Leonard Joe Hollifield, age 91, well-known local musician and former member of the Stoney Creek Boys, passed away early Saturday morning at his home in Weaverville.
He is survived by his daughter, Amy, of Asheville and his son, Leonard (Lynn), of Fletcher and one brother, Zane (Judy) of Travelers Rest, SC. His wife, Melba, passed away in 2000. He was born August 3, 1926 in Buncombe County to the late Jim and Bertha Hollifield. He was preceded in death by his siblings, Lawrence, Richard, Kenneth, and Margaret.
Leonard proudly served in the US Navy, beginning at the age of 17 during WW II. He was stationed on board the USS Caney (a “fast tanker” that operated in combat zones) in the Pacific Theatre, and was attached to Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey’s Fast Carrier Task Force 38. This task force conducted the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal campaigns in the South Pacific, to include the battle of Okinawa.
He returned from the war to play semi-pro baseball for 3 years in the Western North Carolina Industrial League as a short-stop and third baseman. Also after the war, he played bluegrass guitar in a group with his brother Kenneth. They played local dances and concerts and performed on local radio stations WISE and WWNC. During this time he and his brother also played on station WNOX in Knoxville on the Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round program, an important country music station at that time. They played concerts with Red Smiley and Don Reno, along with the Morris Brothers, well-known country music bands.
He decided to not pursue music for a living at that time and attended brick masonry school in the late 1940’s. He worked as a master mason and construction project foreman for over 20 years. During that time, he continued to play guitar with area bluegrass and gospel groups on a part-time basis. Around 1960, Leonard began traveling, playing, and cutting albums part time with the Kingsmen Gospel Music Quartet; and the group gradually went from playing only weekend engagements to performing at major concerts and church services full-time. The group had a weekly television show filmed every Wednesday at the WFBC studios in Greenville, SC, and their scheduled concerts were from Thursday night through Sunday evening every week, with major concert and large church venues throughout the entire Southeast and into the Northeast. He played guitar with the Kingsmen Quartet on a full-time basis which continued until around 1970.
Funded by a special 2 year Federal grant project, Leonard taught brick masonry and general construction techniques at AB Tech for 2 years. This was a special project to provide unemployed adults with a trade education that would allow them to obtain employment as trained masons at the end of the 2 year training. It was very successful and he was employed to teach similar classes at Asheville High School. He taught at Asheville High School for 7 years and then taught the same program at West Henderson High School for 7 years, where he retired from his teaching career at age 65.
Leonard began playing with the Stoney Creek Boys in 1975. For the summer season each year, this band played every week for the Pisgah View Ranch, the square dances at Montreat College and served as the house band for the Shindig on the Green. He continued to play with them for 39 years, when he made the decision to cut back from performing with the group at the age of 87. At the end of his musical career, he received multiple awards, to include the Bascom Lamar Lunsford artist of the year award. In his 80’s, he cut three CDs on bluegrass music.
Visitation will be held at West Funeral Home, 17 Merrimon Ave., Weaverville, from 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6.
A tribute to his life of music will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 7, at the First Presbyterian Church Weaverville, 30 Alabama Ave., Weaverville, NC 28787.
Flowers are appreciated or donations can be made to the Madison County Arts Council (MCAC) for the Junior Appalachian Musicians, Leonard Hollifield Scholarship Fund, 152 North Main Street, Marshall, NC 28753. This is an afterschool program for students to learn traditional music and dance.
Burial will be in West Memorial Park, Weaverville.
For those who desire, condolences may be offered to the family under Mr. Hollifield’s obituary at www.WestFamilyFuneralServices.com.
West Funeral Home
Tuesday March 6th, 2018
5:30pm - 8:00pm
17 Merrimon Avenue
Weaverville, NC 28787
West Memorial Park
Wednesday March 7th, 2018
40 Roberts Street
Weaverville, NC 28787
First Presbyterian Church of Weaverville
Wednesday March 7th, 2018
30 Alabama Ave.
Weaverville , NC 28787
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Celebrating the life of Leonard Joe Hollifield
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I was a student of Mr Hollifield at Asheville High School (1875-77) and I can say without a doubt that he was one of my favorite teachers and had a huge impact on my life as a whole. I was a band kid and thought that Rick and roll music and playing trumpet made me who I was but, I can say that it was Leonard’s quiet demeanor and sweet disposition that spoke volumes. I learned as the years went by about his great musical talent and would see him at the Shindig in the Green. He always seemed to remember me and I really hoped that he did but either way he always greeted me with a smile and a warm hand shake. I was always proud to call him my favorite teacher and hope I made half the impression on him. Leonard Hollifield, I will miss you but look forward to seeing you again one day.
Submitted by Steve Oxner on Mar 6 2018 12:36:35 AM
Lenny, I know you have volumes of cherished memories and great laughs. Always hold this thought near to your heart, he was the star of the show!
He'll be dearly missed.
With love and admiration,
Submitted by Vickie Hensley-King on Mar 5 2018 07:40:16 PM
My name is Danny Dieth and I'm a 49 yr old pastor in Columbus, Ga. My family had a summer house in Montreat which meant that I spent every Friday of every Summer with Glenn Bannerman and the Stony Creek Boys. Without ever speaking a word, Leonard taught me about artistry, mountain culture, commitment, and steadfastness.
Every year, no matter what was going on in my life, If Glenn and the Stony Creek Boys, with Leonard out front, were there and playing, then God was in heaven and all was right with the world. My children have now grown to appreciate the music, the dance, and the many special gifts that came from Leonard. Whether in the realm of music or not, the rhythm of his life invited people in, and made them better then they were. Thank you for sharing him with us. without speaking a word, through his music, he became a part of me. And that part will go on.
May the peace, love, and joy of Jesus Christ be with you.
Submitted by Danny Dieth on Mar 5 2018 03:49:24 PM
Amy, I am so sorry for your loss. We will be thinking of you and you family.
Submitted by David K Tate on Mar 5 2018 02:41:32 PM
Amy I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your father. I got to know Leonard though clogging at school and afterwards at other places. He was a great musician, but most of all he was a gentleman. I pray that you will find comfort in the days to come.
Dale Brown and family
Submitted by Dale Brown on Mar 5 2018 01:00:29 PM
Dear Amy and Leonard, We share our thoughts of love and support to you and the entire family.
Your father's life has been a great gift to the mountain music heritage of the world. We feel his legacy in every note you play in services at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Leonard..
His gain of eternal life is one of sadness for both you and Amy and his entire family, yet he does continue to live in the traditions he established.
Always, Amy, it is my joy to see you and to share our love of hospitality in guiding those who visit this area.
Your family is special in our lives as we send love to you trusting that our Lord will comfort.
Irene, Constance, Ken
Submitted by KEN RICHARDS on Mar 5 2018 11:41:31 AM
My thoughts and prayers are with the family. May the stories and memories keep him close to your heart. I am so sorry for your loss.
Submitted by Sara Eichinger on Mar 5 2018 10:24:05 AM
Amy, you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Submitted by Carole Shuford on Mar 5 2018 08:16:57 AM
Shelby Shields lit a candle for Leonard Joe Hollifield
Shelby Shields lit a candle on Mar 4 2018 11:26:09 PM
So sorry to hear the news. Praying for the family during this time. May God Bless you all.
Submitted by Marvin Wendel on Mar 4 2018 07:09:05 PM
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