Whitetop, Virginia native Albert Hash was a masterful mechanic who built fiddles and other instruments, played the fiddle with the Whitetop Mountain Band, and helped teach countless musicians and instrument builders.
Albert Hash grew up in Grayson County, Virginia, and he had uncles who played music. Corbitt Stamper was the first fiddler Hash heard, an experience that inspired him to build his first fiddle when he was only 10 years old. He heard many musicians in the community and at the local Whitetop Mountain Fiddler’s Convention. His favorite fiddler was G. B. Grayson, and Hash even performed with Henry Whitter (Grayson’s musical partner) after Grayson died.
Hash played with a host of bands throughout the 1940s and ’50s, including the Spice Bottom Boys, Carolina Troubadours, and the Whitetop Mountain Band, which he helped form. He worked as a tool and die maker during World War II, and later worked as a machinist for Sprague Electric Company in Lansing.
Albert Hash used his engineering and mechanical skills to make all sorts of machines, including several to help him build instruments, such as a machine that cut out a rough outline of a fiddle body. He helped renowned guitar builder Wayne Henderson when Henderson was first learning to build instruments. Hash’s daughter, Audrey Hash Ham, and friend Archie Powers, also learned to make instruments from him.
In the 1960s, Hash joined a band with Wayne Henderson, the Virginia-Carolina Boys, and performed on WKSK in West Jefferson. A few years later, he formed the Whitetop Mountain Band with his brother-in-law Thornton Spencer, Thornton’s wife Emily, Tom Barr, and Flurry Dowe.
Albert Hash passed away in 1983, but the Spencers continue to perform as the Whitetop Mountain Band. Several tunes that he helped popularize continue to be standards in regional jam sessions, perhaps most notably his version of “Hangman’s Reel.” His life and music are celebrated annually at the Albert Hash Memorial Festival.