Popcorn Sutton - Bootlegger - Still
Third in a Series
Original Oil Painting on Wood
Popcorn Sutton, was an American Appalachian moonshiner originally from Maggie Valley, North Carolina. He wrote a self-published autobiographical guide to moonshine production, and self-produced a home video depicting his moonshining activities, and he was later the subject of a documentary that won a Regional Emmy Award. He committed suicide in 2009 rather than report to Federal prison after being convicted of offenses related to moonshine production.
� He was a short, skinny fella, who always wore his hat�that was kind of his claim to fame, his hat that he always wore. And his bib overalls�he always wore bib overalls. Even when he came to federal court, he was wearing bib overalls. He was a friendly fellow, and of course every time you would talk to him, he would say, 'Ray, I�ve run my last run of moonshine, I'm not gonna do it anymore, I'm just getting too old to be doing this stuff.' �
�Ray Snader on "Popcorn" Sutton, 2008
Sutton considered moonshine production a legitimate part of his heritage, as he was Scots-Irish and descended from a long line of moonshiners. In January 2009, after an ATF raid led by Jim Cavanaugh of Waco notoriety, Sutton was sentenced to eighteen months in a federal prison for illegally distilling spirits and possession of a firearm as a felon. Sutton, 62 and recently diagnosed with cancer, pleaded with the U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer to let him serve his sentence under house arrest. Several petitions were made in attempts to reduce or commute Sutton's sentence, to no avail.
Sutton committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on March 16, 2009, apparently to avoid a federal prison term due to begin a few days later. On October 24, 2009, Sutton's body was relocated from his original grave site in Mt. Sterling, North Carolina, to his home in Parrottsville, Tennessee, providing an opportunity for the first public memorial service to be held. His body was carried to its new resting spot by horse and carriage. Sutton's memorial grew in spectacle as country music singer Hank Williams, Jr. flew in to pay his respects. It was a small memorial only for close friends and family.
In the 1960s or 70s, Sutton was given the nickname of "Popcorn" Sutton after damaging a bar's faulty popcorn vending machine with a pool cue.
Hank Williams III mentions Popcorn Sutton in the song Moonshiner's Life.
On Nov. 9, 2010, Hank Williams, Jr. announced his partnership with J&M Concepts LLC and widow Pam Sutton to distill and distribute a brand of whiskey named after Sutton that was asserted to follow his legacy. Dubbed "Popcorn Sutton's Tennessee White Whiskey," it was marketed as having been produced on stills designed by Sutton using his secret family recipe and techniques Sutton entrusted to former Supercross professional Jamey Grosser of J&M Concepts. Country music stars attending the launch event included Martina McBride, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker, Zac Brown, Josh Thompson, Kentucky Headhunters, Little Big Town, Colt Ford, Montgomery Gentry, Jaron and the Long Road to Love and Lee Brice According to press reports, Popcorn Sutton's Tennessee White Whiskey would be initially distributed in Tennessee and throughout the southeast. The copper stills for its production were made by Vendome Copper and Brass in Louisville, Kentucky. On October 25, 2013, Jack Daniel's Properties, Inc. filed suit against the distiller of Popcorn Sutton's whiskey, claiming that the newly redesigned bottle and label too closely resembled their own. The lawsuit states that the new design "...is likely to cause purchasers and prospective purchasers of the product to believe mistakenly that it is a new Tennessee white whiskey product in the Jack Daniel's line." The suit also asks that all current existing bottles be taken off the market and that all profits from the sales of those bottles be handed over to Jack Daniel's.
June 21st, 2014
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