Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Graves' Mountain Festival of Music - May 31st & June 1st & 2nd, 2012 - Syria, VA

Yes, the time has, once again, rolled around for the Graves' Mountain Festival of Music, this being the 20th year.  My time does fly when fun is being had.  Graves Mountain Lodge and the grounds surrounding it are, indeed, a beautiful spot in Virginia.  Nestled just below the crest of Virginia' Blue Ridge Mountains, there is hardly a more spectacular spot for Bluegrass music to ring through the air.Campers in the festival grounds @ Graves Mountain Lodge Upper Lodges @ Graves Mountain LodgeView from upper lodges @ Graves' Mountain Lodge 

So now I think you have an idea of the beauty at Graves' Mountain lodge; now lets talk about what you can expect when you arrive.

First and foremost, this has been the most mis-understood thing about The Graves' Mountain Festival of Music. camping completely free with the purchase of a 3 DAY TICKET!  If you arrive on Saturday expecting to purchase a one day ticket and to camp. Forget it.  Clearly the flyer and all ads for the festival state that camping is free with a 3-Day ticket. not a one day ticket.  So, if you come in Saturday with a camper you will be expected to buy a 3-DAY TICKET and then camping is free, as it is to everyone. Understand??? So, my question to you is, if you're planning to come and camp, then why not come for all three days like the rest of us?  The cost will be the same and you'll get to hear lots more Bluegrass that way.  It's just common sense.

Food!  FOOD!!!  Now, you can bring your own, if you wish, but the Graves' Mountain Lodge is famous for the great meals they serve and the festival is presented by Jimmy Graves and his family, so why would you expect less at the festival?  On Thursday night the serve up some mouth watering and tasty BBQ Ribs with all the expected fixing, panned apples, fries and other veggies.  But wait, while you can get this great meal for the entire weekend, or until supplies run out, on Friday they serve up a spectacular Rainbow Trout dinner.  Saturday is their traditional Steak Night with a very tasty Rib Eye (The King of Steaks!) Steak dinner with baked potato, fries, etc.  So, yeah, bring along your own food and cook and clean and worry about ice, etc.  But why???

This year, I've heard many folks say, has a very different line-up.  Okay, they didn't say, "very different" but you get my drift.  I want to quickly go through the list for each day.  Let's start with Thursday, appearing will be: Dark Hollow; The U.S. Navy Band Country Current; Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice; Goldwing Express and The Gibson Brothers.  Coming up on Friday is another, but distinctly more varied list of groups, Shenandoah Drive; The Snyder Family; Monroeville; Stetson & Cia (Of Cherryholmes fame); The Rockin' Acoustic Circus and The Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Saturday boasts an even more eclectic mixture of performers, The Moore Brothers Band; Mark Templeton & Pocket Change; Mark Newton's Stillhouse Band; Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen; The Cleverlys; Balsam Range and The Quebe Sisters.

So there you have it.  The Graves' Mountain Festival of Music.  Make plans to attend.  I'm afraid budget constraints and the price of gas may well keep me home this time, (Gosh I hate to miss it!) but I want to hear lots of stories from you as you tell me about your trip to the 2012 edition of The Graves' Mountain Festival of Music.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Earl Scruggs - My Experiences - Gary Robertson

A very good friend and a fellow blogger (Who by the way hasn't sent me notice of a blog posting in months!) read my blog entry concerning Earl Scruggs which quoted a long and sincere letter to all of us Banjo nuts, from Kristen Scott Benson, about how she experienced Earl and her feelings.  I thought her letter to be well written and all-encompassing, however, my friend wanted to hear my thoughts on Earl.  Soooo, here goes.  Get ready, this could be a long ride.

First I must tell you that I only met Earl Scruggs on three occasions and on two of them he was simply sitting at a table autographing whatever we had to offer.  The first time was on my second trip to Nashville to attend the 18th annual SPBGMA weekend.  I was walking around the exhibit hall when I heard and felt a commotion going on.  "What in the world," I thought and then I saw him.  There's Earl Scruggs and a hush fell over the room as he was guided through the crowd to an anteroom toward the back.  We found out through very fast word of mouth that he was there to sign autographs.  I had nothing for him to sign and was feeling more than a little frustrated.  A long line quickly formed and it was then that I saw folks coming out of the room carrying the large Gibson advertising poster with a huge picture of Earl on it.  And he was autographing them. I got in line right away.  This was gonna be cool.  The line stretched all the way the length of the exhibit hall and then zig-zagged back and forth in the room where Earl was. . . . . . .  Now, let me back up in time just a bit.  I created a t-shirt in 1984 that reads "No! I'm Not Earl Scruggs."  I'll tell you later why I created it, but for now let me tell you that Little Roy Lewis is a Scruggs man through and through and the first time he saw me wearing that shirt he just about busted a seam laughing.  It sort of opened a dialogue between Little Roy and me as it has with many strangers.  Little Roy laughed and laughed and asked where I got such an idea.  I told him the story and he loved it.  Anyway, he told Earl about my shirt and he told me about it the next time I saw him.  Little Roy said all Earl could say was, "Why would he do a thing like that."  Real dry like.  Little Roy told me Earl didn't have a great sense of humor and he just didn't get it. . . . . . . So, I'm standing in line waiting and I'm about ten people back in line from getting to Earl and they ran out of the Gibson posters.  Dang!  Of all the rotten luck!  All i had on me was a advertisement from one of the display tables, so I got Earl to sign that.  Today, I have no idea where that autograph is.  To say I was really disappointed is an understatement.  I guess that's why I don't know what I've done with his autograph.  But, there's more to this meeting.  While I was getting his autograph I proceeded to ask if he remembered Little Roy telling him about a guy in Virginia that made up a T-shirt that said, "No! I'm Not Earl Scruggs."  He said he remembered and asked me the same question he asked Little Roy, "Why would you do that?"  I tried to explain, but Earl was just too serious and rooted in the real world to see that even for humor it didn't make sense.  I had to leave it at that,  at least for the moment.

The second time I met Earl Scruggs was probably the best one, except I sorta froze because it was sudden and totally unexpected.  This time I was attending my third IBMA ""World of Bluegrass" event in Louisville, KY.  It was mid-week, if I recall correctly and I was walking in a nearly empty hallway toward the  exhibit hall and as I rounded the corner, really not paying much attention to what I was going I nearly ran right into him as he was walking toward me.  I was flabbergasted and not being prepared, all I could think to do was say hello and offer my hand.  We did shake hands and he said something like, "Nice to see you." or something like that.  Then he kept walking and so did I.  So, there goes my real chance to perhaps talk one on one with the great one and I say, "hello."  Just a star struck fool, I guess.

The third and last time I was able to speak and shake hands with Earl was long anticipated.  Sigrid Williams, the president of the Virginia Folk Music Association, hired Earl to appear at the VFMA Jumpin' Bluegrass Festival.  I knew months in advance and I came up with idea to make a shirt that said "No! I'm Not Gary Robertson" and present it to Earl.  Pretty funny, I thought.  Ha Ha!  So, I made up the shirt, just like I do mine, with a black magic marker.  After listening to him perform, and quite well I might say, he sat at a table and a line formed for autographs.  I asked him sign the cover of the VFMA program booklet and then gave him the shirt.  He stood up and held the shirt up in front of him and I stood next to him in my shirt.  He almost instantly threw the shirt on the ground, but not before someone got a picture of us together.  It's been a while, but if memory serves me right, it was Randy Grigg who took the picture.  Randy, if it was you, I never got a copy of the picture.  Hint, hint!  Another funny thing about that day was that Earl's wife, Louise, was with him.  She saw my shirt and she really eyed me carefully.  I had heard most of my life that Louise was a shrewd business woman and had everything with Earl's likeness or name on it copyrighted.  I was sure she was gonna ask me for money, but she didn't, after all.  Also, Marty Stuart was there that day helping Earl out and he saw and liked my shirt.  He got out his 35MM camera and took a couple of pictures of me and with me.  I have heard from some friends that Marty has several videos on the market and that one of them shows me in the shirt.  Sure would like to see that some day.  BTW: There were a bunch of middle aged women there shouting at Marty, wanting his autograph.  I told Marty, "Those women want your autograph."  He looked their way and back at me and said, "Forget 'em, this is Earl's day."

These were the three time I actually met Earl and shook his hand and spoke with him.  Other that these, I have seen him perform on several occasions.  The first time was a very long time ago when he and The Earl Scruggs Revue appeared as part of a package show touring the country after the great success of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" album.  Larry Stephenson was there at the tender age of 16, performing with his dad in the very first Larry Stephenson Band.  I've spoken and emailed several times with Larry about that show.  He even sent me a copy of the show schedule for that day.scan0012

I've enlarged this as big as I can and I am hoping you will be able to read it.  Also, I got a picture of Earl signing autographs that day. Earl Scruggs signing autographs at the Robins Center, University of Richmond I think the most poignant of the times I saw Earl Scruggs was at the IBMA Awards in 2010.  Earl was old and he looked the part.  He was stooped and could barely walk, but he made his way to the chair there waiting for him, center stage.  His son, Randy, draped the guitar strap over his shoulder as he handed Earl his guitar.  Moments later, Earl began playing his wonderful song, "You Are My Flower," and it melted the years away and I felt moved to tears hearing this great man play that beautiful melody with all the strength and vitality of his youth.  What a special moment in my life that was.Earl Scruggs performing

{I don't understand all of the intricacies of how computers work.  I cannot make this picture appear as part of the article, but if you click inside the box it should appear on a separate page.  Sorry for the problem. - Gary}

When this performance was over, Earl was helped from the stage and his guitar was left and all of the lights went down except for a soft spotlight on the guitar.Earl Scruggs' guitar on stage at the Ryman


Thursday, May 3, 2012

VMRE/WSVS Presents Lynryrd Skynyrd @ Hooper Park, Crewe, VA IMPORTANT PARKING INFO!!!

Hi Folks.  The Lynyrd Skynyrd concert is going to be a huge success.  Ticket sales have been brisk and a very large crowd is expected, therefore to make your experience the best it can be, VMRE has issued a large essay on parking and other rules.  Tickets are still available, so if you want to see Lynyrd Skynyrd at a wonderful outdoor park, this is you chance.  PLEASE read over everything below, so there will be no surprises when you arrive.  My understanding is that VMRE has hired the company that handles parking for NASCAR at the Richmond International Speedway (RIR), so things should go smoothly.  All information below is directly from Penny Parsons, the media contact for VMRE.

"On Friday, May 11, 2012 at 6:30 PM the Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment is pleased to present iconic rock band LYNYRD SKYNYRD at The Virginia State Park Pavilion at Hooper Park, on Melody Lane in Crewe, VA.    Tickets are $25.00 advance, $30.00 at the gate, and $45.00 for Gold Circle seating.  They are available through and at select Benchmark Community Bank locations. 
TICKETS ARE LIMITED, SO ORDER EARLY!  Hooper Park is easily accessible from Highways 360 and 460.  For more information, visit: and click on Event Info.


Hwy 360 West Traffic (coming from Chesterfield/Powhatan/Amelia/Richmond)
Traffic arriving on Hwy 360 West should follow concert signs, turning left onto Hwy 49, then right onto Melody Lane.

Hwy 360/460 East Traffic (coming from South Boston/Farmville/Lynchburg)
Traffic arriving on Hwy 360 East and Hwy 460 East should bear left on Hwy 360 East (at the 360/460 split) and immediately move into the right lane.  Follow concert signs, turning right onto Melody Lane.

Hwy 460 West Traffic (coming from Blackstone/Petersburg/I-85)Traffic arriving on Hwy 460 West should SLOW DOWN while driving through the town of Crewe.  Just west of Crewe, Hwy 460 West expands to 2 lanes in each direction.  Concert traffic should remain in the right lane and
follow concert signs, turning right onto Hwy 49, then left onto Melody Lane.


Free parking will be available at Hooper Park on a first come, first served basis.  No vehicles will be allowed into Hooper Park prior to 3:00 PM and no vehicles will be allowed to park along Hwy 360 or Hwy 460 waiting for the park to open.

Paid parking (to benefit the Crewe/Burkeville Recreation Association) will be available at Beamer Field on Hwy 460 in downtown Crewe.  Shuttles to and from Hooper Park will run regularly from 3:00 PM until 11:00 PM.

Paid parking will also be available behind Weston’s Motel & Restaurant on Melody Lane (walking distance from Hooper Park).

PLEASE NOTE: There may be private property owners offering paid parking
services near Hooper Park.  The Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment
is not responsible for privately owned parking areas or for the fees charged by private individuals during any Virginia Crossroads Live event.

Beer, wine, and other food and beverage concessions will be available at Hooper Park.  Patrons must purchase beer tickets in order to be served beer and wine.  Cash WILL NOT be accepted at the beer and wine
service areas.  Anyone wishing to consume alcoholic beverages within the pavilion area will be required to present a photo ID in order to obtain a wristband that indicates the wearer is of legal age.  No
patron will be served without a valid wristband.

PLEASE NOTE: There is a strict limit of 5 alcoholic beverages per person in effect for the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.  In addition, anyone who appears to be inebriated will be denied service.   For the safety of all in attendance, any patron who appears to be inebriated upon arrival at the front gate will be denied admission without refund.  This will be strictly enforced by security and police during all Virginia Crossroads Live events.

There is absolutely no tailgating permitted in the parking areas provided by The Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment.  These areas include the Hooper Park, American Legion, and Weston’s Restaurant
parking areas.  Tailgating is also prohibited in the Beamer Field parking area.  Anyone caught tailgating within these areas will be
asked to leave the area without refund.
Virginia State ABC law prohibits ANY open containers of alcohol or consumption of alcoholic beverages anywhere outside of the concert pavilion area.  Virginia ABC agents will enforce this law.

end quote

So, Folks, please follow these rules which ensure enjoyment for all concert goers. The main thing is have fun and leave your contrariness and belligerence at home! (You know who you are!  ;~})   And, hopefully this is. . . . . .


Monday, April 23, 2012

The "Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment" (VMRE) Presents The Quebe Sisters @ The Kenbridge Community Center - May 30th, 2012 @ 7:00PM

Yep!  You read that right.  The Quebe Sisters are coming back to the Kenbridge Community Center on May 30th at 7:00PM.  Honestly, I must tell you that I missed their first performance and, sadly, I will miss this one, too.  Why?  I attend the "Graves Mountain Festival of Music" each year and it's always this same weekend.  Fortunately, The Quebe Sisters will also make an appearance at the "Graves Mountain Festival of Music" that same weekend, so I will get to see them.  Luckily, you won't have to travel 100 plus miles and camp out to see them.  All you have to do is purchase a ticket for $12 in advance or $15 at the door and simply show up in Kenbridge and enjoy the show!  Below is the majority of the official press release from Penny Parsons, the media contact for the VMRE.

"On Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 7:00 PM the Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment is pleased to present THE QUEBE SISTERS BAND at the Kenbridge Community Center, 511 West 5th Avenue in Kenbridge, VA. 
Virginia's own Appalachian Express will open the show.  Kenbridge is about 15 miles north of South Hill, just minutes off of I-85.  Tickets are $12.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door, and are available through, at select Benchmark Community Bank Locations, and
at WSVS radio in Crewe, VA.

When Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe (pronounced Kway-bee) raise their
fiddles and play, audiences marvel. When the girls sing their vintage style three-part harmony, audiences are blown away. Add the extraordinary rhythm guitar of Joey McKenzie and the swinging upright bass of Drew Phelps, and The Quebe Sisters Band becomes a force of nature. The QSB's unique brand of music has taken the Americana music scene by storm. They perform a refreshing blend of western swing, vintage country, bluegrass, jazz & swing standards, and Texas style fiddling.  Though still in their twenties, after more than ten years of performing together, the sisters sing and play like seasoned veterans.

Awarded the Crescendo Award by the Western Music Association and winner
of the Western Swing Album of the Year from the Academy of Western Artists, The Quebe Sisters Band is touring behind their latest album, "Timeless."  Performance highlights include appearances at the Grand
Ole Opry, the Kennedy Center, NYC's Lincoln Center, the Ryman Auditorium, the Marty Stuart Show, the Eddie Stubbs' Show on WSM, The Birchmere, the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree, the Smithsonian Folklife
Festival, and the National Folk Festival.
Anyone who saw the Quebe Sisters Band at their 2011 performance in Kenbridge knows what an exciting, dynamic, and fun show it was.  Don't miss this special return engagement!"

A note from Gary:  As with many of the live music performances sponsored by the VMRE, The Quebe Sisters do not perform Bluegrass music.  They play and sing authentic Cowboy Western and Western Swing music as you have never heard it before.  Trust me on this.  I also know that my blog is called "Bluegrass Virginia" and that I created it to promote Bluegrass music in Virginia.  In a round about way, by promoting these shows presented by the VMRE and WSVS radio I am supporting one of the last bastions of daily Bluegrass music programming in Virginia and, the USA, for that matter.  Not only does WSVS AM800 radio present three hours of recorded Bluegrass music daily Monday through Friday (3 to 6PM), but they also present live Bluegrass, Old Time and Acoustic Country music at 12 PM each Saturday as part of the "High Noon Hoe-Down."  As I have stated before, As long as WSVS supports my Bluegrass addiction I will support the live music shows they present, whether they be Bluegrass or not.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Earl Scruggs, BANJO Man!

Folks, I tried to come up with a clever title for this, but I think it is said best to simply state that Earl Scruggs was THE banjo man.  I wanted to write something poignant about Earl Scruggs, but upon receiving an email from The Laughing Penguin Publicity Agency, with a heartfelt letter to all of us from Kristen Scott Benson, anything I might try to say would sound hollow.  So, now, I have attached, in it's entirety this wonderful essay from Kristen.  Read it and then wait a day or so and then come back and really read it.  It is a letter filled with awe and love for a man all five string banjo enthusiasts owe their very lifeblood to, Earl Scruggs!Kristen Scott Benson  accepting the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) fro Banjo Player of the Year 2011.  Her fourth consecutive win!The

"Thoughts on the Passing of Earl Scruggs from Kristin Scott Benson;
4-time winner, IBMA Banjo Player of the Year award and member of the multi-award winning band, The Grascals

Like everyone else that loves bluegrass music and the banjo, I was saddened to hear the news of Earl Scruggs' passing.  Terry Smith, bass player with The Grascals, called me at my parents' house in South Carolina to give me the news.  Though I didn't know him well, I immediately felt a void because his life has had so much impact on mine.  In fact, anyone that plays traditional 3-finger, bluegrass banjo (which is almost every banjo player in the world) owes their craft to Earl Scruggs.  Even the players that unfortunately haven't listened to him first-hand, should understand that their primary influence is still Earl Scruggs. 

Bluegrass banjo playing is odd.  The goal, in many ways, is to replicate the past.  For many listeners, and players alike, your worth as a bluegrass banjo player is gauged by how closely you can emulate what Earl did back in the late 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  I'm not aware of any other instrument, in any other genre of music, that places such a strong emphasis on recreating the past.  Perhaps it is because Earl set the standard so high, that it is quite simply impossible to reach or surpass.  This is what sets the rest of us on a lifelong pursuit with the beloved instrument that Earl Scruggs introduced to the masses. 

The banjo is amazing, capable of doing whatever the player can imagine.  Earl understood this, as well as anyone.  While there is debate over whether he was the very first person to use the 3-finger style, he is certainly the man that brought it to the forefront, in his intricately, refined way.  Listen to players like Bela Fleck or Noam Pikelny, and you will get a glimpse of what the banjo can do, in any arena.  I am sure that Earl celebrated the banjo's journey into every musical environment because he, too, was an innovator that loved the instrument itself, not just its role within a bluegrass band.  The banjo is bigger than that.  Within the bluegrass world, however, the truth is that banjo playing hasn't changed that much.  It has evolved, for sure, but many people regard that evolution as "watered-down" Scruggs style. I celebrate all things banjo, but the older I get, the more I understand their sentiment.  You learn these cool, new things and you are enthralled with awesome players of recent years, yet when you go back and listen to Earl, the purity and perfection of his playing still stands taller than the rest, all these years later.  I would encourage players that haven't spent time with his music to go back and do the work to understand why his mark is so indelible.  Music is art; art is subjective, and creativity is the lifeblood of it all, but there are "right" and "wrong" ways to play bluegrass banjo.  You just can't get around it, even if you disagree or wish it wasn't that way.  And the "right" way, most would agree, is Earl's way.  Eventually, we all figure out we will never be able to sound like him, so we create and settle for our own niche, but Earl is the foundation that supports us all.

Finally, I am very thankful for a couple of personal moments with Earl Scruggs.  The first was having my grandfather, who was a professional musician and friend of Earl's, introduce me to him, at a show at Gardner Webb University in NC.  I was very young and had never considered playing the banjo yet, but I clearly remember it.  I realized it was a special opportunity, even then.  I treasure the second encounter, even more.  Sonny Osborne used to host parties at his house.  He would have a bass and guitar player, and the rest of the musicians all played the banjo!  The special guest was usually Earl Scruggs and Sonny was kind enough to invite me to one of the gatherings.  For once in my life, I was bold!  I took the seat next to Earl, on Sonny's living room sofa, realizing it was literally the chance of a lifetime.  For hours, I mustered up the courage to play alongside the greatest banjo player that ever lived.  I will forever be indebted to Sonny Osborne for that experience and I will forever be indebted to Earl Scruggs for creating what we all enjoy as Bluegrass Banjo Playing.  It has defined my life.

Kristin Scott Benson

March 29, 2012"


Friday, March 23, 2012

The "Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment" (VMRE) is presenting Four live concerts this Spring

This is the first of FIVE brand new posting to my blog today!  There are four more, so keep on scrolling down to read each of them.

The second posting is about the Sierra Hull & Highway 111 concert coming up on March 31st at the Kenbridge Community Center.  Don't be an APRIL FOOL and miss this one!

The third posting is about the Dark Star Orchestra with special guest Jesse McReynolds coming up on May 17th, 2012 at the Pocahontas State Park as part of the "Pocahontas Live" Concert Series,

The fourth posting is about Delbert McClinton appearing live at Powhatan Village in Powhatan, VA on June 1st at 6:30 PM as part of the "Powhatan Live" Concert Series.

The fifth and last posting of the day concerns the appearance of the legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd ay Hooper Park in Crewe, VA on May 11th at 7:00PM as part of the "Virginia Crossroads Live"  Concert Series.

Please read all of my postings and attend as many of the shows as you can.  Hey, I know most of these shows are very far removed from Bluegrass.  But, as i stated in several of my posts, The "Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment" as part of WSVS Radio AM 800 present Bluegrass every weekday between the hours of 3 and 6 PM and also present an hour of live Bluegrass (usually) at 12PM on Saturdays.  As long as these two entities present Bluegrass music as part of their programming I shall support them in any way I can.  And so should you!

Read on!!!!!


The "Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment" (VMRE) partnering with Lunenburg County Schools Presents and Evening with SIERRA HULL & HIGHWAY 111 on Saturday, March 31st, 2012 at The Kenbridge Community Center

Okay, the VMRE is presenting a lot of concerts over and throughout the spring, but this is the only one, so far, that is truly a Bluegrass event.  The lovely and vivacious Sierra Hull with her group Highway 111 will present an evening of Bluegrass and acoustic music.  sierra, now just 20 years old, has been performing professionally for six years and has only gotten better with each passing year.

  Sierra performing as part of the IBMA Awards in Nashville, September 2011.

I hope this picture along with my strong recommendation will influence you to attend this show.

It's on Saturday March 31st!  Don't be an APRIL FOOL and miss this one!!!

Advance tickets for $10.00 each are still available.  please call: 434-645-7734 to reserve "will call" tickets right now!  Tickets, if still available will be sold at the door for $14 each.  Hope to see you there!