Moonshiners: What Happened To The Former Cast?

Right from the start, the premise of the show "Moonshiners" is a little dubious at best. After all, making moonshine in a backyard is still illegal, and showing a group of people making it is kind of like making a show called "Train Robbery," and then showing masked bandits boarding trains and sticking 'em up. Law enforcement in the area where the show is filmed have seemingly confirmed that there's actually nothing illegal happening, otherwise they would, well, arrest people.

That's not to say that some of the cast haven't been legit distillers, because they are — and some, buoyed by the fame that the show brought, have gone on to make a living as a completely legitimate moonshiner. Others have gone on to less alcohol-centric careers, and yes, sadly, some former familiar faces are no longer with us. Let's talk about the cast members that we no longer see on "Moonshiners," find out what they're up to now, and maybe even talk about what to look for on the next trip to the liquor store for some real, down-home, backwoods-style moonshine ... from the professionals.

Bill Canny

Bill Canny was on "Moonshiners" from 2012 to 2019, and like a true Southerner, he possessed a host of practical skills that he wasn't afraid to use. He wasn't just a moonshiner, he was an incredible carpenter, too. In one 2016 episode, he was shown working on not a large scale, but a small one: His project was the delicate work of an instrument. He remarked that he was swinging a hammer like he was always meant to, so it makes sense to assume that when he and the Discovery Channel parted ways, that was the direction he was going in.

That seems at least partially true. Information is scarce, but given that a 2020 update to his Facebook page shows him working on the bare bones of a roof, it's likely that's at least part of what he's been up to. Another 2023 update hints at the fact that he tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend, and he's also been keeping busy on the music side of things, too.

Canny has been taking to the stage as the bass player with The Wes, Bill & Rich Show, performing live music at a few venues that include R.J. Rockers Brewing Company, along with others around their home base in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Lance Waldroup

"Moonshiners" might be about moonshine, but it was the new blood that brought something different to the show. Lance Waldroup worked alongside his father, Jeff, and left in 2019, but that wasn't before bringing things like absinthe to the moonshiners' repertoire. Unfortunately, he passed away not long after leaving the show.

The news broke via TMZ, which reported that on February 25, 2021, his mother called 911 after finding him unconscious in his room. His death was never treated as suspicious, and the official cause of death was ultimately listed as congestive heart failure, with cardiomyopathy and obesity playing contributing factors.

According to official reports, Waldroup had been going through treatment for opioid addiction. He had also apparently struggled with mental health issues, stemming from the loss of his siblings. According to a GoFundMe set up for the family, both died of complications from cystic fibrosis: Lyndsey passed away when she was 11, and Lamar passed away when he was 20. It was also revealed that his mother's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was what led to his departure from "Moonshiners," as stated on the GoFundMe page: "He did not want to leave her side and waited on her hand and foot."

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Jeff Waldroup

Moonshining has long been a family affair, so it's fitting that Jeff Waldroup did, of course, work alongside his son when they were featured on "Moonshiners." Off the screen, though, things have been difficult, and some information about what happened to them post-show was included in a GoFundMe organized after Lance Waldroup's unexpected death. Their departure from the show came after Lance's mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and while it doesn't give specifics, it's also noted that "Jeff went back to his other career full time." However, COVID hit not long after they left the show, making work scarce and times tight.

Jeff seems to have once again turned back to moonshining, continuing to pay tribute to his late son with Jeff and Lance's Carolina Moonshine. He makes regular appearances at Grandaddy Mimm's Distilling Company, and in 2022, confirmed in a Facebook post response that no, he has no intentions of going back to "Moonshiners."

Jim Tom Hedrick

Anyone looking to name a master distiller for their historical fiction novel based around the moonshine industry isn't going to go wrong with the name Jim Tom, and fans of the show know there's some real-life inspiration for that. There is, after all, no amount of schooling that can replace experience and lessons from the old-timers when it comes to moonshine, and Jim Tom Hedrick shared his liquor-making expertise on more than a few episodes of "Moonshiners." When he passed away in 2023, it was clear that the show and the industry had lost a valued member.

Sugarlands Shine Distillery issued a statement saying (in part, via Variety): "Jim Tom dedicated much of his life to the art of moonshining, becoming a legend in Appalachia along the way. ... his colorful personality endeared Jim Tom to the heart of millions." Meanwhile, Sugarlands founder Ned Vickers credited him with being "instrumental in shaping the authenticity of Sugarlands."

Deadline confirms that after Hedrick left the show, it was to team up with Sugarland officially. He kept in touch with some of the "Moonshiners" stars, though, who posted thoughts, prayers, and updates about his health after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He was 82 years old when he passed away.

Tyler Wood

There are reminders of Tyler Wood's time on "Moonshiners" all over not just his social media, but his business, too. After leaving the show in 2016, Wood focused on growing his Tyler Wood Distillery, which brands itself as selling "Traditional Whiskey Born from Adversity." That's an all-grain, 103-proof white whiskey he promises has been aged for at least a month in white oak barrels, and he stresses that his present-day endeavors harken back to a family tradition of moonshining that goes all the way back to the Civil War.

He's also continued to work in the music industry: In addition to earlier albums "Outlaw Soul," "Road to Redemption," and "Who I Am," he also released "My Hallelujah" in 2021. In 2020, he released the official video to "Wake Up," taking to social media to not only announce the release, but share his anti-vax beliefs. 

Wood has also been very active on social media platforms, using them to share Bible verses, anti-LGBTQ+ messages, and warnings not to listen to fake news. He regularly posts videos to his feeds as well, occasionally sharing information about his former "Moonshiners" castmates.

Marvin Popcorn Sutton

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton helped to introduce viewers to moonshining, and he was the real deal. He was so real, in fact, that he was arrested in 2008 for trying to sell 1,000 gallons of illegal shine to an undercover cop, along with being in possession of a cache of stills, supplies, and guns. He was convicted, sentenced to 18 months in jail, and died by suicide four days before he was due to turn himself in and start serving his sentence.

That wasn't entirely the end of his story, though. He was married to his fourth wife at the time of his death, and she told the Associated Press (via NBC News), "He couldn't go to prison. His mind would just not accept it ... So credit the federal government for my husband being dead, I really do." His daughter, Skye, echoed those sentiments, telling Knox News that along with the prison sentence, he had also received a recent cancer diagnosis. "Nobody was going to tell him what to do," she said. "He did it his way. He always lived a death-before-dishonor kind of life."

Not long before his death, Sutton took steps to make sure his famous shine wasn't lost: He entered into a partnership with a distiller named Jamey Grosser. Sutton's wife, meanwhile, has kept his legacy alive with branded merch, explaining to The New York Times, "He would like the attention, but he would swear he didn't." His daughter has written a book about him, "Daddy Moonshine: The Story of Marvin 'Popcorn' Sutton."

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Wayne Nix

Wayne Nix had a relatively short stint on "Moonshiners" back in 2013, when he appeared in 12 episodes. It didn't take long for the fame to give him a leg-up in going legit, and it seems that immediately following his appearance on the show, he got what most people could only hope for when Broadslab Distillery announced that they were partnering with him to produce his Hanging Dog Moonshine. It's unclear, however, exactly what happened to the collaboration, as the Hanging Dog website is no longer available, and the moonshine itself doesn't seem to be readily available, either. 

Nix's Facebook page still features his brand, although his posts — and the videos shared on his YouTube channel — aren't about moonshine as much as they're about riding dirt bikes, showing the aftermath of some terrifying-looking accidents, and occasionally calling out "Moonshiners," while reminding people that it's supposed to be for entertainment.

Chuck Miller

Chuck Miller appeared on "Moonshiners" until 2021, but he definitely hasn't gotten out of the business. Listed as a distiller rather than a moonshiner, Miller continues to be the master distiller at Belmont Farms Distillery, which brands itself as the home of America's first legal moonshine. It's also the home of "Moonshiners" favorite Tim Smith, as it's where Smith's legal moonshine, Climax, is largely produced. 

Miller has been doing what he's doing for a long time, telling the Culpeper Star-Exponent that he and his wife established their legal distillery back in 1988, after the airline he was employed by went out of business. Basing his distillery around a 1930s-era recipe, he's kept it going and kept it in the family.

Miller remains hands-on at the Virginia distillery, with visitors often able to meet him in person. The distillery's active social media keeps fans abreast of their frequent events — which sometimes include appearances by other "Moonshiners" cast members. In 2020, Belmont Farm joined the list of distilleries that turned to producing hand sanitizer during the COVID pandemic, which they continue to sell — along with their golden gin, apple whiskey, chai spiced rum, kettle vodka, and, of course, moonshine.

Roy Grooms

Roy Grooms wasn't shy about being a moonshiner: His social media literally identifies him as "Moonshiner Roy Grooms," and he appeared in a handful of episodes between 2013 and 2015. He regularly shared updates about area festivals and invited everyone who followed him along for the party, but his last update was in February 2017. As for his appearances on "Moonshiners," unfortunately, some of that was archive footage, as he passed away in 2018 at the age of 71.

His daughter shared his obituary to her own social media accounts in February of 2018, saying that they would be honoring him at a festival that he often posted about: the Hillbilly Winter Jam. "He was looking forward to seeing everybody and would want us to carry on by telling the stories he told and sharing memories of him," she wrote. According to his obituary, he was survived by his wife, daughter, granddaughter, two brothers, and two sisters. No cause of death was given.

J.T. Smith

J.T. Smith is the son of "Moonshiners" fan favorite Tim Smith, so it's not entirely surprising that he's following in his father's footsteps. After appearing in a series of episodes between 2011 and 2019, he partnered with Belmont Farm Distillery to create his own product, JT Rye. According to the official description, it's a rye whiskey made with a whopping 95% rye. (In order to be considered rye whiskey, it technically only needs to contain at least 51% rye.) He adds that, as with many moonshiners, it's about much more than just the product: "I learned the craft of distilling whiskey from my father, who learned from his father. I'm honored to carry on a family tradition."

And yes, the whiskey and the show are connected. While viewers might not be able to sample most of the products that run through the still on "Moonshiners," JT Rye is one of them: He created the basis for the product while on the show. 

He's also following in his father's footsteps as a volunteer, too: He's a first responder with the Climax Fire Department, and a look at his social media shows that he's also active in promoting giveaways and fundraisers to benefit the department.

Chico and Sondra

Some people only need to be known by a single name, and "Moonshiners" fans will tell anyone that's the case with Chico. He's been featured on around 50 episodes and said goodbye to the show after the seventh season. What happened to him after that is a little vague, with Distractify saying that his initial post-show venture was partnering with Olde Towne Distillery to release his own Spirit Whiskey. It's unclear what happened, though: The distillery's Facebook page doesn't mention their collaboration with him, their website is unavailable, and Chico's Spirit Whiskey only seems to be available in very limited quantities, with no indication of future production. 

Distractify also makes mention of Chico's other passion, riding and breeding horses. There's no mention of that on his social media pages, either, although he did update his personal page with news regarding the birth of his and Sondra's son in 2018. 

As for Sondra, her MoonshinerSondra Facebook page is no longer active, but her personal page — linked via Chico's page — reveals that she is working as the manager at an Italian restaurant, that she married in 2020, and became Cassondra Whitaker. When her relationship with Chico ended is unclear.

Patti Bryan and David Parker

Moonshining isn't just about the liquor, it's about the history, too — and no other "Moonshiners" cast members pay homage to the family traditions of backwoods distilling like father-daughter duo Patti Bryan and David Parker. After appearing on around 30 episodes and leaving the show, it's safe to say that Bryan is the one who continued to make her mark in moonshine history.

While there isn't too much information on what Parker has been up to, there are occasional updates posted on their joint Facebook page, Louisiana Moonshiners. Those include sharing personal updates, like that of the passing of Parker's mother in 2021, and the 49th anniversary he shared with his wife that same year.

Bryan, meanwhile, has established several partnerships to sell her shine. Patti's Peach Pie Moonshine is available through the South Mountain Distilling Co., and Patti's Wild Mayhaw Moonshine was made and distributed through Sugarlands. Bryan had started that particular partnership while she and her father were still on the show, stressing to the Natchitoches Times that, yes, the recipe was 100% theirs, and that they saw the opportunity to — with the drink's pink color and lower alcohol content — appeal specifically to female viewers.

Donnie Benton and Teresa Coomer Mays

Donnie Benton and Teresa Coomer Mays were only in a handful of "Moonshiners" episodes in 2019, but they made a big impression as The Beattyville Hillbillies. Since then, they've been busy not only making moonshine, but helping to preserve the moonshine-making culture of Kentucky.

The couple was instrumental in the design and establishment of one of the first museums to moonshine, the Backwoods Moonshine Museum. In addition to chatting with moonshiners in person, visitors can see a myriad of stills, moonshine-related artifacts, talk about history, and learn about what made moonshine a necessity for generations of shiners. They're a part of the recently established Moonshine Trail, which is a series of stops throughout Kentucky that tell the story of the state's moonshine industry ... and give visitors a taste of the real deal along the way.

They've also been making public appearances at places like the Beattyville Bourbon & Moonshine Festival, and anyone looking to take a taste of the backwoods home can look for their completely legit Beattyville Hillbillies branded Huckleberry Moonshine.

Big Chuck Battison

Chuck Battison showed up in 12 episodes of "Moonshiners," usually alongside Josh and at least once in some archival footage. What's he been up to since? That's kind of complicated, as part of that seems to be that he's lashed out at the show. After being featured in the 2016/2017 season, he took to his Facebook page with some harsh words. 

People had been asking him why he left the show, and he wrote (in part) that he had never actually talked to anyone from Discovery about being on the show, and continued [sic]: "I'm not a Back Stabbers I'm Loyal to my Friends and stand by their side [no] matter what ... those liars druma Queens manipulators bad people who break up friendships for money I say kiss my A**."

In the meantime, it seems as though he's been keeping busy not only in the moonshine community, but in his community in the larger sense, too. On his other Facebook page, he's shared messages from organizations (like the Boyd's Kinsman Home) thanking him for his help at fundraisers, and photos of his appearances and autograph signings at places like the Southern Distilling Company. He's also been appearing in places like the Beattyville Bourbon and Moonshine Fest, where organizers lauded him for his giving spirit and devotion to lending a hand to nonprofits in need.

Mike Mitchell

While some of the former cast of "Moonshiners" have taken full advantage of the fame, Mike Mitchell seems to have opted for a quieter life these days. He was on the show back in the 2013 to 2014 season, and these days, his social media is used to share some perfectly ordinary photos of Mitchell and his dog, on his boat, and of his horse, Buddy. He also shared news of the passing of his father in 2020, along with scores of memes calling on the masses to vote for Trump, grab their guns, and open their eyes to the conspiracies of the COVID pandemic. 

He also seems to have at least briefly bottled and sold his own brand of moonshine, although there's not much information out there. The Mississippi-based Liquor Barrel shared photos of their stock back in 2016, and included apple pie shine along with his original. It's unclear if it was made in partnership with a distillery, or if it continues to be made.