COLORFUL SIGHT — Kim Ross received this hand-crafted petticoat as a gift from an Arkansas seamstress. Now that the J Creek Cloggers are bringing in more money, Ross-Woody plans to purchase the same type of petticoats for all the females on the team.

COLORFUL SIGHT — Kim Ross received this hand-crafted petticoat as a gift from an Arkansas seamstress. Now that the J Creek Cloggers are bringing in more money, Ross-Woody plans to purchase the same type of petticoats for all the females on the team.
For most, getting more than 20 billion social media views would be a life-changing event.
Not so for the J Creek Cloggers, a home-grown Haywood County clogging group that has ascended to international fame in just five months.
Group founder Kim Ross said the group was stunned after a TikTok video filmed in March at a performance at Darnell Farms went viral, reaching 700 million views in short order.
“We didn’t have TikTok or Instagram and didn’t even know what they were,” Ross said.
Since then, the 30-member group that ranges in age from 7 to 77 has been on a wild ride, with invitations to Willie Nelson’s ranch, being asked to perform in videos of up-and-coming country artists, commercials for products such as Planters Peanuts and even chances to perform across Europe.
That’s thanks to the viral videos posted on all forms of social media. When looking at the statistics for all views recently, Ross was dumbfounded to discover they totaled upward of 24 billion.
Through it all, the group has stayed true to its mountain, blue-collar roots, performing only on weekends and not abandoning existing bookings to chase fame, Ross explained.
The group has turned down as many invitations to perform as it accepts, including several offers to be on television.
“A lot of shows want to use drama to improve ratings, but we’re not about that,” Ross said. “As a team that’s not who we are. We told them that America doesn’t want to see that any more. The comments we get (on social media) are ‘finally, here’s something that’s fun with no drama. We can tell you all love each other.’”
Despite the J Creek Cloggers’ becoming an overnight sensation, the group isn’t looking to get rich or even quit their day jobs.
“We all have blue-collar jobs and gather on weekends to perform, but we don’t have time to practice anymore,” she said. “Any money we get goes right back into the group.”
For instance, team members used to pay for their own clogging shoes and petticoats, hallmarks of those who participate in buck dancing, flat footing or square dancing — all terms that the J Creek Cloggers have become known for through the past 30 years.
Now, needed items such as petticoats that have “lost their fluff” are being replaced out of sponsorship fees or payments from those wanting to capitalize on the J Creek Cloggers’ newfound fame. If there is any extra money left over, perhaps that trip to perform in Ireland or England can be considered, Ross said.
While the performances — and the individuals — are unchanged since being discovered, Ross is upping the J Creek Cloggers game by working with her niece in Tennessee who is studying social media, patenting the group name/logo and forming a limited liability corporation so memorabilia can be sold during performances.
“Already team members are having people come up and ask for their autographs,” she said.
The original viral video that took social media by storm was of Zeb Ross, Kim Ross’s son who has been clogging since he was a boy, and who has been part of the J Creek Cloggers for 13 years.
Despite his meteoric rise in fame, Ross said he is “still grounded.”
“A lot more people definitely know who I am and who the J Creek Cloggers are, but we still work full-time jobs, thankfully, and it’s not going to our heads,” he said.
The group is definitely getting more gigs and is traveling farther than in the past, but despite getting a bit less sleep, it is all working out, he said.
Zeb Ross said all on the team are great dancers, but as with all free-style clogging groups where everyone has their own moves but dances to the same beat, his style has a special spice that has attracted widespread interest.
“I guess mine is a bit more of a unique mix of flat footing and buck dancing but has a little bit of new dance moves like shuffling and sea walking,” he said when asked why his style seemed to have captured such attention.
Sea walking, sometimes called the c-walk or crip dancing, were terms new to Zeb Ross, ones he learned as commenters talked about his style on social media.
“I had to look it up,” he said, as he discussed his dance style. “Growing up, mom always enjoyed dancing and taught us basic dance moves. I practiced and practiced. I learned other things, watched and copycatted and somewhere along the way, I developed my own style.”
The viral videos featuring Ross that are on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, which can be easily found on the J Creek Cloggers Facebook page, often don’t include the traditional Appalachian music to which the group performs.
“When the original viral video came out, it had banjo and fiddle music,” Ross said. “Then they started putting it to hip-hop, rock n’ roll, the Nutcracker. It was interesting because even though these are different genres, the dance style goes well with the songs they’ve been choosing. The one that’s most popular on Instagram is ‘I’m a Thug.’”
Zeb Ross describes himself as a hard worker, humble and someone who likes to get along with everybody. Many comment on his ever-present smile that seems to exhibit the sheer joy he is experiencing while dancing.
That smile is no accident.
“I try to live a happy life, try my best to keep a smile on my face on good days and bad days and I try to make others smile,” he said.
Ironically, while he was raised on bluegrass and country music, his personal taste in music is for the “hair metal” rock bands like Def Leppard, Metallica and other 80s rock bands “with wild and crazy hair,” he said.
Kim Ross founded the J Creek Cloggers 13 years ago as a way to preserve key elements of the Appalachian culture.
When the group is booked for one-and two-hour performances, there is always a talk on the history of Appalachian culture and dancing, as well as a time when the group calls spectators up to participate in and learn about free-style clogging.
In fact, Kim Ross said the term clogging didn’t take hold in the U.S. until 1939 when Haywood’s own Soco Gap dance team performed at the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The president wanted to entice the king and queen of England to visit during WWII to discuss the strategy, Kim Ross said, and used a hot-dog picnic and unique entertainment as an inducement.
“They dubbed it as the picnic that won the war,” she said.
When the queen saw the buck and flat-foot dancing of the Haywood group, she commented it looked like what was called clogging in England, and the term stuck in America, she said.
In the early days, rural families gathered on the weekend where barn dances were the common denominator to draw people together.
“That’s how people socially got together in their communities and how young people learned their social skills,” she tells the audience. “I want to educate people about the culture.”
She formed J Creek Cloggers in 2009 as a way to help her two home-schooled sons, Zeb and Levi (who has since married and moved too far away to continue in the group) learn music, dancing — and to be around others.
“I encouraged both kids to find their own unique style,” she said. “We (J Creek Cloggers) are not precision. We’re preserving free-style dance. The footwork is not the same, but we’re all in beat,” she said.
Zeb Ross’ style is something she terms “a little bit of jitterbug, Charleston, hip-hop and hillbilly crip dancing,” and is one that has definitely attracted the attention of others. That, along with his infectious smile, is what she thinks has led to the group’s newfound fame, something she said all have taken in stride.
“People are wanting autographs, and there are cameras on them all the time,” she said. “They’ve not been nervous and it doesn’t seem to bother them at all.”
Kim Ross, who has a full-time job working from home as a medical transcriptionist, now spends 7-8 hours a day booking performances, answering calls and responding in some way to the 3,000 social media comments the group gets daily.
The merchandising part is being handled by Zeb’s wife, Ashley, and is something she expects to take off once the business corporation status is finalized.
The latest endeavor has been a video supporting the new sweet and spicy flavor of Planters Peanuts, and performance invitations that are now being booked well into 2023 are bound to take the group to many new horizons.
But Haywood supporters need not worry that the typical places where they have long-found the J Creek Cloggers will dry up.
“We’re trying to really, really do local stuff still,” she said. “We’ve turned down things just to keep what we already have. We want to take new stuff but still want to do street dances and balance it out for the locals that have supported us in Haywood County and Western North Carolina.”

MAGGIE VALLEY — When the J Creek Cloggers performed at the Meadowlark Motel several weeks ago, Maggie Valley photographer Wayne Ebinger was on…
To catch the next performance of J Creek Cloggers, check out the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival at Lake Junaluska Friday night. Music starts at 5:30 p.m.
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