You may see familiar faces or hear voices from this area if you tune into the latest Hatfields and McCoys show Thursday on the History Channel.
The husband and wife duo of Karen and Stephen Byington, also known as Wiley Dew, were included as part of the new series, along with fiddler Ron Eldridge, singer/songwriter Rob McNurlin and old-time banjo player Kim Johnson, as the band performing at a family bonfire in one or more episodes of “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning,” scheduled for a series premiere at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.
Mrs. Byington said it all began when their friend, Kim Johnson, invited them to play a little music for a filming at a remote location.
“I could get you there, but I don’t know how to tell you there,” she said with a chuckle, explaining the rural location was near Spencer, W.Va. “All of a sudden we’re at a bonfire playing this boll weevil song that we played for about four hours. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Mrs. Byington said the musicians collectively knew plenty of public-domain songs, although the show’s producers insisted upon hearing the more-Southern-than-Appalachian tunes.
The band played for a hog roast hosted by the Hatfield family for the McCoy family, Mrs. Byington said, noting the historic significance of a pig in the legendary feud that made both family names famous. The musicians showed up for another event hosted by the McCoy family, she said, although the show’s producers preferred to keep the band as part of the Hatfield family’s clan and did not include it in the recording of that event.
“I asked them, ‘So, at this point, we’re the Hatfield band?’” she said, chuckling.
Mrs. Byington said she has no way of knowing how much the band will be used in the final episodes, or when it will be seen and heard. After watching a trailer on the channel’s website, she said the band may be seen in the first episode, which will debut Thursday evening.
“We will just have to wait and see how much you see or hear of us,” she said. “If you see a bonfire, that’s where we were.”
According to the channel’s website, “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning” follows the famous families as they try to put aside their hateful history and come together to build a new business. Their story is less about making moonshine and more about the clashes between and within the two families that threaten success at every turn. The only thing they agree on is they are suspicious of their new investor. “He seems as trustworthy as a fox in a henhouse,” says patriarch Mark Hatfield.
Progress is slow and often comedic as tempers flare, tensions run high and family competition and century-old rivalries continue on a new level. Can the Hatfields and McCoys get past their famous feud and find a path to a brighter future and a new history?
The first episode of the new series is described as “The Tale of Moonshine and Gasoline.” According to the channel’s online information: “With the changing of West Virginia law, making and selling moonshine has become legal, and a big-city liquor executive has been approaching members of the infamous Hatfield and McCoy clans looking to launch a new moonshine brand. Meanwhile, kin of Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy are still squabbling after 150 years. Mark Hatfield and Jim McCoy get into a little tussle about whose moonshine is stronger and decide to settle the score by racing classic cars powered by their own brews.”
The show is scheduled for repeated broadcasts through Aug. 10.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.