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13 Notes About Virginia’s Music Heritage

What do you think of when you consider Virginia’s music scene? You may not realize just how robust and varied the genres are that originated here, or which big names got their start in Virginia.

Fife and Drums Corp at Colonial Williamsburg.

Fife and Drums Corp at Colonial Williamsburg.

In honor of September being declared Virginia Music Heritage Month, consider these music notes.

1. The first musician came to Jamestown in 1618. Apparently he fiddled up quite a storm as it was in that year that dancing, fiddling and cards were banned on the Sabbath.1

2. Eighteenth-century Williamsburg indeed incorporated music into their everyday lives. According to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, “It is not surprising to search the inventories of these early citizens and find listed among other effects spinets, flutes, guitars, violins, violin-cellos, fifes, French horns, drums, harpsichords, organs, harmonicas and pianofortes.”2

3. Speaking of Colonial Williamsburg, have you seen and heard the signature Fifes and Drums in person?

Carter Family Fold.

Carter Family Fold.

4. Bristol, TN/VA is known as the Birthplace of Country Music thanks to the 1927 Bristol Sessions, which the legendary Johnny Cash called, “the single most important event in the history of country music.”

5. Speaking of Johnny Cash, did you know that his wife’s family (June Carter Cash) were the pioneers of country music? The Carter Family Fold, an acoustic-only venue honoring A.P. Sara and Maybelle, is located in Hiltons, Virginia, and you may visit for live concerts. Also check out the A. P. Carter Museum for artifacts and memorabilia.

6. Patsy Cline was born in Winchester and you can visit her home, as well as her grave, where you’ll find sweet mementos and pennies left for her.

7. 2014 was the year of Happy and “24 Hours of Happy,” the world’s first 24-hour music video by Pharrell Williams, the hip hop artist and producer from Virginia Beach.

8. Regarding Coastal Virginia talent, Williams’ Neptunes production team sidekick, Chad Hugo, hails from Virginia Beach, too, while hip hop queen Missy Elliott is from nearby Portsmouth and rapper/producer Timbaland is just a stone’s throw away in Norfolk.

9. Old time and bluegrass listeners readily know the name Ralph Stanley. He and his brother, Carter, are perhaps the best-known recorders of Man of Constant Sorrow, a track made popular by the film O Brother Where Art Thou, starring George Clooney.

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10. If you ever “listen to the Mandolin Rain,” you’re listening to Williamsburg son Bruce Hornsby, a popular easy-listening/pop artist most renowned among baby boomers.

11. “The Most Awarded Act in the History of Country Music” is Staunton’s The Statler Brothers. They sang backup for Johnny Cash before breaking out with Flowers on the Wall.

12. The most recognized military bugle call is Taps, the resounding call to extinguish light at the day’s end. In 1862 while encamped at Harrison’s Landing (Berkeley Plantation), Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield with the help of bugler Oliver Willcox Norton, wrote Taps. 3, 4

13. Ella Fitzgerald, “The First Lady of Song,” was a jazz singer from Newport News who garnered 13 Grammy Awards over her career, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in 1992.


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1 “Was There Music in Jamestown in 1607?” The Colonial Music Institute.
2 Eighteenth-Century Music and Dance. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
3 “24 Notes that Tap Deep Emotions: The Story of Taps“. Villaneuva, Jari.
4 “How Taps Became Associated with Funerals“. Villaneuva, Jari.

© Casey for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2014

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We are FUN! We are RVA! We support local business and charities! Life is good!