The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, winds over 300 miles through the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Connecting major music venues, music jams, and festivals in communities all along the way, The Crooked Road helps share and preserve the history of American music. As the region’s story teller, Blue Ridge PBS presents On the Crooked Road to capture the flavor of what this unique trail offers our region’s residents and visitors. Produced in 2009-10.
More information on the Crooked Road can be found at thecrookedroad.org/
Special thanks to everyone who helped us along this musical journey.
Crooked Road Overview
Just what is The Crooked Road? How did it come about? In this segment, we'll find out!
Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, Bristol, TN
Known as a hub for traditional mountain music and the site of the 1927 recording sessions that are referred to as “the Big Bang of Country Music,” Bristol is the home of the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance. The BCMA hosts a variety of music events and is in the process of constructing the BCMA Cultural Heritage Center in association with the Smithsonian Institution. Additional information about the BCMS, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/
Blue Ridge Institute, Ferrum
Ferrum College's Blue Ridge Institute, located at the eastern end of the Crooked Road, is the State Center for Blue Ridge Folklore. For over 30 years it has documented the folkways of the people living in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains. Through gallery exhibits, the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, the Blue Ridge Farm Museum, the Blue Ridge Heritage Archive, the BRI Recordings series and innovative outreach programming, the BRI promotes a special understanding of regional folklife for all ages and audiences. More information on the Blue Ridge Institute and Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at blueridgeinstitute.org/
Blue Ridge Music Center, Galax, VA
Located at mile 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Blue Ridge Music Center was developed by the National Park Service in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts. Visitors can explore the exhibit, Roots of American Music, as well as listen to music ranging from concerts in the amphitheatre to mid-day mountain music in the breezeway. Information about the Blue Ridge Music Center, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at blueridgemusiccenter.org/
Carter Family Fold, Hiltons, VA
Janette Carter, one of three children of A.P. and Sara Carter established the Carter Family Fold in 1979 to honor the memory of her parents and Maybelle Carter who played a historic role in helping give birth to the age of country music beginning in 1927. Even though Janette has passed away, her daughter Rita is carrying on the musical and performing legacy she established. Every Saturday night the tradition is carried on with old time and bluegrass music. Visitors can also explore the Carter Family Museum housed in the old A.P. Carter Store. More information about the Carter Family Fold, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at carterfamilyfold.org/
Country Cabin II, Norton, VA
The sounds of music and dancing feet ring in the mountains at the Country Cabin II each Saturday evening. Along with the original Country Cabin built in 1937 as part of President Roosevelt’s WPA program, this is the oldest venue on the Crooked Road. In addition to the Saturday night show, the Cabin hosts the Dock Boggs Memorial Festival, held annually the second Saturday in September.
ETSU Bluegrass Program
East Tennessee State University, located in Johnson City, is the only four-year university in the world with a comprehensive program in bluegrass music studies. For the students at ETSU who study bluegrass, old time and country music, music is a part of everyday life.
Floyd Country Store/County Sales
Located in the historic Floyd Country Store, the Friday Night Jamboree celebrates traditional Appalachian music and heritage. More information about the Floyd Country Store, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at floydcountrystore.com. Just around the corner from the Floyd Country Store is County Sales one of the nation's largest retailers of bluegrass and old time music. Information about County Sales, a Crooked Road Major Venue , is at countysales.com
Jettie Baker Center, Clintwood, VA
The Jettie Baker Center, formerly known as the Mullins Theater, was built in the late 1940’s. Located just up the street from the Ralph Stanley Museum, this renovated theatre is host to a free Friday night old time, gospel and bluegrass jam. In addition, they have other schedule concerts throughout the year. More information is available at townofclintwood.com/jettie-baker-center/
Lays Hardware, Coeburn, VA
Lays Hardware Center for the Arts features local, regional, and national musical acts as well as a wide variety of artisan classes and services for the public. On Thursday nights, they hold free jam sessions. On Friday nights, they host bluegrass and traditional Appalachian music.
The Music of Coal - Winner of a 2011 Regional Emmy Award
Coal mining has heavily influenced life and music in southwestern Virginia. The Lonesome Pine Office on Youth, located in Big Stone Gap, has released a 2 CD set and book addressing various aspects of coal mining and culture. This collaborative effort involved many people in Wise County as well as across the country. Included are 48 songs spanning nearly a century. Special thanks to the Harry Meador Coal Museum in Big Stone Gap for letting us use their facilities to record this story.
Old Fiddler's Convention, Galax, VA
This showcase of old time, bluegrass and folk music is held annually the second week in August at Felts Park. Originating in 1935, the Fiddler’s Convention was begun as a way to raise funds for the Galax Moose lodge. Today people from all over the world visit to compete and listen. More information about the Old Fiddler's Convention, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at oldfiddlersconvention.com/
Pickin' in The Pound, Pound, VA
On Thursday evenings, the council chambers for the town of Pound in Wise County “where the Crooked Road Bends” transforms into a place for food, fellowship, dancing, and music.
Ralph Stanley Museum, Clintwood, VA
This museum in Dickenson County gives visitors a look at traditional mountain music and the career of Dr. Ralph Stanley through the use of displays and interactive exhibits. Information about the Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at ralphstanleymuseum.com/
Rex Theater, Galax, VA
On Friday nights WBRF 98.1 FM sends out 100,000 watts of live old-time and bluegrass music from the stage of the historic Rex Theater. Blue Ridge Backroads is heard in five states, over the internet and by the live audience in the restored movie theatre. In addition to Friday nights, other concerts are scheduled throughout the year. More information on the Rex Theater, a Crooked Road Major Venue, is available at rextheatergalax.com/
Smyth County Jam, Chilhowie, VA
On Monday nights, year-round, folks come from all over to play and listen to old time and bluegrass music at the Smyth County Jam. Information about the Smyth County Jam is available at smythcountyjam.com/
Virginia State Parks
Several Virginia State Parks are part of the Crooked Road.
In addition to exhibits about the region, the Southwest Virginia Museum State Park in Big Stone Gap holds a variety of musical events such as Lunch on the Lawn and Coffeehouse during the summer and the annual Gather in the Gap in May.
Natural Tunnel State Park in Scott County hosts the annual Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival each September along with Pickin’ in the Park during the summer.
Grayson Highlands State Park hosts the Wayne Henderson Music Festival on the third Saturday each June along with a variety of other musical events throughout the year. =
Located on the Virginia-Kentucky border, Breaks Interstate Park, hosts a variety of music events during the year.
Wayne Henderson, Mouth of Wilson, VA
As a luthier, Wayne Henderson has made a variety of instruments but is best known for his guitars. He is also known for guitar playing. This story takes us to his workshop in Grayson County. More information about Wayne Henderson and the Wayne Henderson Music Festival can be found at waynehenderson.org/
On The Crooked Road was made possible in part by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Additional support provided by:
- Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gallery
- King College
- Virginia Highlands Community College
- Alpha Natural Resources
- Dominion Energy
- Williams-Berry Charitable Foundation
- Mooneyhan Family Foundation