Our new location, in Fancy Gap, VA, is about a mile from an access point to the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of our nicest vacation trips ever was our 2007 drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. At that time, we stopped in for a few minutes at the Blue Ridge Music Center. We felt that we couldn’t afford more than a few minutes to stop and see this institution. Now, however, this is one of the major points of attraction on our trip. It is one of the major venues of the Crooked Road, and it is only about 14 miles from our new campsite. So on Thursday afternoon we headed down the Parkway with nothing more nor less than the Blue Ridge Music Center as our goal.
Every afternoon from May to October there is live music here from noon to 4:00PM. Thursday’s musicians are Scott Freeman and Willard Gayheart. When we arrived the two of them had just finished a set and were greeting people. It turns out that Willard is not only a musician but also an artist. He had on hand many prints of his pencil drawings of Appalachian people and scenes. It was fascinating to see a drawing of the baptism of Doc Watson. I asked Willard if there was a story to tell behind that drawing. Willard’s story focused more on the opportunity given to him to draw it rather than the baptism itself. The drawing showed an aged Doc Watson. I wondered about what transpired to lead to Doc being baptized as an older man. I believe one of the people in the drawing is Doc’s son-in-law, whom Willard told us is a preacher. I guess he’d be the one to ask about Doc’s decision to be baptized at that point in his life. Another drawing that caught my attention was a montage of people connected to the “Song of the Mountains,” a PBS TV series hosted by Tim White (see Aug. 4 blog entry). We recognized Tim in the drawing, and we also recognized a couple of other people. When I asked Willard about the people, he began telling me about each of the people in the picture and why he put them there. It was fascinating!
Scott and Willard’s music was lovely also. Scott plays a number of different stringed instruments and plays them very well. Willard is a good guitarist and a great singer. The two of them are volunteer performers for 4 hours every Thursday from May to October. The way I figure it, that may be close to 100 hours of free performance. I am impressed!
The Blue Ridge Music Center itself was a treasure trove of history of mountain music. We were able to add to our understanding of the culture that produced this unique American blend of diverse influences. Much of what we found overlaps and reinforces what we have been learning elsewhere on this trip.