William Dudley Culp, 72, of Asheville, passed away Friday, March 12, 2021 at the John F Keever Jr. Solace Center in Asheville. Our family would like to thank the compassionate caregivers at Solace for honoring Dudley with their love of our family. Dudley was born on June 26, 1948 in Greenville, SC to the late Daniel and Dorothy Culp. He is survived by his devoted wife of 44 years, Pamela Budd; son Benji Culp (Laura) with their twins, Jackson McLeod and Ava-Grace Mary Culp of Asheville, NC. and son Aaron Culp (Tia Oaster) also of Asheville, NC. He was a loving husband, father, brother, friend, cousin, and Poppy. He loved gardening, was a master jeweler, lover of music and dancing, and a jokester. If you were around Dudley, he would surely make you laugh with his puns and quick wit. One of the joys of his life was dancing with the Green Grass Cloggers, a group he and Toni Williams started in 1971 in the Eastern part of the state. After 50 years, the group continues, celebrating music and dance. A celebration of life will be held 2:30 PM on June 26 at Groce United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, Dudley would be honored by your support of the Green Grass Cloggers, Groce United Methodist Church, Habitat for Humanity or WNCW.org
Tribute for Dudley by Leanne E. Smith, dancer and friend:
The passing of our founder was not part of what we imagined for our 50th anniversary year. We are simultaneously heartbroken at losing Dudley at this moment and resolved to carry his spirit forward—the dancing, the music, the humor, and all-around joie de vivre…the combination of which defines us as Green Grass Cloggers. Dudley was preceded in death by six GGCs and is survived by approximately 200.
We cannot know how many people have smiled and will smile because of Dudley Culp. But it’s a lot. Our lives…the lives of dancers in GGC off-shoot teams and the thousands of people around the world who have learned the GGC steps…are forever better because a young, long-haired Dudley Culp had the crazy idea to start a clogging team with his college friends.
Dudley first saw clogging in spring 1971 at the Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove, NC. When he saw the Smoky Mountain Cloggers perform, he knew he wanted to learn to clog. Evelyn Smith Farmer of Fries, VA, showed him a basic step that he took back to friends at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. At the 1971 Autumn Square-Up at Fiddler’s Grove, festival organizers Harper and Wansie Van Hoy encouraged Dudley’s hopes for a clogging team. “That spirit of rebelliousness and joy and just fun…,” he said in a 2019 interview, “Well, that’s the difference in polyester and calico, I guess you’d say…Just a whole different lifestyle, and each one represented the polar opposites of styling, I guess you’d say…I liked what we did. We were a lot more earthy. We were really concerned with rhythms. I guess our physical presence was a little intimidating at times—I know it was—Those Hippies—that’s what they called us.” Dudley was a definite leader because he was so on fire with ideas. He was smitten with the world of music and percussive dance he discovered at festivals, and he was inspired to choreograph routines based on figures he had learned from his mentors and observed from other teams. He wrote the first GGC routine by sitting on the floor and moving little pieces of paper around to make sure his idea would
work when dancers tried it. It did work—the group took that routine to contest stages, and they won ’72 and ’74 World Championship titles at the Autumn Square-Up against polished teams. The GGCs’ festival travels led them to new mentors—flatfooter Willard Watson from Deep Gap, NC, and fiddler Tommy Jarrell from near Mt. Airy, NC, who were attracted to the GGCs’ youthful energy and said the early GGCs’ spirit on and off stage reminded them of the way dancing used to be, before competitions so heavily influenced clogging. Later, the style of flatfooter Robert Dotson of Sugar Grove, NC, influenced the GGCs, too. The group’s performances and workshops of the seventies and eighties had such a wide influence that much of the non-competition, precision-style clogging around the world can be traced back to the GGC’s.
In the early 2000’s, Dudley rejoined the team he had founded 30 years before and danced with people he had not necessarily met but who knew the group’s first routine he had written with the help of moving little pieces of paper on the floor. He and his family had remained in the mountains since leaving Greenville and had maintained friendships with people they met early on, such as Harper and Wansie Van Hoy, Willard and Ora Watson, and Mitzi Tessier. After a large thirty-fifth anniversary reunion in 2006, soon after he re-joined the GGCs, the two branches of the group he founded have continued to dance together at festivals so the partner-based choreography can remain similar.
In reflecting on the group’s impact on his life, he said, “Well, of course, the obvious thing—that’s where I met Pam. I mean, what can I say? And I’ve got two wonderful sons because of that, too. So, indirectly, it’s had some really wonderful things that have happened because of it. There’s all kinds of advantages—not to say there’s not been some heartbreaking times—because there have been—but the good overshadows the bad by far, and it’s been worth every bit of anything negative that could ever have happened. I’m just filled with gratitude that I was able to be part of it for as long as I have been. I’m a happy camper….It’s unbelievable. I would never have thought that things would be the way they are. I’m just overwhelmed. Very proud. Wouldn’t change it.”
In 2011, the group’s fortieth anniversary year, Dudley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease—and dance became an even more important component of his cognitive and physical exercise. Through his last decade, his experiment from the early 1970s supported him, despite how unlikely it may have seemed at first: “From the very beginning, we’ve always attracted people in our group who had very strong personalities…It’s hard to herd cats, you know. With people going sixteen different directions, it’s hard to get them to go together and do anything, you know, not just dancing. Getting sixteen people to do the same thing at the same time is a real challenge. So, I would characterize the typical Green Grass Clogger as being strong-willed and stubborn. [chuckle] [shrug] That can be good; that can be bad —[smirk]—not that I’m stubborn. [chuckle].” But he was. Despite Parkinson’s, he kept dancing. We are grateful for the eight consecutive weeks of performances we had in Fall 2019—a strong season in which Dudley participated—before the Covid-19 pandemic stalled our practices and performances and pulled our sweet and mischievous Dudley offstage.
A few weeks after the IBMA performance in 2018, he was inducted into America’s Clogging Hall of Fame. That individual accolade followed several for the group as a whole—which are naturally credits to him, too: Western Carolina University’s 2008 Mountain Heritage Award, the Charlotte Folk Society’s 2011 Folk Heritage Award, a 2012 Community Traditions Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society, and in 2014, induction into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. Dudley had a role in teaching and encouraging generations of dancers within the team, and passing on the love of clogging that has been so integral to his life because, “You gotta grow, or else you’re dying.” More personally, though, he said, “You better appreciate your time while you dance because there will come a time when you can’t dance, and it’s tough…I’m at a point now where I’m not physically able to dance, so I have to leave the group. I don’t want to. I still want the group to continue.” But he was, after all, able to dance as long as the rest of us did up until lockdowns in March of 2020. Then he participated in online dance and social sessions into February of 2021, when he returned home from the hospital after his initial Covid diagnosis and before being readmitted with further pneumonia and then entering hospice care.
Everyone close to Dudley knows how much he loved puns and toilet humor, and that he was endlessly amused by mooning and being mooned. He would have been amused to pass on a full moon, but instead, here we are with the new moon—with all of its nudges toward a new cycle of growth. As we’re dreaming of a phase when we can dance together again, wherever we are now, we can do some Dudley steps for Dudley. “The group is just very resilient, he said. “Can’t keep us down….It’s brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. And we need to have the Green Grass Cloggers around for a while. So, whatever it takes.”
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