Morganton festival organizers cancel performance by musician who is a registered sex offender

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — Organizers of the largest festival in Burke County said Friday that headliner, the Artimus Pyle Band, will not be playing after much controversy.

“I am very disappointed to have to announce that the Artimus Pyle Band and The Historic Morganton Festival, Inc. will by mutual agreement, be canceling the contract to perform at the 40th Annual Morganton Festival”, stated Sharon Jablonski, Director of HMF, Inc.

The Historic Morganton Festival in September attracts tens of thousands of people each year, filling the streets of downtown Morganton.

This year, an online petition is trying to keep the band from performing because Pyle is a registered sex offender in North Carolina. He’s also a former drummer for the band Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Pyle denies the allegations.

“The backlash on social media has prompted threats, to not only the HMF, Inc. and City of Morganton, but additionally to festival sponsors and to other scheduled performers, causing one to withdraw. It has become apparent that the performance by The Artimus Pyle Band cannot go on,” Jablonski said Friday in a news release.

According to the sex offender registry, Pyle was convicted of felony capital first-degree attempted sexual battery in Florida in 1993.

The Artimus Pyle Band released the following statement on the cancellation:

“I regret not being able to perform but understand and do not wish to cause any further division or controversy in the place I now call home. We are making this decision in the best interest of the community and the Morganton Festival”

Hundreds have signed the petition opposing the selection of Artimus Pyle. The petition said people who signed it planned on boycotting the festival and voting against city leaders who don’t denounce the performance.

“They knew about his record before they hired him and didn’t think to let the citizens know,” parent Justina Keene said.

Pyle told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty the allegations made against him in the 1990s are false and that he’d never hurt a child.

“A girl that I was with for six years made a false charge against me to get into the deep pockets of Lynyrd Skynyrd and try to get some money,” Pyle said. “None of it is true. I’ve never harmed a child in my life.”

Pyle said that he could not financially defend himself and agreed to a no-contest plea, but that decision also required him to register as a sex offender.

Pyle said he has lost venues because of the conviction.

“We just lost a gig in Sacramento because someone called,” Pyle said.

He hopes the people of Morganton will give him a chance.

“I don’t belong on that list and I’m so sad right now,” Pyle said. “I want to cry.”

Festival organizers were aware of the singer’s past when they booked him.

Organizers said that since 2013, the band has played, on average, 18 times a year at different venues.

“Mr. Pyle was fully open with the HMF Board and staff concerning his past. It is significant that many of the concerts, which the Artimus Pyle Band has performed in recent years, have been in public venues such as auditoriums or outdoor stages, all without inappropriate incidents,” the Historic Morganton Festival Board said.

The board also said that Pyle played at another large festival in Valdese and that there weren’t any issues there.

At this time, there is no announcement for who will be headlining the 40th Anniversary of the Morganton Festival.

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