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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Battle for the Legacy of Popcorn Sutton

I have talked about Popcorn Sutton before.  He is the world's most famous Moonshiner, and the first member of the Hillbilly Hall of Fame

Popcorn is also the inspiration for the yearly Hillbilly Woodstock, which I attended this year. While there I snapped this picture of a local Moonshiner.

I did not know it at the time, but I had seen this man before.  Where had I seen him?

On my refrigerator!  His name is Troy Cagle and here he is featured alongside Popcorn on this magnet.   In fact, he appears with Popcorn on almost all his merchandise.  I was never really sure who Troy was, but it appears that he was a partner of Popcorn's.

Here is his own bio, on his facebook page (Yes, Moonshiners have facebook pages).

 I was born in the heart of Appalachia and am the last of a dying breed. I have ideas in my head that make me a genius, but also one step away from insane. I am the last of the mountain moonshiners. People today don't respect the way I live off the grid and carry a gun, but it's not my problem. My one light bulb burns strong in the cabin I made myself. The FBI may be on my trail, but I am smarter than them, despite the uncontrollable force they have over my mind and body due to their laser cameras. They can see through walls, but I can see into space. I have the spirit of an eagle and the heart of a bear.

Recently, when I tried to do a little research on Troy I found out that he had been called out by Sky Sutton:  Popcorn's daughter.

Sky is the author of "Daddy Moonshine" which is pretty much the definitive biography of Popcorn, and it was actually published the very same day he killed himself.   Sky has become very protective of her father's legacy and has called out try for claiming to be a relative and claiming to possess Popcorn's "secret recipe".  Troy has essentially declared himself the heir to Popcorn's legacy.  He is the NEW "Last Moonshiner".  According to Sky he is profiteering off a dead man.

The interesting thing about Sky is that I remember her from when I was doing research when I first learned about Popcorn.

Sky is a Historian in Massachusetts, who had not seen her father since she was two years old.   Before becoming a known as her father's biographer Sky had a less then favorable view of her father.  Sky had a blog dedicated to telling the truth about her father.  Sky was resentful of the hero worship that Popcorn received.   Sky wanted to expose her father for what he was: a dead beat father and a criminal.  She resented that so many people held a man in high regard that had abandoned her and denied her existence.   

When Popcorn died her blog was re-purposed into selling her book and selling Popcorn related merchandise.  (Including "Popcorn Says Fuck You" bumper stickers). Upon Popcorn's death her opinion did a 180 and she started talking about her father in the romantic tones that she previously decried.   Here are some comments she made on a message board regarding her father being arrested for Moonshining back when he was alive.

The same "tourist industry" she is currently participating in.


Sky also denounces "Popcorn's White Whiskey", the LEGAL line of Moonshine with Popcorn's name on it, which is owned by Popcorn's wife Pam and Hank Williams Jr. of all people. 

 Sky and some of Popcorn's other children are also fighting with Pam over moving Popcorn's body.

Now, I want to make it clear that I am not judging Sky.  She has a right to talk about her own father any way she seems fit and relationships with parents can be complicated.  I just find this complex relationship an interesting aspect in the legacy of Popcorn Sutton.

Whether the legacy belongs to Troy Cagle, Sky Sutton, or Hank Williams Jr, is irrelevant.  Man has become legend and legend has become myth.  Popcorn belongs to the Mountains.

The Carpetbagger

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  1. Hi, Jacob! I am a history teacher in SC and have loved the stories and story-makers of Western North Carolina for years! I appreciate you telling us some about your research on Popcorn Sutton and sharing a bit about the conflicts over the years since his death. I've been holding on to an item I found a few years ago in Brevard NC that may or may not be related to Popcorn... and I thought you might be able to give me some information on it! I have a small, round, white plastic wall clock that appears to have been hanging in someone's house for a while... it is very dusty and grimy... but the clock itself is in great shape and excellent working condition. The original face plate of the clock has been removed and a "head and shoulders" photo of Popcorn Sutton has been trimmed and placed into the clock. On the left side, where the 9 would be, is a signature in bold black marker ink "Popcorn Sutton" and on the right side, near to where the 3 would be, is written "Maggy Valley NC" in the same ink. I paid quite a bit for the clock at a little thrift store in Brevard because I love the photo and story of Popcorn. I realize it may very well be a FAKE... but it is unique and it's been a joy owning it and showing it to friends. Thinking I might have a real signature of his makes it even more special!! I remember hearing stories of Popcorn visiting with folks in Maggie Valley at times and signing things for them. Could this be authentic??? What do you think? Your advice and input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! Kay

  2. Okay, I am new to this concept but would you care to explain who are hillbilly's and why do they have their own hall of fame?