Shelton was born in Kingsport, Tennessee and raised in Gate City, Virginia. A major influence musically on Shelton as a youth were the Stanley Brothers, who were from nearby Dickenson County, Virginia. When he was 12 years old he saw Ralph Stanley perform and was inspired to learn the guitar and banjo. His father bought him his first guitar which cost $89.95. Shelton worked for his father, at $1.25 an hour, to repay him for the instrument. He also found influence in the Carter Family, Flatt and Scruggs, and Bill Monroe. It was in the records of the Stanley Brothers where Shelton heard the guitar playing of George Shuffler, who had developed a style of crosspicking. Shelton would go on to idolize Shuffler, and eventually play with him during his professional career. Shelton lived in Church Hill, Tennessee, until his death on June 3, 2014.
Shelton went on to play with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. His guitar playing was unique, mixing aspects of George Shuffler's crosspicking style, Doc Watson's flatpicking and a blues finger-style of picking. He later played dobro and guitar with the Flint Hill band.
Shelton recorded 10 solo albums: