More Tales From Virginia – Travellogue #8

by | 5 Jul, 2010

Submitted by John Werner – Victoria.

John Werner and Garry Roberts continue their journey in search of music. Here they are in Virginia taking in more of that famous southern hospitality and hot picking.

On Sunday afternoon, we headed back up to the Grayson Highlands National Park for a cookout and jam organised by Martha Spencer (Whitetop Mountain Band). Around 15 pickers, young and old, spent the afternoon under the shade of surrounding trees jamming, swapping tunes and generally having a laid-back afternoon.

On Monday evening, along with our hosts, Jim & Gert, we attended the Smyth County jam in Chilhowie VA, hopping up on stage for a few tunes.

This weekly jam is held at the local Lions Club, and has been running for around 10 years. The stalwart organisers, Larry & Ersel and their partners, never miss a week, and are there each Monday to help organise the many pickers and large audiences who turn up every week. At times, there may be as many as 6-7 ensembles on show, and the crowd can purchase soft drink and hot dogs while supporting their favorite locals.

Each act is put together in the back picking rooms, minutes before taking to a well-equipped stage complete with 3 condenser mics and a hook-on bass mic. Many pickers opt to hang out the back, catching up with each other, passing on knowledge, calling tunes and joking around. There is a great vibe there, with some genuinely funny banter going on, and a very high standard of playing. On this night, there were around 6 jams happening out the back, with each room’s sound washing over into the next.

Newcomers are made to feel very welcome, with every effort made to accommodate everyone who wants to perform. The night nearly always runs past its programmed 10pm finish time, and on this particular evening Martha Spencer & her mother Emily turned up, providing the dancers with a great show to close out the night.

Checkout The Smyth County Jam thorough their website for pics, video and further info, and make sure you call by if you’re ever in the region. You’ll be made to feel most welcome by this lovely community.