A Handmade History of the Birth of Country Music from the Blue Ridge Plateau
Saturday, April 23rd at the Floyd Country Store in Floyd, VA
Join us at the Floyd Country Store on Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 7:30pm for music and discussion on a century of the People, Places, Tunes and Roots from Floyd, Patrick, Carroll & Grayson Counties, with Martha Spencer, Mac Traynham, Andy Buckman, Kinney Rorrer, Wayne Martin, Trevor McKenzie, Corbin Hayslett, Jackson Cunningham and Hunter Holmes.
April 4; Floyd, VA: Since the early 1900s, the site of the Floyd Country Store — originally called Farmer’s Supply — was a place where farmers, craftsmen, laborers and travelers all converged to trade wares and discuss the topics of the day. When the workday was done, these people of all ages and backgrounds would converge here to dance and share the music and lore traditional to the mountainous area known today as the Blue Ridge Plateau. On Saturday, April 23, the Floyd Country Store will host a launch party and fundraiser for Music of Our Mountains, a new interactive web site that will survey the stories of people, places, tunes and roots that have informed this region’s heritage, exploring how five counties in rural, southwestern Virginia generated such a prolific bed of both talent and industrious zeal. The first phase of this this living-document style chronicle will focus expressly on the counties surrounding Floyd, VA (Floyd, Franklin, Patrick, Carroll and Grayson) prior to the Great Depression – setting the stage for a further journey.
This kick-off event features artists from the area, some of whom have a lineage to those early musical pioneers. As we approach the 100-year anniversary of recorded country music, the Floyd General Store will be hosting a series of live musician events by both regional and nationally known acts. Music Of Our Mountains will be updated regularly with new personal histories, shared content from published books about the subject as well as content from various university archives.
The story of Appalachia — The Smokies, the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies — is one of cultural persecution and upheaval, of great migrations and industrial exploitation. It was a geographical crossroads and a gateway for the great movement of peoples in search of a better life amidst the growth of vast industries, the times of temperance and prohibition, and the proliferation of new technologies (access to radios, phonographs) that would impact the lives of even those in the most isolated mountain enclaves.
The music of this time and place — Mountain Music — developed as traditional English, Scots-Irish, German, French, African and Indigenous cultures traded ideas and culture, producing music that made no delineations between origin, race or gender. The rich heritage of this particular region of Southwestern Virginia became “a fertile crescent” for old-time music – one of a number of areas in North America that served as a hub for the earliest recorded Country music.
In the first chapter of Music of our Mountains, we explore key figures from the Plateau and the story of how they were pivotal in sharing their sound with the world through a burgeoning recording industry:
Henry Whitter — Grayson County — was the first-ever recorded “country” singer, a mill worker who boldly journeyed to New York, unannounced, and landed a deal with General Phonograph Corporation in 1923.
Ernest Stoneman — Carroll County — was pivotal in scouting other recording artists for burgeoning record companies like OKeh and Gennett and later served as an important ally to pioneering record producer Ralph Peer, whose legendary recordings for the Victor label — now known as “The Bristol Sessions” shed light on acts such as the Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers.
Posey Rorer — Franklin County — became the most widely-heard fiddler in early recorded history, recording alongside Charlie Poole and countless others on over 100 “sides” with almost half a million copies sold in the 1920s.
Blind Alfred Reed — of Floyd County — whose first recordings were made at Bristol, continues to make ripples in popular culture today. His songs have been covered by such artists as the Carter Family, UB-40, Taj Mahal and Bruce Springsteen.
With Music of Our Mountains, we explore how five counties in rural, southwestern Virginia generated such a prolific bed of both talent and industrious zeal by surveying the stories of people, places, tunes and roots that have informed this region’s heritage. The first phase of this living-document style chronicle will focus expressly on the counties surrounding Floyd, VA (Floyd, Franklin, Patrick, Carroll and Grayson) prior to the Great Depression – setting the stage for a further journey.
As this project continues to grow, we invite anyone and everyone to share your stories with us. Compelling regional knowledge and lore, photographs, recordings and video will allow us to continue this journey, tracing the music as it gained national popularity, up through the 1960’s era folk revival to the artists creating vibrant music today. Thank you for taking this journey, as we highlight the voices of scholars who’ve written about this era alongside the “lived” experiences we hope you’ll share.