Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Moonshiners’ Reunion just wants to be fun

by Michael B. Smith
Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Sept 27, 1996

The Fourth Annual Moonshiners’ Reunion starts today, and festival coordinator Barney Barnwell is understandably excited.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” says Barnwell. “It always is. Lots of good music, and we’ve invited country crafts people to come in and set up their wares. As always, there’s plenty of room for camping out overnight, too.”

A native of Campobello, Barnwell carved his very unique niche in the tree of rock ‘n’ roll during the 1970’s, as the fiddle-sawing front-man for the Plum Hollow Band. Plum Hollow was an eclectic group of Upstate musicians who combined elements of bluegrass, rock’n’roll and country music into one tight package. Today, Barnwell and his band, Woodstick, play host to their fourth annual Moonshiners’ Reunion and Mountain Music Festival.

The festival, which will take place in Barnwell’s Woodstick Farm in New Prospect, will feature a variety of music, including Woodstick, Marshall Ballew and the Radiation Blues Banned, Broken Home, The Prograsstinators, and Mountain Express. Music will begin at 6 PM tonight and 3 PM Saturday. Musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments and join the all night pickin’ as in years past.

A special guest for this year’s reunion will be Atlanta writer Joe Dabney, author of “Mountain Spirits” and “More Mountain Spirits.”

Barnwell grew up listening to the tales of moonshine makers of the ’30’s and ’40’s, some of them his relatives. Many of his original songs chronicle the legendary ‘shine runners and their exploits. His tales are legendary, and in 1995, South Carolina Educational Television came to New Prospect to film a documentary on moonshining, featuring none other than the Barnwell clan.

“This area is chock full of history. We were glad to have them ol’ PBS boys out here for a visit,” says Barnwell.

Lately, Barnwell and his Woodstick band have been on a continuous tour of college campuses, where the band is always greeted with an overwhelming response.

The Moonshiners’ Reunion draws crowds consisting of everyone from middle-aged hillbillies, to 20-year-old college fraternity boys, to retired couples, and everything in between.

“The reunion has got right popular,” said Barnwell. “I was talking to a student from the University of Georgia who had just come back from overseas. Said he saw a guy in Rome wearing a Moonshiners’ Reunion T-shirt. That’s Rome, Italy, not Rome, Georgia.”

A continuous schedule of concerts and other personal appearances has not hindered Barnwell from setting goals for himself.

“My goal in life is to do a movie with my favorite actor, Jim Varney,” he half-way joked. “Seriously, my goal is for us to keep on playing music and just make a decent living for everybody.”