Southwest Virginia is known for its beauty and it’s musical heritage. Beginning at the east end of the Crooked Road and traveling west, there are nine major music venues that capture the region’s passion for music, as well as its remarkable history.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, tells the story of Bristol’s musical heritage.
It was in here that the famed Bristol Sessions occurred in 1927 when music producer Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company recorded the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and many others. That event solidified Bristol’s role in the evolution and history of music.
Using state-of-the-art technology, those recordings ushered in a new era for the music industry. Today the BCM Museum tells the story of that crucial time in the history of music through artifacts, multiple theater experiences, interactive displays, text, educational and community events, and musical performances. Tours are available Tuesday through Sunday and the museum also features a gift shop.
The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum is the official state center for Blue Ridge Folklore, highlighting the folk traditions of Southwest Virginia through its rotating exhibitions of the region’s music, crafts, decorative arts, and food. Since the early 1970s, the Institute has documented and presented the folk heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding regions.
The daily-life traditions of music, crafts, and customs take center stage at the Blue Ridge Institute, the only Virginia museum dedicated to folklore and folklife. From festivals and concerts to exhibits, workshops, and publications, the institute offers educational and entertaining programming of unmatched quality and authenticity.
Every year, on the fourth Saturday in October, they present the popular Blue Ridge Folklife Festival with three stages of continuous music and music workshops along with other folkway activities. Lectures, guided and group tours are available by reservation.
At the Floyd Country Store, visitors can experience authentic Appalachian music, enjoying the musicians, flatfoot dancers, and cloggers who are carrying on the traditions of their families.
In the 1980’s, folks in Floyd started coming out to the General Store to enjoy music and dancing, thus beginning the Friday Night Jamboree tradition that continues today.
An authentic country store that is more than 100 years old, it features homemade country food, barrels of old-fashioned candy, hand-dipped ice cream, bluegrass CDs, music accessories and even bib overalls. It is definitely the place to be in Floyd.
The store, which is open daily, can host private events and tour groups, please call for details and availability.
Every Friday night, from the stage of the historic Rex Theater WBRF FM sends out 100,000 watts of live old-time and bluegrass music into five states and around the globe via the internet. The show is called Blue Ridge Backroads Live and thanks to a faithful group of volunteers, it has become the cornerstone for the revitalization of this 70-year-old theater.
Owned and operated by the city of Galax, The Rex continues to expand its offerings with vintage movie nights, Saturday concerts and community plays. The Rex is also available for special events and many non-profit groups have found it’s a great venue for community-oriented fundraising.
The sounds of the fiddle, banjo, and guitar are likely to welcome you when you visit the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax.
May through October, there are bluegrass, old-time, blues, and Americana concerts in the amphitheater. Visitors can also learn about the regions musical heritage at the Roots of American Music Museum, sit and enjoy Midday Mountain Music sessions, and explore hiking trails.
During the off-season, the Music Center partners with regional venues to host additional performances, allowing the music to go on year-round.
The Carter Family Fold was founded by Janette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara, who with Sara’s sister Maybelle are considered the “First Family of Country Music.”
The music performance and concert venue, which is dedicated to the preservation and performance of old-time country and bluegrass music, seats 1,000 people. Today, A.P. Carter’s old general store acts as a museum. Recent additions include the original A.P. Carter Homeplace.
Visitors can enjoy music every Saturday night at the Carter Family Fold Weekly Music event, where they can also enjoy clogging and flat-footing. Every August, the Carter Family Traditional Music Festival takes place and tickets are only $5, keeping with Janette’s philosophy that everyone in the Poor Valley could afford to come and enjoy the music.
Country Cabin II is the descendant of the original Country Cabin, the focal point of Appalachian Traditions Village, which carries forth the mission of Appalachian Traditions, Inc. (ATI). A non-profit organization, ATI’s mission is to perpetuate and preserve Appalachian traditions and culture, including music, musical traditions, historical sites and historical memorabilia, and the preservation of mountain dance, storytelling, crafts, and arts.
Country Cabin II presents old-time and bluegrass music every Saturday night, featuring local and regional musicians. Mountain-style clogging is taught at Country Cabin II. Jam Sessions are held each Tuesday night.
Special events include the Dock Boggs/Kate O’Neill Peters Sturgill Memorial Music festival, jam sessions, picking lessons, weddings, birthday celebrations, music benefit shows, and bus tours.
The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center focuses on the life and music of the legendary music performer.
Recognized as a pioneer in traditional Appalachian old-time music, Stanley, a Grammy-winning artist, donated his extensive collection of memorabilia – ranging from vintage instruments to countless musical awards – to the museum.
Located in an historic Victorian home the collection includes exhibits about Dr. Stanley, the region’s musical roots, and about popular successors like Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless. The facility is a resource center for students and music fans to learn more about traditional American and Appalachian music. Housed in the four-story Chase House, it includes a 2,200-square-foot museum on two levels of the facility, a Welcome Center, and a retail store.
The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Market Place is the gateway to Southwest Virginia’s rich culture and creative economy. Here you can see the work of regional artisans and musicians and learn about Southwest Virginia’s history, heritage, outdoor recreation and scenic beauty via stories, and first-person narratives.
This is much more than a visitor and sales center. It’s the keystone in the effort to build a regional economy focused on our cultural heritage and natural beauty.
The building features galleries, cafe, coffee bar and performance, and special events spaces that combine gorgeous vistas with warm interiors that feature sustainably harvested native woods. The lobby and artisan galleries include towering exhibit panels and display cases made of local woods. There are also interactive displays and videos throughout the building, which is open Monday through Saturday.