It all began in the first week of August in 1927. The Victor Recording Company came to Bristol, TN to spend a week recording local music. A.P. Carter and his wife, Sara, and Sara’s cousin Maybelle, went to play and record some of their music. Their music proved to be so popular that the “Carter Family” career in music was born. Each year, for the past 41 years, during the first week of August, the descendants of A.P. Carter have been celebrating that event with a two-day festival. The festival is held at the “Carter Fold” in Hintons, VA, where A.P.’s home and grocery store were located.
Our timing was perfect. Although we missed the Friday evening part of the festival, we were able to get over to the Carter Family Fold for Saturday late afternoon and evening. We heard a whole lot of music, both bluegrass and old-time, and we saw a whole lot of step-dancing. There were craft vendors, food vendors, and a museum and log cabin to explore. We also ran into friends: Deward and Bessie Skeen, whom we had met at the jam at Heartwood on Thursday evening.
Deward is a guitar-player, and is a retired prison guard. Bessie is a retired seamstress. It was great to see familiar faces in the crowd! Virginia hospitality continues to impress me.
The reason the Carter Family Fold exists as a music venue traces back to a deathbed request made by A.P. Carter of his youngest daughter, Janette. He charged her with keeping the music alive, and she took this responsibility seriously. She spent virtually the rest of her life working to fulfill this wish. Early on, she turned his store into a performance venue. When the audiences outgrew the capacity of the store, she had the current performance venue built. Janette is no longer living, and her daughter, Rita Forrester continues to operate the Carter Family Fold. Rita was the MC at tonight’s concert.
One of the sweetest parts of the evening was a group that performed a number of classic Carter family songs. We heard Wildwood Flower, Will the Circle be Unbroken, Keep on the Sunny Side, and a few others that I couldn’t name. The leader of the band, Ronnie Williams, evidently is a family friend, and he was using Maybelle’s autoharp. It was quite an experience to be hearing their songs, played on their instrument, in their home. I guess that’s one of the reasons we make trips like this one.