Early Life in Appalachian Culture

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton was born on October 5, 1946, in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, a place deeply rooted in the Appalachian culture. Growing up in this environment, Sutton was naturally drawn to the traditions of the region, including the art of moonshining. His family background, with Scots-Irish American roots, was steeped in a legacy of self-reliance and resistance to authority, which significantly influenced his later life as a moonshiner.

The Moonshining Maverick

Sutton's foray into moonshining wasn't just a business; it was a way of life, a cultural heritage he was proud to continue. He honed his craft over the years, becoming renowned for his skill in distilling high-quality moonshine. His methods were traditional, using copper stills and natural water sources, reflecting a deep respect for the craft passed down through generations.

Rise to Notoriety

Despite being a small-time operator, Sutton's charisma and skill brought him national attention. He wrote a guide to moonshine production titled "Me and My Likker" and was featured in documentaries, including "This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make," which further cemented his status as a cultural icon. His defiance against the law, combined with his traditional moonshining methods, made him a folk hero to many.

Legal Troubles and Tragic End

Popcorn Sutton's moonshining activities inevitably put him at odds with the law. His first arrest came in 1974, and subsequent run-ins with law enforcement culminated in a 2009 sentence of 18 months in federal prison. Tragically, facing prison time and suffering from health issues, Sutton chose to end his life on March 16, 2009.

Impact on Distilling and Legacy

Popcorn Sutton's legacy in the world of distilling is profound. He left behind a rich heritage of traditional moonshine production, which continues to influence modern craft distillers. His life story, marked by rebellion, skill, and a deep connection to Appalachian culture, continues to inspire and fascinate, making him a legendary figure in American folklore.


Popcorn Sutton's life was a vivid tapestry of Appalachian tradition, rebellion, and moonshining artistry. His legacy lives on in the world of distilling and in the hearts of those who admire the rugged individualism and cultural heritage he represented.

For further reading and a more in-depth look into Popcorn Sutton's life and legacy, I recommend exploring sources like his self-penned book "Me and My Likker," various documentaries in which he was featured, and online resources dedicated to his memory.

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About the Author Michael Sundburg