Pappy Briarhopper

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Johnny Macalester may have called himself Pappy Briarhopper in order to establish that he was one of the first, if not the first, members of the Charlotte-based Appalachian musical institution known as…
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Johnny Macalester may have called himself Pappy Briarhopper in order to establish that he was one of the first, if not the first, members of the Charlotte-based Appalachian musical institution known as the Briarhoppers. Whether this is true or not is a difficult fact to establish, but at any rate the stage name did very little to help this artist in either his career or his place in Briarhopper history. Of all the early members of this group, he remains one of the least well-known. Of the two early members who nicked the group's name as a stage name for themselves, he had the least success; Homer Briarhopper, on the other hand, made solo recordings for Bluebird and Decca and later hosted a long-running early morning Raleigh television show that featured a lot of live music. Macalester, whose name is also recorded as John McAllister in some Briarhopper research projects, was certainly part of the early batch of string band performers hired by radio producer Charles H. Crutchfield to form the Briarhoppers group in the early '30s. Others included the aforementioned Homer Briarhopper (real name Homer Drye), as well as players such as Clarence Etters, Jane Bartlett, Homer Westerfield, and Billie Burton. The group is not said to have really hit its stride until the arrival of Whitey & Hogan, a duo who had met in a factory in nearby Gastonia. These two players, Arval Hogan and Roy "Whitey" Grant, became closely associated with the Briarhoppers both in the early days and in a later reincarnation and also had their own following as a duo. They brought the excellent banjoist Shannon Grayson, himself a leader of the Golden Valley Boys, and presided over an influx of new players that included cowboy singer and guitarist Fred Kirby and bassist and singer Don White. The latter player was still working with the group in 2001 at the age of 92. Pappy Briarhopper was long gone by this time and the anti-Pappy faction in the Briarhoppers cult seem to feel it was the upgrade in musical ability represented by Whitey & Hogan that prompted his departure and nothing created in his pretty much nonexistent solo career proves otherwise. Unlike Homer Briarhopper, he did not enjoy a later career as a charming older television cowboy, but shares the former artist's misfortune of having his stage name rendered as Brierhopper on a regular basis.