The Bluegrass Standard - April 2024

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Keith Barnacastle • Publisher

The Bluegrass Standard is a life-long dream of Keith Barnacastle, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. For three years, Keith brought the Suits, Boots and Bluegrass Festival to Meridian. Now, with the Bluegrass Standard, Keith’s enthusiasm for the music, and his vision of its future, reaches a nationwide audience every month!


Our Staff

Richelle Putnam • Executive Editor/Writer

Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artist/Roster Artist (Literary), a Mississippi Humanities Speaker, and a 2014 MAC Literary Arts Fellowship recipient. Her non-fiction books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi; a Brief History, Legendary Locals of Meridian, Mississippi and Mississippi and the Great Depression.

Rebekah Speer • Creative Director

Rebekah Speer has nearly twenty years in the music industry in Nashville, TN. She creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to her creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, Rebekah also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

Susan Woelkers • Marketing

Susan traveled with a mixed ensemble at Trevecca Nazarene college as PR for the college. From there she moved on to working at Sony Music Nashville for 17 years in several compacities then transitioning on to the Nashville Songwritrers Association International (NSAI) where she was Sponsorship Director. The next step of her musical journey was to open her own business where she secured sponsorships for various events or companies in which the IBMA /World of Bluegrass was one of her clients.

Brent Davis • Contributor

Brent Davis produced documentaries, interview shows, and many other projects during a 40 year career in public media. He’s also the author of the bluegrass novel Raising Kane. Davis lives in Columbus, Ohio.


Mississippi Chris Sharp • Reviewer

Singer/Songwriter/Blogger and SilverWolf recording artist, Mississippi Chris Sharp hails from remote Kemper County, near his hometown of Meridian. An original/founding cast member of the award-winning, long running radio show, The Sucarnochee Revue, as featured on Alabama and Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Chris performs with his daughter, Piper. Chris’s songs have been covered by The Del McCoury Band, The Henhouse Prowlers, and others.

Susan Marquez • Journalist

Susan Marquez is a freelance writer based in Madison, Mississippi and a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artist. After a 20+ year career in advertising and marketing, she began a professional writing career in 2001. Since that time she has written over 2000 articles which have been published in magazines, newspapers, business journals, trade publications.

Kara Martinez Bachman • Journalist

Kara Martinez Bachman is a nonfiction author, book and magazine editor, and freelance writer. A former staff entertainment reporter, columnist and community news editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, her music and culture reporting has also appeared on a freelance basis in dozens of regional, national and international publications.

Candace Nelson • Journalist

Candace Nelson is a marketing professional living in Charleston, West Virginia. She is the author of the book “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.” In her free time, Nelson travels and blogs about Appalachian food culture at Find her on Twitter at @Candace07 or email


In her poem “Sometimes,” Mary Oliver writes:

Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished.  Tell me about it.

Twenty-three years after the publication of their book, Bluegrass Odyssey: A Documentary in Pictures and Words, 1966-1986, let us honor Carl Fleischhauer and Neil V. Rosenberg for paying attention to this music, telling about it, and for the astonishment their account still inspires.

Fleischhauer’s photographs and Rosenberg’s commentary explore the culture and community surrounding the bluegrass music they discovered and fell in love with shortly after meeting as undergraduate college students in Ohio in 1960. This fascination led them to explore any place associated with music, from working-class bars to campus coffeehouses to the stage of the Ryman Auditorium. Photographs document band

practices or jam sessions in garages, a TV repair shop, and in the shower room of a high school before a show in the gym. The festival experience is captured in photos of bands performing on flat-bed trailer stages, vendors selling programs, LPs, and used instruments, and in one remarkable shot, Bill Monroe, in a suit, working with another man to free a car from a muddy field.

In the book’s afterward, Fleischhauer notes that his first bluegrass photographs focused on the musicians and consisted mainly of medium shots and close-ups. “A handful of wide-angle photographs appear in my 1976 coverage of a festival in Columbus, Ohio, but, looking back at my proof sheets, I see that I took more care to make wide shots the following year, at a festival at Chautauqua Park, just south of Dayton. One of my favorite pictures was shot on that occasion: Bill Monroe between sets, seated on a folding chair in front of his bus.”

Most of this exploration occurs in the states near where Fleischhauer and


Rosenberg worked on their undergraduate and advanced degrees: Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia. But there were trips to other places where bluegrass was flourishing: Nashville, the D.C. area, and even the West Coast in cities such as Berkley, where young people were discovering the music.

Rosenberg is now the professor emeritus of folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the author of Bluegrass: A History, his acclaimed study of the genre. The first chapter of Bluegrass Odyssey is titled “Intensity.”

“The intensity of bluegrass performance was one of the things that attracted us to the music,” Rosenberg explains in his commentary. “In presenting the music on stage, bluegrass musicians use voices and acoustic instruments to project the music through microphones. It’s hard work, yet they seem to be relaxed and happy. The lyrics often tell sad stories at toe-tapping or breakneck speed. The photographic narrative

begins with images of musicians on stage in various venues, followed by scenes of the backstage activities before and after performances. The chapter defines the music in terms of the range of artists to play it and the diversity of places in which the music can be found.”

The following chapters are titled “Destination,” “Transaction,” “Community,” and “Family.”

“The last chapter, ‘The Monroe Myth,’ is a meditation on an individual--arguably


the leading figure in bluegrass music-- and his family,” Rosenberg writes. “No single family is more important to the bluegrass story than that of Bill Monroe. Like most people who discover bluegrass, we sought to learn more about Monroe, his family, and his home community of Rosine, Kentucky, which Carl visited and photographed on two occasions.”

Fleischhauer’s many images of Monroe are especially compelling. In a 1970 photo, musicians Alice Gerrard and Hazel Dickens help Monroe install a new pair of cufflinks at the annual Bean Blossom festival. But shots of amateur musicians, exchanges between entertainers and fans, and situations unique to the bluegrass world come alive when seen through Fleischhauer’s camera.

“Offstage, I keep an eye open for the new, the unexpected, or a combination of special elements,” he explained in the book. “One favorite is my 1973 shot of Clarence White in his Nudie-style bellbottoms, followed by banjo player Lamar Grier, gingerly stepping around a passed-out fan under a tree. Only in 1992 did I learn this picture’s bonus value: the young man between White and Grier is Lamar’s 12-year-old son David, now a recognized guitar whiz, captured at a time when his music was being shaped by Clarence’s in an important way.”

Fleischhauer would have a long career at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

In his 2023 International Bluegrass Musician Association keynote address, Matt Glaser, founder and director of the American Roots Music Program at Berklee College of Music, said, “Bluegrass is sharing the top space with every kind of music made in this country.” He explored the influences, interactions, and virtuosity in a performance of “Love, Oh Careless Love” by Doyle Lawson. “This happens a thousand times a day at every bluegrass festival,” Glaser marveled. “Amazing music happens in a short space of time. Always changing, always responsive to the moment. It’s totally extraordinary. I hope you never lose sight. Don’t take this for granted, ever. It’s literally a miracle that takes place over and over again.”

Twenty-three years ago, Fleischhauer and Rosenberg--in words and images-documented what they found marvelous and extraordinary in an emerging music genre that was barely 20 years old. Their account ensures we will not lose sight of an enthralling time in this music’s history. It’s possible to spend time with this book and imagine you smell the smoke from festival campfires, hear the fiddles and banjos from a distant jam session, and feel the power of Monroe’s mandolin chop as it thunders from the Bean Blossom stage.

(note: all photographs accompanying this article are by Carl Fleischhauer. Bluegrass Odyssey is a publication of the University of Illinois Press.)


Historic Crab Orchard Museum

by Kara Martinez Bachman

Virginia is deep in history, and the Crab Orchard Museum – located in Tazewell, Virginia – does its part to keep the culture of that past alive. It’s done both for education as well as for enjoyment, and according to the museum’s leader, it’s all done to make sure future generations grasp the vital lessons learned by pioneers who came before us.

“I believe in our mission,” explained the museum’s executive director, Cynthia Farmer. “Historic Crab Orchard Museum is an educational institution whose mission is to identify, collect, preserve, interpret and promote the diverse Appalachian cultural heritage of Southwest Virginia and the surrounding region.”

Farmer believes the state’s heritage is important, and the museum is part of embracing that. Not only does it provide “space to care for and exhibit” various collections, but it also provides for “a realistic walk back in time.”

“With the help of many educators, demonstrators, volunteers, and other supporters, we continue to provide realistic Pioneer Living Tours to school children each year,” Farmer explained. “These hands-on experiences keep the story of our regional heritage alive from generation to generation. As it has been said before, the hope remains that ‘the future will learn from the past.’”

As a premiere cultural heritage center in southwest Virginia, the museum offers a permanent collection of artifacts, special exhibitions, a “Pioneer Park” displaying over a dozen log and stone buildings that will “reflect life on the frontier during the 19th century.” The structures have been moved to the park from their original locations in southwest Virginia so they can be enjoyed for public viewing. From a blacksmith’s shop to a loom house to a horse carriage barn, visitors can “step back in time” for a peek at earlier ways of living. In the barn, they can see unique artifacts of times long ago, such as a velocipede bicycle, or Cyrus McCormick’s second prototype for his famous reaper, which revolutionized harvesting in the 19th century.

Farmer explained how the history in her region might run deeper than it does elsewhere. It has roots that dug a sure foothold and traveled far over many generations. The marks left by those people – some of our first pioneers – helped our nation take shape and grow into what it is today.

“As we all know, the first successful English colony was Jamestown, established May 14, 1607, near Chesapeake Bay,” she explained. “So, Virginia will forever be known as a key part of the foundation of our nation. Our regional museum located in southwestern Virginia continues the story of Virginia. This museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the pioneers and brave families that settled the Appalachian Mountains to create farms and communities they could call their own.” She continued, saying, “A portion of our museum’s story begins with the first settlers

Photo: K Krunk Photography

of the area. A replica of the original Fort Witten – built in 1774 by Thomas Witten, the first settler located on the museum grounds. Fort Witten is a blockhouse style building, a type of fortification constructed during the 18th century in isolated areas as a means of defense.”

She said when visiting the log and stone buildings of Pioneer Park, “our visitors have the opportunity momentary, but memorable part of the hardy pioneering culture by melding emotionally with setting; it’s a true reflection of the Virginia experience.”

The museum hosts crafting workshops; holiday events; history encampments; summer camps festivals, including the Annual Tazewell County Old Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention, 12-13, 2024. For more information on the Historic Crab Orchard Museum and its events, visit com.

Farmer believes strongly in the lessons that can be learned at the museum, and that her region by all who are interested in learning not just about the roots of Virginia, but the underpinnings consider American.

“Virginia will always be a latch pin to the founding of our nation,” Farmer said. “It’s a state rich the brave visionaries that helped structure our nation. From the first colonies to the pioneers the state, we should take pride in our heritage.” Lastly, she added, “I like to think that Virginians respect the efforts of those who came before.”


settler of the area – is fortification that was frequently opportunity to become a with this peaceful, historical camps for kids; and several Convention, happening again on July visit Craborchardmuseum. region should be explored underpinnings of so much that we

rich with the history of that settled throughout Virginians today still honor and


The June Oliver Playhouse

In 1881, Jerome Hill Duff arrived with his family in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. At the time, it was known as “Three Forks.” The family lived in a one-room cabin near a rock quarry. Soon after they settled in, a sawmill was brought in and set up near the cabin. Duff took advantage of that and used some of the wood to build an eight-room house for his family. As the area grew and more people moved in, Duff added more rooms to the house, and it became the town’s first hotel.

Duff purchased the lot across the street and was building another home for his family, but before it was finished, the hotel was destroyed by fire. The family moved into the unfinished house, then Duff passed away. For years afterward, people stayed as guests in the Duff family’s home. Over the years, it became a place where young people would drop in to enjoy evenings of music and fellowship.

Today, the house on Jerome Street (in honor of Duff) is known as the June Tolliver House & Folk Art Center, in honor of the central character in John Fox Jr.’s book, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

The house is a registered Virginia and National Historic Landmark. It is next door to the June Tolliver Playhouse, home of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine outdoor drama. For sixty years, the drama has entertained visitors to Big Stone Gap.

The Playhouse seats approximately 335 people. The serene outdoor setting is nestled into an area surrounded by tall evergreens. A small waterfall and pond add to the serenity of the outdoor amphitheater.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine is based on Fox’s novel of the same name. The drama tells the story of a lovely Appalachian Mountain girl named June Tolliver and Jack Hale, a handsome mining engineer from the East. A brochure about the musical drama “depicts the story of the great boom in Southwest Virginia when the discovery of coal and iron ore forced the lusty, proud mountain people into making drastic changes to their way of life.”

Fox was one of Virginia’s best-selling authors in the early 1900s. His books chronicled the customs and characters of rural Appalachia. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was published in 1908 and became one of the first million-selling novels in the United States. The novel was adapted for the stage and produced at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York in 1912. The film version was written, directed, and produced by Cecil B. DeMille in 1916.

The play was first performed in Big Stone Gap in 1964 when The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was adapted into a stage play by Earl Hobson Smith and Clara Lou Kelly. The play was named the Official Outdoor Drama of Virginia.


The show continued to be produced each year, guided by Barbara Creasy Polly, who originated the role of June Tolliver in the 1964 production. Polly served as the show’s artistic director, general manager, and producer until her passing in 2016. Her vision was instrumental in acquiring the John Fox House (now a museum) and the June Tolliver Playhouse.

The show has seen many adaptations and revisions in its sixty years at the Playhouse. It is one of the longest-running outdoor dramas in the United States. The cast members are all local residents, most of whom have never been on a stage before. Many have performed in the show for years (even decades). The production is entirely a volunteer effort by Lonesome Pines Arts and Crafts, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the artists of Southwest Virginia. The main focus is to entertain the guests

who travel to see the show while honoring the history and traditions of the past sixty years.

If you plan to go, check ahead to see if there will be a special event on the performance evening. From time to time, there are wine tastings, craft vendors, or food trucks before the show, so you’ll want to arrive early. Otherwise, the routine is the same: the box office opens at 7:00 pm, and local musicians provide pre-show entertainment at 7:15 pm. The house band, Ol’ Dave and The Pickers plays a selection at 7:45 pm, followed by a flag ceremony and the singing of The National Anthem at 7:50. The show then begins promptly at 8:00 pm and has a run time of an hour and fifty minutes with


a ten-minute intermission.

The show is outdoors, and sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. In the event of rain, the weather is assessed, and if possible, the drama will continue after the rain passes.


Coyote Hole

There’s something magical about the cool mountain air of Appalachia. For one thing, the mountainous terrain mixed with cool nights and warm days provides the perfect place to grow crisp apples. Apple farmers love it because when all that cool air sinks into the valleys at the bottom of the hills, it protects the fruit trees above them from frost.

Apples grown in climates that have warmer temperatures are less flavorful. They grow larger and are softer than apples grown in cooler climates.

was founded in 2016 by Laura and Chris Denkers. (The name has since been changed to Coyote Hole Craft Beverages.) Laura and Chris had been brewing beer at home and making wine and cider for many years. Their friends encouraged them to make their beverages available for purchase.

The Denkers named their business Coyote Hole after the holes gold prospectors made many years ago. Mineral Virginia (and the Lake Anna community) is known for its rich mining history, which is how

Additionally, apples often succumb to disease in areas where the summers are generally warm and humid.

But apples grown in Virginia are arguably the best apples, at least according to most Virginians. Apples grown in the western half of Virginia, at elevations of over 800 feet above sea level, are considered the best, although some apples grown in eastern Virginia rival supermarket apples. One way Virginians use all those apples is to make one of the state’s favorite drinks: apple cider. Coyote Hole Ciderworks

the town of Mineral got its name. The holes the prospectors dug resembled the dens of coyotes, and folks referred to them as coyote holes, so the company’s name is an homage to those days gone by.

The family-owned and operated cidery and brewery produces award-winning hard ciders, sangrias, wines, and craft beer made in their Lake Anna, Virginia, production facility.

Russ Colbourne, director of business operations for Coyote Hole, says that


the company is 100% Virginia-sourced when it comes to its cider base. “Our hard ciders are locally sourced from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, and every cider is made with 100% Virginia apples. We source fresh fruit from local farms and collaborate with as many local small businesses as we can. Our cider base is 100% Virginia-sourced. We never use concentrate, always 100% apple juice.” The company takes pride in making cider and beer onsite, from plant to keg.

Coyote Hole features a tasting room as well as the Craft Kitchen -- a full restaurant with the cider and beer they make onsite available on tap. It’s a fun stop for tourists and locals alike who want to sample Coyote Hole’s premium hard cider, beer, and food. They are open all year long, seven days a week.

Situated on twenty beautiful acres that are home to Oak Grove Orchards, visitors drive on a windy road to the top of the hill where Coyote Hole cidery and the orchard are located. The orchard produces several species of apples, pears, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, and many other fruits and vegetables used to make the ciders. Several families of deer roam the property, and there have been many sightings of coyotes, further solidifying the Coyote Hole name.

Lake Anna is a special place, one many consider to be a hidden gem. The 13,000acre lake is 17 miles long and has over 200 miles of shoreline. It has become one of the top tourist attractions in the state, with many visitors driving in from all along the eastern seaboard. While it is becoming trendy, it is still remote enough to keep its small-town charm.

“We also have tons of events throughout the year,” says Russ. “We have live music here every Saturday in the spring and going into late fall. Most of our musicians are from right here in Virginia.” Other regular events at Coyote Hole include the Lake Anna Comedy Night, the first Friday of each month, and plenty of festivals, including the Coyote Hole Brew Festival (September 21), Octoberfest (October 5), and Fall Festival (October 12).

Coyote Hole is also the site of the Adult Easter Egg Hunt (March 30), Cider Palooza (May 18), Haunted Halloween Trail (last two weekends in October), and an animated light show throughout December. There are many more events throughout the year at Coyote Hole, from food truck days, open mic, trivia, and free outdoor movies.

The company produces a regular lineup of ciders and beers and an ever-changing


selection of seasonal ciders. Coyote Hole products are distributed throughout Virginia and to Maryland, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, DC, and Pennsylvania. “We are expanding our distribution west to Ohio and surrounding states,” says Russ. “Folks can find our products in stores such as Giant, Wegmans, Total Wine, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Whole Foods, and Food Lion.


Nottingham Place

When Kim Mays describes her love of Virginia, she’s an enthusiastic steward of the region’s history and hospitality. As owners of Nottingham Place – a boutique guest house in Wise, Virginia – she and her husband, Ben, have done their part to preserve and share the places and ideas near and dear to their hearts.

“We love our Appalachian heritage,” Kim Mays explained. “The people, the traditions, the stories, old-time and bluegrass music.”

Kim and Ben are ideal hosts since each has a colorful background and many stories to tell.

“Ben’s father was a coal miner, and my uncle lost his leg in a mining accident,” she explained. “My grandmother kept a pot of boiling water on the stove. When my grandfather came home from working at Derby Mine in Appalachia, he was covered in black coal. In winter, his shirt sleeves would be frozen to his arms. Her hands were red and blistered from washing and warming him. He survived the Derby Mine Disaster when his best friend did not. We know how hard our families and so many others worked to forge lives here.”

The couple met in the mid-1980s while working and touring with Appalshop’s Roadside Theater, based in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Ben worked as the road manager, musician, and storyteller, while Kim’s duties included actor, storyteller, singer and more.


“Roadside’s work is rooted in the stories, folklore and music of Appalachian life,” she explained.

Today, Ben is the Technical Director of Theatre and Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department at UVa-Wise. He also plays bass with the band Ron Short and the Possum Playboys.

Years ago, Kim was invited to join the resident company of Barter Theater, the State Theatre of Virginia, to portray Janette Carter in their original production, “Keep on the Sunny Side, the Story and Songs of the Carter Family. She also performed the role of Lucy Stanley – the mother of Ralph and Carter – in the Barter production of Man of Constant Sorrow, the Story of the Stanley Brothers.

“Performing these plays at the Carter Fold and at Ralph’s Hills of Home Festival are personal and career highlights,” she said.

These people and the state of Virginia have left an indelible mark on this proprietress.

“Making a quilt, baking cornbread, raising a barn, keeping chickens, playing a fiddle or autoharp, and singing mountain songs…things done out of necessity, care and love…they may make one Appalachian, but offering it to the world makes one an artist,” she explained. “Ben and I are humble and grateful to be surrounded by them!”

Many of these people who form the core of Virginia culture – and the “artists-at-heart” who appreciate it all and travel to take it in – are lodgers at her historic property. The home has deep roots in the community.

“Nottingham Place was built in 1898 and is known locally as the Roberts House, named after the family who built it,” Mays said. “It’s one of the largest, oldest and most recognized homes in the town of Wise.”

She said the Roberts family owned a sawmill, and that past is reflected in a photo left hanging on the wall by the home’s previous owners.

“The Roberts, sitting atop a huge log,” Mays explained. “Ben tells guests, ‘that log is somewhere in this house!’”

Some things have changed over the years. For instance, the original home had a turret that was removed years ago. The Mays named one of the guest rooms “The Cozy Turret Room” to mark the space where the turret used to be.

The 1980s also brought change to the home, as it was used as a special events venue during those years. In the 1990s, devastation came when a fire broke out. That previous owner told the Mays how he had to be rescued from the second-story roof.

“The fire was slow burning thanks to the aged wood, and the home was restored with


great expense and attention to historic details,” Mays explained. “All new wiring, plumbing, heating and A/C are some of the modern amenities we and our guests appreciate.”

Just as bluegrass music evolves with the times, Nottingham Place offers modern comforts while still staying true to its 19th-century roots. When the Mays fell in love with the property and bought it in 2020, they didn’t have plans to turn it into a guest house. They simply loved it because it was an older home with “character.”

“This one has over 4,800 square feet chock full of character!” she said. She notes the graceful porch, tall windows and ceilings, chandeliers, and winding staircase. Mays said her family lives on the first floor, and the second is for guests.

“Three private bedrooms with three private bathrooms and a living room,” she explained. “All areas [on the second floor] are used exclusively for guest lodging. Rooms may be reserved separately, or the entire floor may be reserved for up to six people.”

Mays said guests generally come from “large metro and urban areas” to experience “rural life and small-town charm.”

“Nearby are mountain trails for hiking and biking and lakes for fishing and kayaking,” she said. Guests are also drawn to her place during Ralph Stanley’s Hills From Home Festival, Blue Highway Festival, Wise Fall Fling, and more.

For more information, check out the Nottingham Place in Wise Facebook page or email


Abingdon, VA

Located in Washington County, Virginia, just 133 miles southwest of Roanoke, the rural Appalachian Town of Abingdon shines like a beacon to those who play bluegrass music and those who love to listen to it. Located on the Crooked Road, Virginia’s music heritage trail, Abingdon has many historically significant sites and a thriving fine arts and crafts scene in addition to the music. Just drive down Main Street, and you’ll see a plethora of art galleries and museums to explore.

Quite possibly, Abingdon’s biggest cheerleader, Tonya Triplett, serves as the town’s economic development and tourism director. “Abingdon has always been a center of commerce and trade,” says Tonya. “And this was the place people came to have their wagons repaired.” Of course, people liked to be entertained while they were in town.

than they did in their own homes. They called it ‘Ham for Hamlet.’ The first year the theatre was open, it only cleared $4.35 cash, but the actors had a collective weight gain of over 300 pounds.”

The epicenter of the town’s cultural offerings is the Barter Theatre, named after how patrons paid for the shows they attended. “People bartered livestock, vegetables, and other commodities in exchange for watching a show,” Tonya explains. “Four out of five theatergoers paid their way with vegetables, dairy products, and livestock. Often, the performers ate better while on the road

The theatre opened during the Great Depression in 1933, celebrating its 90th season last year. It has become an economic driver in the town, drawing audiences from a wide regional area and employing actors, stagehands, and craftspeople from the local community. The Barter Theatre has an interesting history. The earliest theatrical event known to be performed at the theatre was a production of The Virginian in 1876. The proceeds of the show were used to repair the facility. The Sons of Temperance transferred the building’s title to the Town of Abingdon in 1890 to be utilized as a town hall. The building did double duty as a fire hall, and until 1994, a fire alarm was positioned on the roof of the Barter Theatre. If the siren sounded during a performance, actors would freeze in position on stage until the alarm ended, then they would resume the show.

Many of the lavish interior furnishings in the theatre were salvaged from the Empire Theatre, built in 1875 in New York City, before its destruction. Over $75,000 seats, lighting fixtures, carpeting, paintings, and


tapestries were salvaged. The lighting system from the Empire, designed and installed by Thomas Edison, was used at the Barter Theatre through the mid-1970s.

In 1946, the Barter Theatre was designated as The State Theatre of Virginia, making it the first professional theatre to attain such a status. The theatre claims some famous alumni, including Gregory Peck and Earnest Borgnine. The Earnest Borgnine Award is presented to the best new actor of each season. Actress Patricia Neal is another alum, and she helped establish Barter’s Day of the Woman, where the Patricia Neal Scholarship is awarded to Barter acting interns.

The annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights offers regional writers an

opportunity to work with actors and directors to fine-tune their plays. Nick Piper, Barter’s artistic director of the festival, says audiences love to hear new stories. At least one of the plays will eventually have a full production at the theatre. “One of the stories from the festival was about the Carter family, called Keep on the Sunny Side,” Tonya says. “It was written by a local dentist.”

Music is an essential part of Abingdon’s make-up as well. The town of just over 8,000 is wedged into the westernmost tip of Virginia, centered between West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina, where bluegrass traditions are perhaps the strongest. Each year, the Town of Abingdon is home to music festivals, camps, and workshops from March through September. The Bluegrass Jam Camp was held March


15 through 17 at the Jubilee House Retreat Center in Abingdon. Students attending the popular camp were taught the Wernick Method by Gilbert Nelson.

The third annual Fiddlin’ at the Fairgrounds event, hosted by Tim White, will be held June 21 through 23 at the Washington County Fairgrounds. There will be an old-time Gospel and bluegrass competition, with $8.500 in prizes. The winning bluegrass band will receive a one-day recording session at Billy Blue Records. Campers are welcome. Pre-festival events will be held in the area June 16-20. “Events are spread all over the county,” says Tonya. “It’s grown larger than we ever imagined.”

The Southwest Virginia Higher Ed Center will be the site of the Monroe Mandolin Camp from September 4 through 8. “Participants come in from all over the world for this event,” says Tonya. In its eleventh year, the theme this year is “The Old Lonesome Sound of the 70s and 80s. The camp promises world-class instructors who understand music, culture, folklore stories, and traditions that make up original, traditional bluegrass. There will be over one hundred classes for mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, upright bass, harmony singing, and songwriting. There will also be special guests, presentations, and activities.

Lodging options are abundant in and around Abingdon, from chain hotels to vacation rentals available through popular booking sites. Perhaps the most interesting place to stay is the historic Martha Washington Inn and Spa, built in 1832 as a private residence for General Francis Preston. The father of nine children, Preston built the home as a place


where he could retire with his family after his successes in the War of 1812. The residence was sold for $21,000 in 1858 and converted into an upscale college for women for the next 70 years. It was named after the nation’s first-ever first lady, Martha Washington. During the Civil War, the college was used as a makeshift hospital, and the students served as nurses to wounded soldiers from both sides.

“Abingdon is also on the Virginia Creeper Trail.” Says Tonya. Stretching 34.3 miles, the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail is a rail-to-recreation trail that traverses two counties from Abingdon through Damascus and ends in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area along the Virginia-North Carolina border. “We want to invite everyone to come visit us in Abingdon,” says Tonya. “We have a little of everything.”


The Carter Family Fold

Any big country music fan knows about the Carter Family, and any Virginian knows these musical pioneers were – and still are, at least in spirit – a big part of regional Appalachian culture.

The region influenced the recordings and performances of this “first family” of country and bluegrass, and today, the family’s legacy continues to shape the music scene of Virginia. It’s a synergy that began many years ago when Alvin Pleasant “A.P.” Carter, Sara Carter and Maybelle Carter first took to the stage in the 1920s.

Today, the music and vibe of that past are kept alive through the work of The Carter Family Fold, a nonprofit charity and music venue that strives to maintain what the Carters built back in the early days. A place where Johnny Cash made his last two public appearances –seeing as the Carters were kin by marriage – the Fold has gained a reputation as one of the prime stages in the business. The Carter Family Fold was founded by the late Janette Carter, daughter of A.P. Carter. Today, it’s headed up by Janette’s daughter, Rita Forrester. “We are focused on history,” Forrester said. “We want to preserve the history of the music.”

She explained how the family and the state of Virginia were – and still are – intertwined.

“It [Virginia] permeates all of their music,” Forrester said. The mountains are always there, always present as an influence. “No matter how far they traveled or where they went, Virginia was always home. We were set up to promote and present the music of the


mountains, as the Carter Family sang it.”

The Carter Family Fold keeps things the way Forrester’s grandfather – and the other band members – would have wanted it.

“It’s a no-alcohol and no-drugs venue,” Forrester said, adding that the venue is – in words that would have been used often in the Carter Family – “morally good.”

Just as her family would have done in the past, the venue offers free admission to those who are mentally and physically challenged.

Most shows – Saturdays featuring the mid-level country and bluegrass acts that Forrester calls the venue’s “bread and butter” – have a low admission fee of $10. Occasionally, there are also special performances featuring big-name acts. The ticket prices are a bit higher for those events, but still quite affordable and in alignment with the status of the performer.

Forrester said the venue has a packed schedule of special concerts coming during spring and summer. In addition to the regular Saturday shows, tickets are on sale now for special performances such as Appalachia Rising, Featuring Volume Five and Lonesome River Band (April 27) and Del McCoury (June 21), with more big names soon to be added to the spring and summer roster (see the Facebook page for updates or visit the website at

Forrester said the 50th year of the Fold’s festival – happening August 3 – will offer “extra” for 2024.


“The festival is the most special of anything we do all year,” she explained. For the 50th, she said the acts will be bigger than usual. The nonprofit has a ton of support from “all the major players,” including the State of Virginia, Virginia Tourism, and more.

“Every penny is used to do what we are supposed to do,” she said. As the leader of the Fold, Forrester is a volunteer. It’s not about profit. She said anyone who wants to help can make a tax-deductible donation or become a volunteer. She said it’s best if those helping out are local, but there are some out-of-towners, as well. Right now, the volunteer list is a whopping 50 to 100 names long…which shows people’s love for this chapter of music history.

As Forrester describes it, the Fold feels like family. Like a family with deep roots. It’s there, even in the hot dog chili.

“The chili recipe came from 90 years ago,” Forrester said. It came from an old-time drug store in Bristol that her mother used to shop at and has stayed in the family ever since. It’s served on hot dogs sold at events, along with nachos and homemade baked cakes.

“They won’t go hungry at the Fold,” she said.

As a final anecdote of how the family has influenced listeners and performers across the world, Forrester shared the story of an outfit called Robirohi, who will appear at the venue on May 11. Hailing from the northern European country of Estonia, they appeared several years ago as part of their travels with a mission group. They were connected to the Fold via a local physician who’s part of the family’s social circles.

“They performed three songs in English and three in Estonian,” she said, adding that many


across the world know her family’s music. “If that doesn’t tell you how the music of the Carter Family has traveled across the world, then what could?” Forrester asked. While she said most of the bands appearing onstage somehow “have ties to us,” the fans come from far and wide.

“People make pilgrimages here from all over the world…to see where the music began.”



Musicologists call it The Big Bang of Country Music.

In 1927, Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company visited Bristol, a town on the Virginia and Tennessee state line, and set up a bulky recording device to capture performances of 76 songs by 19 different acts.

The Bristol Sessions produced the first recordings by Jimmie Rodgers, who became known as The Father of Country Music, and The Carter Family--the First Family of Country Music--whose influence on the genre is widely acknowledged. Many songs recorded then are still performed by country, roots, and bluegrass musicians. And the success of those recordings established country music as a commercial enterprise.

The history and impact of that event are thoughtfully documented and explored at The


Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate institution celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2024.

“You’re really going to be able to dig deep into the content of our museum in lots of interactive and engaging ways,” says Rene Rodgers, the head curator at the 24,000-square-foot facility.

The museum includes a performance theater, a working radio station, hands-on experiences, the sessions’ artifacts, instruments, recording equipment, personal mementos from the artists, and four compelling films.

“The orientation film, Bound to Bristol, gives you all of the information to sort of set the foundation for you to understand what you’re going to see in the galleries that come after that,” says Rodgers. “And there’s a chapel film where we talk about the connections--especially in Appalachia--between religion and spiritual belief and the songs that were being sung at that time and were being recorded in Bristol. So, for instance, at the Bristol Sessions, almost 40% of the songs are gospel or sacred-based



Interactive experiences are a signature of the museum. Visitors can enter a sound booth and record one of the Bristol Sessions songs or act as an engineer and master a performance with their own mix of instruments. Another exhibit allows visitors to sample each recording made at the first sessions and learn about the performers.

The museum also demonstrates technology’s role in the Bristol recordings, which were among the first to use an electric microphone. “It allowed producers like Ralph Peer to travel outside their big studios to do some of these recordings because they weren’t having to use that acoustic horn technology, which was way more difficult to travel with,” Rodgers explains. “The other big thing about it is that the quality of those recordings was higher. The sound was more balanced and more nuanced. You were able to get some of the different instruments recorded in a better way. In those early days of country music, banjo and fiddle were the primary instruments. The guitar was more of a background rhythm instrument, and it often got drowned out by those louder instruments. But the electric microphone helped balance that sound a little bit.”

The museum also displays many treasures associated with the artists who made the famous recordings.

“We’ve been very fortunate to connect with many of the descendants of our 1927 Bristol Sessions artists, and several of them have donated or loaned items to us that were from their family members. “We have the dog tags from Ernest Phipps, and we


have the radio and a hat from George Massengill of Jimmie Rodgers’s Blue Yodel guitar. Obviously, the is in music history.”

In 1998, the United States Congress designated Bristol, “Birthplace of Country Music” oversees three outreach music festival held every September; and WBCM Radio American roots music from early recordings to today.

Rodgers also says people can have a museum experience us. You don’t have to be on our doorstep to enjoy the ( and just see some of

But those who can visit the museum often come away

“They’re learning about the music, but they’re also “And our volunteers often tell us that they have conversations played this song, and I really remember it, and I hadn’t connections are really special.”


of the Tennessee Mountaineers. And most recently, the Jimmie Rodgers family has loaned us Blue Yodel guitar is in a category in and of itself, just because of how important that guitar Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia as “The Birthplace of Country Music.” A non-profit called outreach endeavors: the museum; Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, a three-day multi-genre Radio Bristol, which broadcasts and streams three channels focusing on the diversity of today.  experience without actually visiting. “There’s so many different ways to connect with the stuff that we’re doing. We do a lot of programming. Take a look at our website of the things because some of it is virtual.” away with something more than a history lesson.  having memories that are being stirred by the music that they’re listening to,” Rodgers says. conversations with our visitors about, ‘Oh, my grandmother played the banjo, and she always hadn’t thought of that in a long time.’ And, you know, those wonderful emotional and personal


On Monday nights, the bluegrass music fill the air at the Blue

“We have all kinds of events

BRIM. “We are a major venue

Founded in 1973, the Blue Ridge and present the folk heritage longstanding national reputation in the state, with two free galleries have a 1796 log barn where

Bethany attended Emery and geographer,” she says. After returned to the area ten years to bluegrass festivals with my


bluegrass jam is the place to go in Ferrum, Virginia. The sounds of old-time and bluegrass Blue Ridge Institute and Museum (BRIM) on the campus of Ferrum College.

events here throughout the year,” says Bethany Worley, who serves as the executive director of the venue on the Crooked Trail, Virginia’s music heritage trail.”

Ridge Institute and Museum was created by Ferrum College to document, interpret, heritage of the Blue Ridge region. Over the years, it has grown in size and importance, with a reputation for quality and authenticity. Today, the entire museum is the largest folk life museum galleries plus the archives. An 1800s living history farm is the site of events and tours. “We we house heritage animals,” Bethany says.

and Henry College, where she studied geography and Appalachian studies. “I am a cultural After working at the BRIM for a few years after college, Bethany moved to Memphis. She years ago and was hired back at the Museum. “This is my dream job,” she says. “I grew up going my grandfather and loved everything about it.”


The Museum has become a repository books, and documents related used by scholars, other museums, “People schedule time in advance educational facility and is a Burns did a good bit of his research

Bethany says the museum has recordings of African American

“We’ve been around for fifty lost. Thankfully, folks knew recordings are ready to be digitized.” generations to enjoy. “People


repository of many important artifacts, including photographs, audio and video recordings, related to the folk life of the Blue Ridge, Appalachia, and Virginia as a whole. The archives are museums, teachers, and students. They are open to anyone interested in regional folk culture.  advance to do research with us, and we will pull what they need. This was meant to be an tremendous resource for scholars. Many are working on documentaries or books. Ken research for his Country Music documentary here at the Museum.”

has one of a few sets of the Galax fiddlers’ tapes and the most extensive collection of American music in the South.

fifty years,” says Bethany. “We are able to preserve a history that could easily have been enough to go out and record people in the field, including Black people, and now those digitized.” A climate-controlled archive assures these treasures are preserved for future “People know that what they donate will be safe with us.”


In addition to “tons of music,” of what we have is donated, but impact on our collection.”

The “Moonshine: Blue Ridge moonshiners, we do recognize mountain distillers went from gallons of untaxed “sugar liquor” for moonshiners so they could show, and they have had a panel

The “Sipping in the Blue Ridge” “There is no doubt that it has

While the BRIM has a staff, they students are museum studies school. He is now a student at “It’s all about the culture of the The Museum has presented specialized including the annual Blue Ridge Gospel,” Bethany says. “If the

music,” Bethany says they have an incredible collection of photographs and documents. “So much but we also purchase items. We have been around for fifty years, and that has made a big Style” exhibit is one of the more intriguing collections. “While we don’t condone recognize that it is an interesting aspect of Blue Ridge life,” Bethany says. For over a century, from making “mostly legal” whiskey and brandy for nearby markets to producing millions of liquor” for customers in urban areas such as Philadelphia. “Souped-up cars became important could outrun the law,” laughs Bethany. The Museum has presented a moonshine heritage car a panel discussion with some of the “haulers” from back in the day.  Ridge” exhibit explores the history and culture of untaxed liquor in the mountains of Virginia. been the most visited exhibit we have ever done.”

they also depend on the help they get from work-study students and volunteers. “Many of our majors,” says Bethany. “We have one student working with us during his junior year of high at Ferrum.” Bethany says they work closely with the community and have a regional reach. the Blue Ridge. The music, the foodways, the culture, and more.”

specialized events such as an herb lore gathering and events that appeal to the masses, Ridge Folk Life Festival. “We stick with original old-time and bluegrass music, as well as the weather is nice, we’ll have 15,000 people at the event.”

The National

Richmond, Virginia, has a rich history in the arts. At one time, a section of Broad Street in downtown Richmond was known as Theatre Row. Three grand auditoriums along that avenue entertained patrons with plays, concerts, and early motion picture shows.

Today, only one of the grand theatres remains. Construction on The National began in 1922 and was completed in 1923. Ironically, it sits on the site of another theater, The Rex, constructed in 1909. The Rex was demolished to make way for the new theatre, one the developers hoped would be the grandest in Richmond. The design and construction were quite forward-thinking. An adaptable stage allowed it to present motion pictures and live shows, including traveling vaudeville shows. In its heyday, theatergoers were treated to show-biz luminaries, including Orson Welles and Eddie Cantor.

When the theater opened on November 11, 1923, the governor of Virginia, the mayor of Richmond, and a crowd of 2,000 people packed the theater to see a standing-room-only showing of Thomas Ince’s film Her Reputation.

The theater was designed by architect Claude K. Howell, who designed many stylish residences on Monument Avenue in Richmond. Built in the Renaissance Revival style, the auditorium originally seated 1,300 with an orchestra pit seating 24 musicians – believed to be the largest in Virginia. A large oval dome in the theatre was a central focal point and still remains today. Nymphs throughout the building were installed by Italian sculptor Ferruccio Legnaioli. The opulent theatre attracted guests as much for the splendor of the building as it did for the shows.

The exterior was designed to resemble an Italian villa, finished in blonde-colored brick with terracotta detailing. The central section rose four stories, with a twostory wing on either side. The portion facing the street contained a restaurant and retail space on the first floor and offices on the second and third floors. The fourth floor was dedicated to the projection room. In the basement, men could play billiards.

In 1966, a local firm that also owned the other two theatres on Broad Street purchased The National. The theatre had an encore when it underwent a conversion to a dedicated cinema theatre in 1968. At the time, it was called Towne Theater. During that renovation, the theatre’s balcony seating was rearranged, the orchestra pit was covered, and much of the intricate Adamesque plasterwork was painted over. Despite the new look and name of the theater, more theaters were opening in the suburbs, and by 1981, it was the last of the theaters still open in downtown Richmond. When it closed in 1983, the theater sat empty.


The City of Richmond entered into an agreement with the state and local historical society to purchase Theater Row. One of the theaters was razed. Another façade was incorporated into a new building. The National (Towne) remained. A dedicated group with the Historic Richmond Foundation worked to gradually restore the aging theater.

The theater had yet another encore when a company purchased the building in 2006, and the theater underwent a $15 million renovation over the next couple of years. It reopened in 2008 as The National, a 1,500-seat performing arts and live music venue.

In 2014, the theatre was acquired by AEG Presents, a theatre owner/operator out of Los Angeles that has 49 theatres around the country. The National is a popular live music and performing arts venue in downtown Richmond today. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Today, it stands in the area known as the Grace Street Historic District, and it is known as a concert powerhouse.

The National has presented shows by scores of notable artists of all genres. From Widespread Panic to Willie Nelson, The Avett Brothers to Alice Cooper, and many more, there is something for everyone at some point or another at The National. In addition to concerts and other performances, The National is used for corporate events, awards shows, weddings, and other private events.


Appalachian chefs are spreading the food gospel across the country

Appalachia has produced some incredible chefs who have ventured beyond the mountainous region to bring their place-based food to new parts of the country. Whether that influence is found through their ingredients or as inspiration for their dishes, Appalachia plays a role in the foundations of these chefs:

Mike Bowe

A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Mike Bowe is the executive chef at Red Yeti in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he sources local ingredients to create “approachable, yet distinctive, southern comfort foods,” according to the website.

Bowe earned undergraduate degrees in business from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, before completing his “Certified Chef de Cuisine” at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He was a corporate executive chef, culinary arts instructor and restaurant owner before joining Red Yeti upon its opening in 2014.

In a recent prix fixe dinner, Bowe created dishes like: a sweet potato bisque with spice roasted hazelnuts, charcoal creme fraiche and brown butter with a house cracker; cornbread pudding and local beef brisket with Kentucky sorghum glaze, smoke pepper popped sorghum and micro buckwheat; bacon with grits, herbed goat cheese, tomato jam and charred onion; meatloaf with cauliflower silk, bourbon barrel red eye gravy and roasted root vegetables; and apple butter cake with whipped greek yogurt, smoked wildflower honey and granola.

IF YOU GO: Red Yeti is located at 256 Spring Street, Jeffersonville, Indiana, 47130. It is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (812) 288-5788;

Anthony Wells

With roots in Appalachia, Anthony Wells was named a 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef, for his role on the other side of the country at Juniper & Ivy in San Diego, California.

Wells started as chef de cuisine in 2014 at Juniper & Ivy before ascending to the executive chef level the following year. In 2019, the restaurant earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand designation:

“Set within a 1920s warehouse, redwood beams and tan leather furnishings lend this popular eatery a certain rustic charm. Helmed by Chef Anthony Wells, the approachable menu offers a thoroughly contemporary take on SoCal cuisine, rooted in top-notch ingredients seasoned judiciously with Latin and Asian flavors. In season, you can enjoy pastas like a yolk-filled raviolo paired with sweet peppers and corn,


sauced with a lively gochujang butter, or perhaps linguine loaded with Santa Barbara uni, chorizo and cotija cheese; mains like a roasted half chicken with grilled peach panzanella are similarly satisfying. Desserts, too, are excellent: a signature reimagined upmarket Yodel might feature flavors like pistachio, white chocolate and raspberry.” In late 2023, it was announced that Wells was named the executive chef of Hotel La Jolla, Curio Collection by Hilton and will lead a new restaurant opening on its penthouse level.

IF YOU GO: Juniper & Ivy is located at 2228 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, California, 92101. It is open Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (619) 269-9036;

Zsahleya Aisha Ibrahim

Zsahleya Aisha Ibrahim was born in Iligan City, Philippines, and immigrated to Evans, West Virginia, when she was six years old. Now, she is the executive chef at the Seattle, Washington, restaurant Canlis and the first female executive chef in the restaurant’s more than 70-year history. She attended Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and worked at a number of restaurants


around the world, including as the sous chef at California’s three-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa, and cooking for chef Eneko Atxa at Azurmendi in Spain and as chef de cuisine at sister restaurant Aziamendi in Thailand, as well as in Malaysia, Taipei, and Japan.

Her menu at Canlis features bites like duck with celeriac, fig and black vinegar; sablefish with matsutake, dulse udon and dashi; porcini with koji, pear and leek; escabeche florita with sea bream, carrot, kosho and meyer lemon; parsnip with cabbage, plum and smoked furikake; and American wagyu with Tsuyahime rice, turnip and ramp.

IF YOU GO: Canlis is located at 2576 Aurora Ave North, Seattle, Washington, 98109. It is open Tuesday through Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight. (206) 283-3313; https://canlis. com

Appalachian chefs play a crucial role in preserving and promoting the rich culinary heritage of the region while also contributing to the global food scene. By sharing their craft with the world, they not only showcase the unique flavors and traditions of Appalachia but also foster an appreciation for the cuisine.



Photo by : Gabriel Acevedo
Photo by : Gabriel Acevedo Photo by : Gabriel Acevedo
Photo by : Gabriel Acevedo

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