BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — Organizers of the largest festival in Burke County are responding Tuesday after allowing the Artimus Pyle Band to headline one of the nights. Channel 9 spoke with Pyle who denies the allegations.
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.
According to the sex offender registry, Pyle was convicted of felony capital first-degree attempted sexual battery in Florida in 1993.
Already, more than 300 people 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.
Organizers said since 2013, the band has averaged 18 concerts a year without a complaint.
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.”