Portraits from our Past
Southwest Virginia Music

Far Southwest Virginia has a rich tradition of mountain music which formed the basis for modern country, bluegrass, folk, and even, rock music. Early songs or ballads were stories about real people and events that were passed down orally from generation to generation. Many of these ballads were brought to Southwest Virginia by early settlers from their native countries.

Early performers like the Carter Family, Leslie Riddle, Dock Boggs, Kate Peters Sturgill, and the Stanley Brothers collected these ballads and made them known to a larger audience. These Southwest Virginians also took their life experiences, and the times that shaped them, and created new songs that spoke to peoples' everyday experiences.

With the success of the movie soundtrack "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" a wider audience has once again felt the powerfulness of these songs and music. Today, musicians like Ralph Stanley II and Blue Highway are ensuring that the musical roots of Southwest Virginia keep growing.  We hope you enjoy the famous musicians we've linked on your right side bar.


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There are also many great organizations dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the old-time music of Southwest Virginia. A few of them include:

Appalachian Traditions, Inc., Josephine, VA. -- Offers the "Country Cabin" with weekly performances of old-time music.
(276) 679-2362

Appalachia Cultural Arts Center, Appalachia, VA. -- Offers performances by old-time musicians.
(276) 523-0958

Appalshop, Whitesburg, KY. -- Offers recordings and films of old-time music. Holds its annual "Seedtime On The Cumberland Festival."
appalshop.org or (606) 633-0108.

Birthplace of Country Music Alliance (BCMA), Bristol, VA/TN. -- Offers the BCMA Museum as well as roots music programs throughout the year. birthplaceofcountrymusic.org or (276) 645-0111.

Blue Ridge Institute, Ferrum, VA. -- Offers recordings of traditional mountain music as well as exhibits. Holds its annual Folklife Festival" in October.
blueridgeinstitute.org or (540) 365-4416

The Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Maces Springs, VA. -- Offers weekly performances by old-time musicians at the Carter Fold and tours of the Carter Museum. Holds its annual festival each August.
scarlet.org/carter or (276) 386-9480

Jetti Baker Art Center, Clintwood, VA. -- Holds performances of mountain music.

Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap, VA. Offers recordings and holds its annual "Home Craft Days" in October.
homecraftdays.com or (276) 523-2400

University of Virginia at Wise, Wise, VA. -- Holds the annual Dock Boggs festival in August.
uvawise.edu or (276) 328-0100

Virginia/Kentucky Opry, Norton, VA. -- A part of WAXM radio, the Opry offers life performances of old-time, gospel, and country music.