.

Guthrie still offers to pass on his skills to others, teaching guitar and mandolin.

A little building out back of his home featured bluegrass shows through the years and is where he taught lessons to untold numbers of local musicians.

In addition to playing and recording a tape with brother Clarge, Guthrie’s sister, Mary Guthrie Kay sometimes  joined him for shows.

He said he met his wife at a “pickin” 

Wearing his trademark straw western straw hat, Ansel was interviewed in his living room, in his Pelzer home. A 1928 RCA Graphanola that belonged to his dad sits in the room.

The machine plays 45s and 78s and was what he and brother Clarge listened to when they were first learning to play guitar and pick the mandolin.

After picking mandolin on an impromptu set of two or three songs, accompanied by local bluegrass musician Jack Ellenburg on guitar, Guthrie said, “I hadn’t been pickin in the last three or four months. I’m gonna have to get busy or I’m gonna lose it.”

Guthrie played a show last September in Hartwell, Georgia for lake cleanup volunteers. He has played the show for the last 13 or 14 years, and he will be playing it again this year, he said. The show is on Sept. 18.

Born in 1923, Guthrie said he intends to pick “as long as I can. I think I’d be lost without it,” he said.

If you are interested in bluegrass music or would just like to see a local legend live, Ansel Guthrie will be appearing at the 23rd Annual Spring Water Festival this Saturday.

The historic depot will feature bluegrass music and special performance by Guthrie, who is being honored as a local pioneer of bluegrass and gospel music.

Spring Water Festival this Saturday, Aug. 28

The 23rd annual Spring Water Festival will be held in Mineral Spring Park this Saturday, Aug. 28 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The festival will feature more than 40 craft exhibitors, food, an antique auto show, children’s rides and live musical entertainment.

The artwork for the 2004 festival features the founder of Williamston, West Allen Williams, at the spring around which the town grew. Drawn by local artist Thomas Addison, the art design is featured on the festival T-shirt and signed prints which will be available at the festival.

Crafters from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, along with local crafters, are expected to participate in this year’s festival.

A “Charleston”cookbook by Williamston native Frances Ellison Hamby will be among special items that can be found at the festival.

“Catering to Charleston” features 224 pages of delicious and popular recipes and is a celebration of Charleston and of Southern Hospitality. Hamby will also be signing copies of her book.

Local musician Ansel Guthrie will be honored during the festival as a pioneer in bluegrass and gospel music industry. Guthrie, now 80, will pick his mandolin and will appear along with others at the historic depot.

A gospel music stage and the amphitheater stage entertainment will also be featured at the festival.

The Greater Williamston Business Association is sponsoring a prize drawing give-away that features six grand prize packages and the Williamston Fire Department is giving away a scooter.

Tickets for both drawings can be purchased all day during the festival.

Returning to the Spring Water Festival is an interactive, hands-on animal petting zoo featuring 20 to 25 rare and exotic animals from around the world from Eudora Farms of Salley, S. C.

Cox Amusements of Greenville will return with kiddie rides, including an inflatable bounce, trackless train, castle moonwalk, inflatable obstacle course, kiddie swing and water wars games.

The Spring Water Festival auto show will feature more than  75 local antique and classic vehicles. It is organized by the Williamston Fire Department.

The fire department will also be offering rides on the restored 1936 Chevrolet fire engine.

Local non-profit groups will be offering a variety of food items including hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecue, hot wings and chicken fillets.

Williamston EMS will offer a handicapped shuttle service in addition to providing medical assistance during the festival.

A special 23rd anniversary Spring Water Festival program tabloid is included in The Journal this week.

The Spring Water Festival began as a fundraising event for the Christmas Park in 1981. Bennie Hyder is coordinating the 2004 festival. This is the third year the Town of Williamston has taken responsiblilty for organizing the annual event.

Candidates sign up for political offices

Voters in the Town of Williamston will have a choice for mayor when they go to the polls on Nov. 2.

Williamston’s incumbent mayor Phillip Clardy is facing opposition from educator and former municipal judge John Neel, III.

 Voters will also decide who will represent them on two of Williamston’s four council seats.

Council seat Ward 3 and seat Ward 4, currently held by David Harvell and Wade Pepper respectively, are up for reelection in November.

Political newcomers Pamela Owens and Otis Scott are seeking election to the Williamston town council Ward 4 seat held by Pepper.

Pepper is also hoping to be reelected to the Ward 4 seat.

Retired pilot Gary Bannister will run for the Ward 3 council seat currently held by David Harvell.

Republican Senator Billy O’ Dell will face opposition for the District 4 seat from Jay West of Greenwood.

House District 9 Representative Michael Thompson will face opposition from Libertarian candidate Doug Taylor of Williamston.

Candidates for Anderson County Sheriff include Republican David L. Crenshaw of Pendleton and Democrat Robert Appell of Anderson.

Running for County Auditor are Democrat Anna Marie Brock and Republican Jacky Hunter.

Six candidates have filed for the two seats available on the Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners in the November 2 general election according to Craig Lawless, administrative assistant for the district. Candidates for the open seats include: Michelle Anderson, William Dickson, Frankie Garrett, Robert Higgins, Dan Rawls, and Marsha Rogers.

Signing up for Big Creek Watershed District 4 was Al Rentz, of Williamston. Broadmouth Creek Watershed, District 5 included Jerry F. Craft, Belton; Joe F. Pinson, Honea Path and Carroll Ross, Honea Path.

In the race for School Board Trustees District 1, Area 2, Tom Merritt, Easley; District 1 Area 3, David Merritt; District 1, Area 6, Joe Pack.The deadline for persons planning to register to vote in the November 2 general election is October 2. Potential voters must be registered 30 days prior to the election.

Shady Grove serious about area ministry

Shady Grove Baptist Church is a church that is serious about ministry – at all times, in all places and to all people. Located just off Highway 8, the church takes a holistic approach to ministry to its members and to the community in southern Greenville County.

Mamie Mills Reid, Ministry Development Coordinator, oversees almost 30 different ministries in the church and is responsible for seeking out and developing new ministry opportunities for the 600-member congregation.

Reid who is very intent on bringing the church and the community together coordinated with the YMCA at Fork Shoals to conduct summer day camps at the church. The church has provided facilities and assisted with transportation for 120 children over the last two summers through the YMCA program. Very few of the children involved in the program or their families were members of the church, Reid says.

Through Strong Communities and Helping Hands, the church has supported a faith-based initiative with schools in the area. The church adopted the 4K program which is now located at the Riley Center and provides support to the staff and the 140 children now at the center.

The church furnishes much-needed supplies such as paper products and soap, and church members volunteer on a monthly basis to read to the children at the center. The church provides incentive programs for students and special appreciation gifts for teachers and staff. The church also supports an intercessory prayer group for teachers and any special needs that arise at the school.

In addition, the church has been able to address the needs of senior citizens by working with the Department of Social Services to distribute fresh fruit and vegetables through a voucher program. The church also serves as a center to provide seniors with information on other programs and benefits available to them.

Pastor James Nesbitt considers Reid an invaluable asset to the church and its ministry. “She is not afraid to ask about anything,” Nesbitt says.

Nesbitt also commends the members of the church who “have tremendous faith and are not afraid to take on a challenge.”

In his six years at the church, Nesbitt says that he has been blessed to “see spiritual, physical, and financial growth in the ministry of the church in such a short period of time.”

According to Nesbitt, one of the strengths of the congregation is their “willingness to change – to allow me to pastor and to break from traditions that hinder growth.”

Under Nesbitt’s leadership, Shady Grove has grown significantly through a successful financial campaign, and a new sanctuary and administrative offices were completed in 2000.

Nesbitt sees the holistic ministry as a “cradle to the grave” approach which seeks to tap the “wisdom of our seniors and the energy of our youth and children.”

Nesbitt believes the family and programs that strengthen and support the family are currently the strongest ministry need. Within the last year, the church has joined with five churches in the area to sponsor South Greenville United Care Ministries which is located on Washington Church Road. The organization provides counseling and assistance to those in need, and the combined resources of the six churches allow the ministry to reach a larger population in the area, Nesbitt says.

The members and staff of Shady Grove have taken a very deliberate and intentional approach to ministry. With a continuous involvement and focus on ministry, Nesbitt sees even greater things ahead for the church and its congregation






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