After learning the banjo from his brother-in-law in the early 1970s, Gordy Hinners arrived in western North Carolina in 1980, following his love of oldtime music and dance. An early member of the Green Grass Cloggers, and the banjo player since 1982 for the New Southern Ramblers, Hinners is a highly respected clogger, flatfoot dancer, and oldtime stringband musician.
Since the ’70s, Hinners has drawn inspiration and learned from visits with many traditional music and dance masters, including Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, Willard Watson, and Robert Dotson among others. In describing his evolution as a musician, he wrote, “I had an old Cole banjo stolen [in the early 1980s], and while looking for a replacement happened on an old no-name banjo . . . with a fretless fingerboard laid over the neck. Well, I really liked the sound, bought it, and intended to put some frets on when I had the time. But as I played on it, I realized that not having frets was really more liberating than limiting, and I’ve kept it that way. The combination of the little sustain, fretless nature of the banjo, and my own proclivities for supporting fiddle melodies more rhythmically than melodically . . . has helped lead me to wherever the heck I am today on the banjo. But it is Ralph (Blizard’s) highly innovative style on the fiddle that has influenced my playing as much as any banjo player or anything else. Playing with Ralph (especially) and others taught me that a banjo player’s job in an oldtime band is to listen. Chasing Ralph around musically [was] just a blast! For Ralph, it seems, old melodies were just the framework for his own musical expressiveness. There was an awful lot of soul in my good friend, and to try and lock in with him, trying to anticipate his musical rambles, was a true joy. Playing this way, traditional or oldtime in approach and style, yet with a freedom to explore, has been so liberating for me.”
Hinners has performed throughout the world with musical and dance groups at such venues as the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, State Department tours of South America and Spain, major folk festivals such as the Philadelphia and Winnepeg Folk Festivals, and at numerous concerts in the US and abroad. He recently performed solo as a musician and dancer at the Friends of American Traditional Music and Dance Festival in Gainsborough, UK.
Hinners has won many contests in both dancing and music, including first place in the highly competitive flatfooting contest at the Appalachian Stringband Festival at Clifftop (WV) and at the Mount Airy Fiddlers’ Convention several times. He has won numerous prizes on banjo as well, including a recent second place award at the Appalachian Stringband Festival. He is a popular instructor at such camps as the Swannanoa Gathering (NC), Fiddle and Dance (NY), Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (WA), and the Augusta Heritage Workshops (WV).
Gordy Hinners is available to teach workshops in oldtime music and dance, and for concerts solo or with the New Southern Ramblers.