Musical Floyd: No, Not Just THAT Music!

No doubt, when it comes to an insider collective identity and an outsider cultural “brand” for Floyd, it is the music within the county and town boundaries that are at the top of the list of “what Floyd’s about.”

When most people think of “music in Floyd” they have tended to call up either the Friday night Jamboree or other music at the Floyd Country Store (or DogTown, or Hotel Floyd Amphitheater, or other around-town venues) OR (especially for those from “off mountain”) they think of the world-music phenomenon of FloydFest.

Expanding our musical identity got a start a few years ago, but hopes to broaden Floyd’s musical reach faded when the not-from-around-here organizers left at the end of the first season. You can read the details as Doug Thompson told the story.

But the very good news is this: classical music, as well as pop and other permutations, will be heard widely in Floyd County this summer at the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival that runs May 31 to June 9, 2013.

The program schedule will be posted soon. The web site, Facebook page, Twitter stream and other resources are in early preparation. And since I’m now involved with the marketing and promotion of this worthwhile effort, I’ll also be blogging about music in general, classical in particular, and the festival’s characters and back story here on Fragments from Floyd.

Meanwhile, LIKE and FRIEND and HUG and POKE and all those social-networky things you will do for this endeavor, please and thank you. It’s gonna take a village,  folks.

And to begin our multi-media Floyd-based celebration of the summer festivities, go here: (Pink) Floyd: The Wall. Classical style. Crank it up, enjoy, and expect no less creative entertainment this summer- in Floyd!

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Rhythm, Harmony, Melody: The Musical Score of Life

Deutsch: Plektrum an Gitarre English: Plectrum...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Over the weekend, I had a reunion with the me of long ago. Having my room mate from 1966-68 bring his guitar to Goose Creek last week end, I realized how music had been the air we breathed back then. It came so naturally.

And so it was both sad to realize how much we’d forgotten and encouraging to discover we could still find the right key eventually, know when a certain cord of “Here, There, and Everywhere” wasn’t exactly right, and ultimately get it right. Ah, the feeling of finding the lost chord!

Even though I’d recovered my ability to use my left hand for guitar playing after last year’s surgery, I frankly had not really picked the guitar up much to take advantage of skills and pleasures I might use again. It had been so many years since I last played that I had put the strings on the wrong pegs on my 40 year old classical. Mike had put his guitar aside too for the past 25 years, and only recently poured his energies back into music with much enthusiasm and joy.

So after a few days filled with music, I think about the bitter and the sweet of struggling my way up the learning curve.  I never learned guitar beyond playing by ear and with a flat pick. My hands are pretty lousy at best, and then I probably have right hand surgery coming up this fall that would wipe clean for months any skills my ear or fingers might gain before then. And I really ought to get a steel string standard guitar, and case, and tuner, and….

We played some music here at the house Saturday night with a small group of folks. It certainly was not a performance–just a chance to have fun in a forgiving atmosphere with verse fragments of a lot of songs we half remembered. “Country Roads!” somebody would call out, and from deep memory would arise the chords, the lyrics, the melodies and the memories of gathered lives lived across the planet, brought together by the music of our youth.

Here are a couple of bookmarks my roomie shared with me I’ll be coming back to, and that you might enjoy and use in your own musical renaissance. It’s NOT too late! So should I spring for the iPhone Ultimate Guitar Tool now?

Ultimate Guitar Tabs: let’s you change the key, the tempo, etc. Pretty nifty.


Tommy Immanuel Beatles Medley: OMG. How is it possible to get so much music out of two hands and five strings!

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Lipstick On Your Collar: Connie Francis

I often listen to 181FM Classic Hits (from Waynesville NC) on TuneIn Radio (streaming via Droid in the car and iPad at home.) They play a nice and not-often-repeated slate of songs from the 50s and 60s, but one I’ve heard there several times lately is a plaintive melody and lyrics in counterpart to Oh My Papa is one I do not remember from when it was current in 1959 (when I was 11.) It is a song called “Mama” by Connie Francis. Her fluent Italian in that song made me consider the possibility that maybe her birth name was NOT Connie Francis.

I hate to admit this but I pulled over (on a Floyd County backroad in the middle of the boonies) and checked DuckDuckGo to find her real name, and followed up when I got home. Here are some excerpts from the extensive Wikipedia entry about her. Apparently, she is still with us.  And I, frankly, am glad for music’s sake that she did not go to medical school. But I am sorry she dropped the accordion.

And you can listen to a number of her tunes at Grooveshark should you care to.

  • Connie Francis (born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero; December 12, 1938
  • Following her appearance on the Arthur Godfrey show (singing “Daddy’s Little Girl”), Connie was advised to change her name from Franconero to something more easily pronounceable and to drop the accordion that was part of her act.
  • Francis’ first single, “Freddy,” (1955) and her next nine singles were commercial failures.
  • When her father learned that Bobby Darin had suggested the two lovers elope after one of her shows, he ran Darin out of the building at gunpoint.
  • After the failure of her first nine demos, MGM was about to drop her. She considered a career in medicine and was about to accept a four-year scholarship offered at New York University
  • Although Connie Francis had had a string of hits by mid-1959, the official turning point of her career was when she made an appearance on The Perry Como Show. She sang the song “Mama”, in both Italian and English.
  • In 1960, Francis became the first female singer to have two consecutive No. 1 singles, both on the top for two weeks: “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” and “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own.”
  • Francis was one of the first American artists to regularly record in other languages. As a result, she enjoyed her greatest successes outside of the United States. During the 1960s, her songs not only topped the charts in numerous countries around the world, but she was also voted the #1 singer in over ten countries. In 1960, she was named the most popular artist in Europe, the first time a non-European received this honor.
  • Francis took a hiatus in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a result of cosmetic surgery. The result made it impossible for her to perform in air-conditioned venues
  • While appearing at the Westbury Music Fair in New York, on November 8, 1974, Francis was raped at the Jericho Turnpike Howard Johnson’s Lodge.
  • In 1977, Francis underwent nasal surgery and completely lost her voice.
  • Francis returned to the stage in 1982, even appearing in the town where she had been raped. However, her success was short-lived as she was diagnosed with mental illness and depression and she was committed to a total of seventeen hospitals.
  • In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan appointed her as head of his task force on violent crime.
  • Francis has been married four times.

On the Road: Getting Here From NY

Hardware store in Floyd, Virginia at the main ...
Image via Wikipedia

JAMBOREE WARNING: Expect music in the street tomorrow evening, February 18–the first warm-ish Friday of the Musical Year! Stop over at The Station, visit the Floyd Artist’s Association Gallery. I’ll be there from 6 to 8, with the digital photography display, books and note cards, and maybe a few short readings. Stop by, say howdy, then get back to the music!

Honestly, we didn’t quite know what to make of it when an outfit from NY called “Bigfuel” called and requested some local grounding in what to expect, who to interview and where to go in Floyd–a destination they’d already planned to come for filming in late January.

How was Floyd to be “sold” for marketing purposes, and to which target audience?

We are understandably vigilant against any depiction of Floyd town or county that makes its citizenry out to be stereotyped “country persons” or town to be a cultural backwater model of HeeHaw. In the end, our concerns were put to rest.

But when I got word yesterday that the feature video was now out, I of course popped right over and give the three minute piece a look and listen

as Travel writer Mike Barish from NY gets a quick intro to downtown Floyd culture and hospitality. The Bells got some love, and there were flashes of Buffalo Mountain and a dash around Main Street. But mostly, it is a Jamboree feature. I’ll be happy when some film-and-story group chooses to come to look deeper into what’s going on here beyond town on Friday night. That will happen eventually. There’s quite a story growing in Floyd. But that’s for another time.

The travel piece, it turns out, is on a site promoting the Chevy Cruze. I’d have been more satisfied, given Floyd’s focus on sustainability, if the auto got better gas mileage. But hey–the feature could have been for a site singing the praises of McDonalds, WalMart or Monsanto.

Here’s how they bill the episode:

Floyd, Virginia is the quintessential small town with one traffic light and a neighbor-friendly atmosphere. For years, their Friday night Jamboree has brought together neighbors and tourists alike to dance the night away to some of the best bluegrass music in the country. Mike swings through Floyd to meet the locals and cut a rug.

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Valentine’s Day Concert: About the Players

Floyd County House Concert 2007
Floyd County House Concert 2007

In addition to yesterdays announcement about the Valentine’s Day ‘House Concert’ in Floyd County, Mac Traynham sent along a bit more detail about his association and history with the individuals that make up the Hearld Angels. Thought you might be interested in some background that will enrich your experience on February 14. Click image to enlarge.

Serving suggestion: check out the links to some great albums by these ladies, and come prepared to be blown away by the quality of the entertainment and community!

Some background info:  Alice Gerrard began a now successful magazine called the Old-time Herald almost 20 years ago. Hence the name ‘Herald angels’.

She eventually bowed out and Gail Gillespie took Alice’s position as Editor-in-Chief for a number of years and has recently retired from that position.   I have worked with each of them at one time or another in my musical jaunts other than with Jenny.

I was part of a quartet that went to perform at the 21st Alaska Folk festival in 1995 which included Kay Justice and her then singing partner Ginny Hawker along with Tracy Schwarz.

I have helped in some vocal workshops with Alice Gerrard at a summer music camp held on the campus of Mars Hill College near Asheville NC.  In more recent times,  I have been musically involved with Gail Gillespie playing in band contests at some local Fiddler’s conventions.

Alice has been a professional musician since the 60’s having made a name for herself as part of a acclaimed duo ‘Hazel & Alice’.  Hazel Dickens and Alice were some of the first ‘women in Bluegrass’ blazing the trail for other women to enter and make names for themselves in the higher profile ‘Bluegrass’ music world.

During the 1980’s Alice was involved in preserving the music of this region. She performed with and brought greater recognition to several traditional music masters. She has numerous recordings as a google search will show.

House Concert Opens Doors to All


UPDATE: just got word the concert will be at Zion Lutheran Church (I assume the one in Floyd) with more details to follow. 02-06-2009 615AM

Because of the limited number of chairs you can get in the average Floyd County parlor, the typical “house concert” has been limited in the number of folks who can be invited. Mac and Jenny Traynham, good friends and local musicians of some reknown, have held such an event at their place about this time of year for the past couple. This year, as in the past, they are hosting other musicians for the event, and want to open up the opportunity to more than can park on the Traynham’s lawn.

So in a nutshell: February 14 at 7:30 at the Burks Fork Church of the Bretheren, hear the Herald Angels sing. Details from Mac follow…

Mac and Jenny Traynham
Mac and Jenny Traynham

On Saturday night February 14th we are aiming for a special evening of old-time country music by a talented group of  3 women known as the Herald Angels.  Members are Alice Gerrard, Gail Gillespie, and Kay Justice–all of whom are accomplished musicians and vocalists.  They generally draw their material from deep rooted sources in the music of the Southern Appalachians and rural South.

They each have mastered the subtleties of true mountain singing and as a group play banjo, fiddle and guitar in the older styles before bluegrass music was defined in the 1940’s. With over 100 years of experience collectively, their expertise is as honed as any group that we have had for house concerts before. They are each highly respected for their contributions to the appreciation of true American old-time and country music.

In light of the aforementioned facts and  the powerhouse nature of this group  this year we have decided to have this program in a special larger venue that we now have access to. The Burke’s Fork Church of the Brethren is a 100+ year old  wood structure located about 10 miles from the Town of Floyd.

This is a well-maintained structure with padded bench seating for over 100 people. With a certain ‘old-time’ charm about it, the acoustics are exceptional. Heat for the space is provided by a pair of wood stoves which do amazingly well.  Bring a sweater anyway and ‘Please’…. no small children. We will hold the break for the ‘goodies’ in a side room where there are adequate kitchen and bathroom facilities.

In addition to the $10 per person donation for the music we ask that you bring a $2 donation  that will go to the church for the use of the building.

As usual, the concert will start at 7:30.   We  will give you a reminder as we get closer to the 14th of February but we would like a RSVP from you so we can get a feel for the attendance. Email  or call (540) 789-4201

More background details on the group from Mac Traynham will appear here tomorrow.

Music in the Mountains


I am hesitant to point to anything that points toward Floyd County, not wanting to be accused of being the Pied Piper of the area. (There are plenty of realtors who wear that red cape and floppy hat.)  As I have told folks who rightly point out the dangers of saying too many nice things about an area prone to the same excessive development that has sadly and inexorably lead to the strip-mallification of other small towns, at this time in my life, I’d be looking for, finding and writing about the good and the beautiful–promoting life and sense of place in general rather than any place in particular.

It just turns out that what I write about where I chance to live is widely available via the blog to those whose interest in the area is high well before they discover the bloggers of Floyd.

So with that preamble and caveat, I’ll tell you that back about six weeks ago, I spent some time with a couple of young fellas (more and more fellas are thus) from Smithsonian magazine, our meeting coming about by way of the weblog.

I introduced them to Doug Thompson and Mac Traynham and others. They spent the weekend in Floyd, and from their time here has come a People and Places article, Blue Ridge Bluegrass and a short video specifically about the music environment in Floyd.

Several of the people in the video and article comment gratefully that the growth and improvements in Floyd have not been at the expense of its scale and authenticity and pedestrian-friendliness. Keeping this balance will be a challenge in the decades ahead.

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. But I’d like to believe with a certain level of care, respect and vigilance to maintain what is precious about this place, both those who come here to visit, dance and sing, and those of us who live here can love the rhythms of Floyd without loving it to death.