Having shot to fame after joining the docudrama series “Moonshiners”, the professional motocross racer and distiller Josh Owens has become something of a small-screen sensation. As one of the youngest and most charismatic cast members on the show, Josh has won himself a legion of fans of all ages since 2012.
Josh was born in Columbus, North Carolina, USA, in August 1977. Unlike other cast members who have been part of the moonshine trade since their adolescent years, Josh began to learn the art of distilling only in his early 30s, and was mentored for several years by Barney Barnwell, a former cast member of the show. Prior to Barney’s passing, he asked Josh to build an underground still to keep making moonshine; since then, the North Carolina native has honored and continued his friend’s legacy.
Shortly after Barney’s passing, the production team of “Moonshiners” offered Josh the chance to become a cast member, and the rest was history. Apart from being passionate about quad bike and motorcycle track racing, the handsome TV personality also has his own company, Tree and Yard Busters, which is dedicated to maintaining clients’ gardens in perfect condition.
Josh is also a devoted father and regularly posts his daughter on social media. He was believed to be in a long-term relationship with his daughter’s mother, but they split amicably before he found love again with Amber Lyne Gabric. Although Amber and Josh would later break up, to this day they share custody of their beloved pet dog. It remains unclear whether Josh is back on the dating scene, or prefers to focus on his family and career, for the time being.
When the “Moonshiners” star was absent during much of the show’s tenth season, rumors of his arrest spread like wildfire on social media – the rumors were totally false, but he did get into trouble with his friend’s landlord after setting up distilling materials in the latter’s building. It turns out that Josh thought the building belonged to his friend – and while it seems like a careless mistake to make, it isn’t the first time his lack of forward planning has landed him in hot water, as he previously burnt his house and trailer down in two separate incidents while trying to make moonshine.
Josh doesn’t have the best of luck when it comes to bike riding either. In March 2018, he suffered a ghastly accident with his beloved Harley Davidson when one of the tires on the vintage bike blew out. Josh smashed into a wall and was taken to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona, where he was diagnosed with a host of injuries including a torn rotator cuff, a punctured lung, a broken left collarbone and left shoulder blade to name a few.
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Unfortunately, Josh didn’t have a health insurance plan when the accident happened, and he later claimed to have been sent home before his injuries were properly attended to when the hospital staff discovered his situation. Administrators at Halifax Medical Center would later deny Josh’s version of events, but regardless, it took the distiller a long time to bounce back. Although Josh sold enough custom merchandise to scrape together the money to pay his medical bills, he’s struggled with mobility issues and excruciating back pain ever since.
Recently, Josh made headlines for all the wrong reasons yet again, after suffering an accident at the Daytona International Speedway during a racing event. Information regarding the extent of Josh’s injuries has varied wildly from source to source, with some news outlets describing the crash as a “deadly accident” and others claiming that the “Moonshiners” star was hospitalized. For now, a Facebook page has been created by someone close to the TV star, with sources asking for prayers and confirming Josh’s stable condition.
Produced by Magilla Entertainment for the Discovery Channel, “Moonshiners” premiered in December 2011, and documents the lives of moonshine makers in North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains. The inspiration behind the show was Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, perhaps the most famous moonshiner and bootlegger in the world.
Although Marvin’s life experiences clearly influenced “Moonshiners”, he sadly died before being able to see the cultural impact he had left on society. Marvin was arrested in 2007 for possession of a handgun and illegally distilling liquor. Due to his extensive criminal record, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, but committed suicide rather than serve time.
Despite being entertaining and informative, “Moonshiners” has been questioned for its lack of authenticity. The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) released a statement in March 2012 in which it confirmed that no illegal activity was being portrayed in the show, and also asked that Magilla Entertainment include a disclaimer saying that the events portrayed in the series were dramatized. However, Magilla refused to do so, insisting that “Moonshiners” is 100% genuine.
Meet the Cast
Although many distillers have come and gone over the years in the history of “Moonshiners”, the current stars of the show are Eric Manes, Steven Ray Tickle, Tim Smith, Josh Owens and Mark Ramsey. Other relevant cast members such as Jeff and Lance Waldroup and Jim Tom Hendrick will also be mentioned in this section.
Eric “Digger” Manes was first seen in the show in 2014. Having appeared in over 100 episodes since then, Eric is one of the best-known faces in the series, especially thanks to the close bond he and Mark share. Although the two have been plagued by gay relationship rumors which have become something of a running joke amongst fans of the docudrama, the close friends are both married.
Jeff and Lance Waldroup were a dynamic father-son duo who left “Moonshiners” in 2019. Not much is known about them off-screen, as they made sure to protect their privacy behind the cameras, but we can confirm that they come from an illustrious family legacy of moonshiners; Jeff’s work history also includes a stint as a bulldozer operator and logger, and he’s said to have plans of starting his own business.
Lance made plenty of questionable decisions while working alongside his father, partly due to a lack of business knowledge; for example, fans fondly remember when he tried to sell absinthe for three times its market rate, and wondered why nobody bought any. Even so, Lance made up for his slip-ups with the charming personality that helped him become a fan favorite. Viewers of “Moonshiners” were shaken to the core by his sudden death, which we will discuss later.
Steven Ray Tickle is a resident of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and works in the small town of Gretna. Viewers consider him to be the most scandalous cast member, and they’re definitely not wrong; from public intoxication charges to being arrested for possession of a sawn-off shotgun, Steven’s criminal record is one for the books. In fact, the moonshiner was hit with a suspended sentence in February 2016 and finally had to spend almost half a year behind bars after violating probation. Shortly afterwards, he was involved in a potentially deadly car accident…. while driving with a suspended license!
Prior to becoming a moonshiner, Steven lived in Washington DC and worked as a union carpenter. In October 2013, while considering running against US Representative Robert Hunt of Virginia’s 5th congressional district, Steven gave a disastrous interview in which he dubbed the Affordable Care Act “crap”. Since then, he seems to have shelved his dreams of a political career. In 2019, the colorful character tied the knot with Carol Ann, a bail bondswoman.
Next up is Tim Smith, the show’s leading character, who comes from generations of skilled moonshiners. The Vancouver native made a fortune off a family recipe, and is a successful business owner with several ventures including Tim Smith Southern Reserve, Original Climax Moonshine, and Climax Spirits. Fans of Tim are always willing to pay for guided tours of his distillery, where they learn how to make whiskey and moonshine, and meet the TV personality.
Born and raised in East Tennessee, Mark Ramsey has been making moonshine for most of his life, and loves to experiment with new flavors and brewing techniques. Although no one in Mark’s family is part of the distilling trade, he became interested in moonshining through a close friend whom he met in his early adult years. Mark and his wife love to attend moonshine events, to meet and chat to fans, but are both notoriously private individuals who aren’t active on social media. When not busy filming for the show, Mark runs his business, Sugarlands Distilling Co.
Jim Tom Hendrick is another fondly-remembered cast member, who left after season seven. Born in the late 1940s, Jim became a moonshiner during his teenage years and is now passing his wisdom on to the next generation. Viewers were understandably sad when Jim left the show; however, after over half a century working the trade, the TV icon is taking a well-deserved break to enjoy his golden years.
Lance Waldroup’s death in February 2021 left fans of “Moonshiners” shaken to their core. At the young age of 30, the TV personality was found dead at home in Robbinsville, North Carolina; when news outlets found out, the tragedy spread like wildfire across the internet and was confirmed by Jeff, although the cause of death remained a secret for a long time.
We are saddened to hear about the loss of Lance Waldroup, an adventurous distiller who was featured alongside his father throughout the early seasons of Moonshiners. He will be sorely missed.
— Moonshiners (@MoonshinersTV) March 1, 2021
Online sleuths then discovered that there’s been a long string of untimely deaths in the Waldroup family. Lance’s brother and sister, Lamar and Lindsey, died aged just 20 and 11 years old respectively. Although their causes of death were unknown, many fans believed that Lance had passed away of a drug overdose, as he was a former addict. To dispel the rumors, the Waldroup family later released a statement explaining that Lance hadn’t touched drugs since his rehab stay.
As we mentioned, Jeff refused to explain the circumstances around Lance’s passing. However, it was later revealed that Lance was found unconscious by his mother just hours after entering the family home to play videogames. At the time, Lance weighed almost 600 pounds, so unsurprisingly, congenital heart failure was revealed as the cause of his death. The “Moonshiners” alum spent many years battling his demons, such as depression and opioid addiction, which people believed may have contributed to his ill health.
Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton
Marvin Sutton was born in October 1946 and passed away in March 2009. The bootlegger and moonshiner was raised in North Carolina’s Maggie Valley and spent his whole life living in the rural areas around the town. A Scots-Irish American, moonshine production was part of Marvin’s heritage, as the men and some women in his family all worked in the trade.
Marvin’s original nickname was given to him in the 1960s or ‘70s, when he attacked a popcorn vending machine with a pool cue. He had various run-ins with the law throughout adulthood. but managed to avoid a prison sentence. In 1974, he was convicted of selling untaxed liquor; in the 1980s, he was charged with possessing controlled substances and assault with a deadly weapon, which saw him serve time in Asheville’s Craggy Correctional Center. A decade later, he was placed on probation with a suspended sentence when state agents raided his roadside store and found sixty gallons of moonshine and a moonshine still.
Following the last incident, Marvin self-published “Me and My Likker”, his autobiography and guide to moonshine production, which would later be described as “a rambling, obscene, and often hilarious account of his life in the trade”. A home video of the same name was also released on VHS tape around the same time; little did Marvin know that he would become an unlikely cultural icon in the following years.
Marvin committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in March 2009, found by his wife, Pam, when she returned home from running errands. Meanwhile, Marvin’s daughter claims to have been told in advance that her father would commit suicide instead of going to jail, and said he had “the strength to die the way he lived… according to his own wishes and no one else’s.”
After being initially buried at a family graveyard in Mount Sterling, a few months later Marvin’s body was relocated to his property in Parrottsville, where a private memorial service was held. The service was attended by influential figures such as the country singer Hank Williams Jr, – the moonshine production community mourned the loss of one of its biggest personalities. Despite never chasing fame or fortune, Marvin’s influence is undeniable, and can be seen to this day in “Moonshiners” and similar shows.