Alton Tharse Batten, age 68, of Selma, NC, died November, 20th 2016, after an extended illness. Better known in the bluegrass world as Al Batten, he was a founding member of the bluegrass band, Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion.
Performing was his passion, with a stage show as memorable for comedy as it was for music. For over forty years, Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion toured much of the eastern United States and visited Ireland twice to perform for the International Bluegrass and Folk Festival in Omagh.
A Celebration of Life service was held today, November 23rd at the Bethany Baptist Life Center in Kenly, NC. The family received friends at the church immediately following the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the SECU Hospice House, PO Box 1376, Smithfield, NC 27577.
The family released a statement on the group’s social media page on Sunday: “Our family is deeply saddened to inform you that our Dad, Al Batten, passed away this morning after an extended illness. Thank you for all the prayers and support over the last several weeks. Dad touched many lives not only through his music but as a teacher, a farmer and a friend. As many hearts are heavy on this day we hope you will find comfort in your time and memories with our Dad. He was truly one of a kind!”
Playing traditional bluegrass music, encouraging younger musicians, and forming friendships through his music were among his greatest joys.
Al was the banjo player in the band and often said he was inspired by Earl Scruggs, Don Reno and Bill Emerson among others.
Batten was a graduate of North Johnston High School and North Carolina State University and was a lifelong member of Bethany Missionary Baptist Church where he served as a deacon.
He was a retired farmer, and a beloved vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at North Johnston High School for over 35 years.
The Batten Family received the NC Outstanding Young Family Award in 1980 and received the Conservation Farm Family Award in 1995.
He was a charter member of the Bethany Volunteer Fire Department.
Al loved the outdoors and hunting, and was recognized by Winchester Ammunition as the Winchester Quail Unlimited Volunteer of the Year in 2007.
Survivors include his daughter, Lori Batten McLamb, her husband Jack McLamb, and their children, Lily and Cate McLamb, son, Brian Alton Batten, his wife Melodie Whitaker Batten, and their children, Sarah and Nick Batten, his significant other Gloria Johnson and her family and brother, Glenn Batten.