John Shuffler was born and raised in the Valdese community of Burke County where he has lived all of his life, playing music for most of it, including two stints with the Stanley Brothers in 1951 and 1953. John’s father played a little clawhammer banjo, but John learned to play guitar from his older brother George, who taught himself to play on a mail order guitar at the age of twelve. George was the oldest brother of nine siblings, including six brothers who all play music. “George was kind of a teacher to all of us,” says John. “We can all pick.”
John began playing in George’s western swing band he was twelve years old. That group included Lester Woody who went on to play with the Stanley Brothers. George and John also played with the Stanley Brothers, and they are credited with influencing bluegrass bass playing with their unique walking bass style. “We play our own style, me and George,” says John. John played with the Stanley Brothers for about a year before he was drafted into service in 1951. He returned from service in 1953 and rejoined the Stanley Brothers, helping them record four sides for Mercury. George played with the Stanley Brothers for more than 20 years, and the brothers are honored at the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Kentucky for their contributions with the Stanley Brothers. “As a twenty-some-year-old, it was an honor to pick professional music,” says John.
John once had an audition to play with Jim and Jesse McReynolds, and he passed. “I got married instead,” he says, opting to continue living at his home in Burke County rather than move south with Jim and Jesse. In 1989, John formed a group to help bluegrass fiddler Jim Shumate record an album. The group, which included Eric Ellis, David Wiseman, and David Johnson, has continued to perform as the John Shuffler Band. Eric Ellis and John have also helped Marshall Stevenson record three records, including one that included bluegrass legends Curly Seckler and Uncle Josh Graves.
John continues to play bluegrass music from his home in Burke County. He is a mainstay at the Rock School in Valdese, often opening for top bluegrass bands such as Larry Sparks and Raymond Fairchild. John plays both guitar and bass, and he sings lead and baritone parts. He also performs with his brother George on occasion. The two play with Ralph Stanley annually at the Ralph Stanley festival for ex-Clinch Mountain Boys reunions.
John is available for performances with the John Shuffler Band, a full bluegrass band that includes Eric Ellis, David Johnson, and David Wiseman. All of the individual members of the group have extensive performing experience.