Wandering in Virginia – Travellogue #7

by | 3 Jul, 2010

As they near their last few days in the USA our intrepid travelers John Werner and Garry Roberts head of to the Wayne Henderson Festival in Virginia. Their story continues:

Friday evening saw us attending the Blue Ridge Music Centre, located outside Galax on the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, for an outdoor concert headed up by local super-picker Wayne Henderson. Wayne’s ability as an acoustic finger picker is almost surpassed by his reputation as one of the world’s finest luthiers, with his hand built instruments highly sort after by guitarists around the world. A well known story has Eric Clapton waiting nearly 10 years for his turn.

Wayne and his friends further displayed why this area is a must-visit region for any musical traveler, with a variety of lineups entertaining the large crowd for an hour before Texas fiddlers extraordinaire, The Quebe Sisters, knocked everyone out with a show best described as The Andrews Sisters meets Bob Willis & The Texas Playboys. Get on line and check out the astonishing skills of these young fiddlers. I’m not sure if they sing better than they play or visa-versa.

The following day we headed to the annual Wayne Henderson Festival & Guitar Competition held at the Grayson Highlands National park at Virginia’s Mt Rogers. Each year a pre-selected group of 20 guitar pickers vie for the title, with the winner walking away with a Henderson Guitar, never to compete there again. A young fella with what sounded like 7 fingers on each hand was the lucky winner. Interspersed between the contest’s two sections were a fine selection of top Bluegrass & Old Time bands from near and far.

That evening, we ventured over to Hiltons VA to attend The Carter Fold with Jackson Cunningham (Whitetop Mountaineers) to see he and Martha perform with the family band, The Whitetop Mountain Band. Jackson and Martha, no strangers to Australian readers, play with her parents and two others in this band, continuing its 40 year tradition as one of the region’s premier Old Time ensembles.

The Carter Fold is an institution in country music circles, and every Saturday evening dancers from afar congregate with locals to tear up the dance floor to whichever live band is appearing on the night. A large venue built into the side of hill next to AP Carters original store, it has been running a variety of country music styles every Saturday night since 1974.

The Whitetop Mountain Band proved their worth, keeping the floor packed over 2 energetic sets, and I was fortunate to be asked up for couple of tunes.

In keeping with the tradition set by her mother Janette Carter (daughter of A.P), Rita Forrester wraps things up at 10pm, allowing plenty of time for folks to get home, have a good night’s sleep, and be up early for the church the next morning.

Checkout the Carter Fold’s website for further info on its origins and continuing legacy.