Friday, October 21, 2011

Blue Ridge Music Center (Blue Ridge Parkway 5)

The Blue Ridge Music Center is near Galax, VA, home of the long-running Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. It's one of the newer attractions on the Parkway, and has an interpretive area and a venue for live music. The first display in the interpretive area began with the history of Blue Ridge music in a most-fitting way.
Ah, yes. I'm home now.
From this introduction, the display proceeds with a description of how uniquely American music evolved.
Prominently displayed is the African influence on American folk music. The banjo (pronounced "ban'-jer") originated in Africa and evolved in America into a sort of glue that holds bluegrass music together, especially after Earl Scruggs introduced the 3-finger roll.
From here the story goes to technology, how the introduction of radio and recording brought this regional music form to first a national and then an international audience. Now I often listen to a bluegrass program on the internet that originates in The Netherlands!
The first modern recordings of country music were made in 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee, when Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company set up a makeshift recording studio in a hotel room. Here he recorded first Jimmy Rogers and then the Carter Family from nearby Maces Springs, VA. A.P., Sarah, and Maybelle Carter went on the become the "first family" of country music and to found a musical dynasty. Maybelle, above, is shown in a 1961 appearance on the Flatt and Scruggs television show. This is only one of many video recordings available at the music center of early performers.
I also enjoyed one of Doc Watson with Clint Howard and Fred Price singing "Daniel Prayed." Watson, a folk music legend, is from Deep Gap, NC, some 60 miles south of the Music Center.  I'll have more on him at some time in the future.
As we were preparing to leave, people began gathering for a live music performance that was scheduled to begin in about an hour. But this day we had hotel reservations and had to get on up the road. Rats!


  1. Fantastic post with great photos and info.

    Darryl and Ruth :)

  2. I grew up in Boone, NC. My mother had a friend whose porch was a magnet for neighborhood musicians who filled the air with music. I was totally impressed with one singer who was blind. It was only when I went away to college that I learned just how famous the blind man had become. Yep. He was Doc Watson.

  3. What a wonderful experience, NCMW. And it's consistent with everything I've heard about him. I understand you can just knock on his door and he's as glad to see you as if you were a long-time friend. We were in Boone a couple of weeks ago; nice town. Jim

  4. This sounds like a great place to visit. I love old time music, especially fiddles and banjos.