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Music of Virginia


Music of Virginia

Virginia's musical contribution to American culture has been diverse, and includes Piedmont blues, folk, brass, hip-hop, and rock and roll bands. The origin of music from within the state is also diverse, including cities such as Richmond, college towns such as Charlottesville and Fredericksburg, and rural areas.


  • Notable music artists from Virginia by genre 1
    • Jazz & Blues 1.1
    • Country/Bluegrass 1.2
    • Pop/rock/heavy metal 1.3
    • Hip Hop 1.4
    • Other/multi 1.5
  • Music venues and institutions 2
  • Music festivals 3
    • Blue Ridge mountain music 3.1
  • Country music 4
  • Hardcore punk and heavy metal 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7

Notable music artists from Virginia by genre

One of Virginia's most famous musical contributions is the country singer Patsy Cline. Several towns claim her as their own, including Gore and Winchester. Winchester is home to several Patsy Cline attractions, including a driving tour published by the local Chamber of Commerce, and the Kurtz Cultural Center/Old Town Visitor's Center, which shows various Cline memorabilia.[1]

Jim & Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys, Ralph Stanley, Hobart Smith, The Statler Brothers, and The Carter Family are award winning bluegrass and country music musicians from Virginia. Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey were both from Newport News. Hip hop and rhythm and blues acts like Missy Elliott, Timbaland, The Neptunes, and Clipse hail from the commonwealth. The Neptunes produced 43% of all songs on American radio in 2003.[2] Singer-songwriters from Virginia include Jason Mraz and jam bands like the Pat McGee Band and Dave Matthews Band, who continue their strong charitable connection to Charlottesville, Virginia.[3] Influential stage-rock group GWAR as well as heavy metal group Lamb of God began at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alternative Rock group Seven Mary Three formed at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.

Multi-Platinum certified artists are in bold.[4]

Jazz & Blues


Pop/rock/heavy metal

Hip Hop


Music venues and institutions

For larger concerts and events, Virginia has the Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow (marketed as D.C. for most tours), the Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach in Virginia Beach, the Richmond Coliseum, the Hampton Coliseum and the Norfolk Scope. Vienna is home to the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the only National Park for the arts in the United States. Wolf Trap features a large outdoor amphitheatre, the 7,000 seat Filene Center, as well as a smaller indoor venue called The Barns. The Old Dominion Opry is another major venue, located near Colonial Williamsburg, a popular tourist attraction.[1]

Virginia's other prominent music venues include The Birchmere in Alexandria, a local country and bluegrass club where Mary Chapin Carpenter performed early in her career. The Landmark Theater in Richmond and the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk both host the Virginia Opera. Phase 2 (the former Cattle Annie's, but significantly remodeling in 2010) is a popular, large club venue in Lynchburg with a reputation for attracting prominent performers. Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs was once a farm that is now known for classical, jazz, and blues concerts with gourmet meals and views from the side of Warm Springs Mountain.

Richmond's 929 West Grace Street has housed a punk and rock-oriented club nearly uninterrupted for nearly three decades. Most famously known as Twisters throughout the 1990s, more recently the building has been known as Club 929, The Nanci Raygun, and Bagel Czar before re-opening in 2009 as Strange Matter. Like its predecessors, Strange Matter hosts up-and-coming local and national touring acts nearly every night. Alley Katz in Richmond continues to have regular shows. Toad's Place accommodated mid sized bands in 2007 and 2008 but closed shortly after that time. Another mid sized venue is The National which holds around 1,500 people.

The Hampton Roads area also has several more intimate venues. The most prominent of them is the Norva Theatre, which is a small club-style venue for smaller to mid-size acts.

The Shenandoah Valley hosts a few smaller venues. The mockingbird in downtown Staunton hosts a 168-seat newly renovated grass roots and acoustic music hall. Clementine cafe in downtown Harrisonburg has cemented itself as the premier venue in the valley. The Basement of the Blue Nile in Harrisonburg is one of the most popular stops for up-and-coming touring bands.

In the Late 60's and the 70's, the Alexandria Roller Rink hosted many Festival Style concerts, among which, bands like Yes, Jethro Tull and many others appeared.

Music festivals

The Wolf Trap is home to several renowned music festivals, including the Louisiana Swamp Romp, the Washington Irish Folk Festival and Ricky Skaggs Pickin' Party, a bluegrass festival. Winchester is home to the Celebrating Patsy festival for Virginia's country legend Patsy Cline; Winchester is also home to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which includes a major bluegrass concert.[1]

FloydFest is a popular music festival which is not actually within Floyd County but in the county just next to Floyd called Patrick County. This is a bit of FloydFest trivia that mostly the locals know about. The festival began in 2002 and features camping and a wide range of music from bluegrass, rock, reggae, folk, zydeco, African, and Appalachian.

In 2005, 2006, and 2007 Richmond is hosted the National Folk Festival that features Virginia-area regional folk music as well as folk musicians from around the world. Many previous NFF sites have continued to conduct a regional folk festival when the NFF moves to the next site and Richmond has done the same in the form of the Richmond Folk Festival.

The Virginia Blues & Jazz Festival was started in 2006 at Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs. It is held each June and has featured national acts like Taj Mahal, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Eric Lindell.

The MACRoCk festival happens the beginning of April every year in Harrisonburg VA. It has featured national acts like MewithoutYou, Q and Not U, Fugazi, The Faint, Archers of Loaf, Dismemberment Plan, Sufjan Stevens, Prefuse 73, Mates of State, The Wrens, Converge, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Of Montreal, Norma Jean, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Superchunk, Elliott Smith,An Albatross, Coheed and Cambria, Avail,and Engine Down

Blue Ridge mountain music

Southwest Virginia is, along with western North Carolina, part of the Blue Ridge area, home to a distinctive style of old-time music sometimes called mountain music, which is a vibrant tradition most famously celebrated through an annual series of festivals. Galax is a small town that is home to the Old Fiddlers' Convention, held since 1935; it is the largest and oldest festival of old-time Appalachian music in the country. The Convention has given Galax the nickname the "Capital of Old-Time Mountain Music".[1] The Convention attracts upwards of 20,000 visitors to witness many of the most renowned American folk, country and bluegrass performers, as well as regional stars. Galax and the surrounding area has long been a rich part of American, and Virginian music, and is known for an intricate fiddling style and instrumental and vocal traditions; music collectors like Peter Seeger and Alan Lomax visited Galax and recorded the region's music.[5]

Though the Galax Old Fiddlers' Convention is a major focal point for the Blue Ridge's vibrant folk music scene, the region is home to a major music festival season, which is inaugurated by the late March Fairview Ruritan Club Fiddlers' Convention, which hosts a major regional competition in several categories. Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia, is home to the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, which has been held every October since 1973. The White Top Mountain-Mount Rogers area is home to the Wayne Henderson Music Festival & Guitar Competition, as well as a number of regional festivals, with mountain music as a major part of the White Top Mountain Molasses Festival, the White Top Mountain Maple Festival and the White Top Mountain Ramp Festival. The aforementioned, FloydFest always features bluegrass and traditional Appalachian mountain music. Local mountain music festivals in Virginia abound in small towns like Fries, Wytheville, Troutdale, Vesta, Stuart, Bassett, Baywood and Elk Creek, as well as at the Grayson Highlands State Park near Mouth of Wilson.[6]

Farther southwest, The Carter Family Fold, in the Carter Family hometown of Hiltons hosts an annual folk music festival as well as weekly concerts. Johnny Cash often visited the Hiltons area and The Fold with his wife, June Carter Cash. In fact, Johnny Cash's last public performance was at The Fold in the summer of 2003. The area around the Virginia and Kentucky border, folk, country and bluegrass remains a vital regional tradition. Norton is home to the Virginia Kentucky Opry and a historic music venue called the Country Cabin, while local festivals include the Doc Boggs Festival (in Wise), and the Ralph Stanley's Annual Memorial Weekend Bluegrass Festival.[1]

Country music

Virginia's contributions to country music include the legendary singer Patsy Cline, pioneering performers The Carter Family and Staunton's Statler Brothers, who were one of the most popular country acts in the country in the 1970s and 80s.

Bristol, TN/VA has been designated by Congress as the 'Birthplace of Country Music'. In 1927 record producer Ralph Peer of Victor Records began recording local musicians in Bristol, to attempt to capture the local sound of traditional "folk" music of the region. One of these local sounds was created by the Carter Family, which got its start on July 31, 1927, when A.P. Carter and his family journeyed from Maces Spring, Virginia, to Bristol to audition for Ralph Peer, who was seeking new talent for the relatively embryonic recording industry. They received $50 for each song they recorded. That same visit by Peer to Bristol also resulted in the first recordings by Jimmie Rodgers. These 1927 sessions became known as the Big Bang of Country Music. Since 1994, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance has promoted the city as a destination to learn about country music and the city's role in the creation of an entire music genre. Currently, the Alliance is organizing the building of a new Cultural Heritage Center to help educate the public about the history of country music in the region.

The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is held every September on State Street in Downtown Bristol and celebrates the city's contribution to country music. It has grown to become one of the more popular music festivals in Virginia and the Appalachia region, as close to 50,000 people attended the festival in 2012.

Hardcore punk and heavy metal

The city of Richmond has long had one of the more active punk rock scenes on the East Coast. The city is perhaps best known for shock-punk-metal band GWAR, known for wild on-stage antics. GWAR grew out of Death Piggy, a hardcore punk band that followed in the footsteps of local scene leaders White Cross, Beex, and The Prevaricators. However Richmond punk became big with Avail. The Richmond punk scene grew, including: Inquisition, Fun Size, Knucklehed, Uphill Down, Four Walls Falling, The Social Dropouts, Ann Beretta, Sixer, River City High, BraceWar, Smoke or Fire (originally from Boston), Strike Anywhere,and many underground bands. Richmond punk is often mistakenly considered to be an offshoot of the D.C. scene, however Richmond punk bands have developed a unique sound, often influenced by country, folk, and southern rock (particularly prevalent in Avail, Sixer, and Ann Beretta, and to a lesser degree in Strike Anywhere). This is most likely due to the fact that Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy during most of the Civil War, is arguably the oldest and most lively punk scene in the South. Richmond punk has a close relationship with punk from Gainesville, Florida, particularly between Avail and the now-disbanded Hot Water Music. Other hardcore bands from Richmond included Unseen Force, God's Will, Graven Image and Honor Role.[7] Richmond also has an active metal scene that includes, in addition to GWAR, Lamb of God, Alabama Thunderpussy, Municipal Waste. The metal scene is closely related the city's punk rockers, and, like the punks, there is a Southern influence in the music of Lamb of God and particularly in Alabama Thunderpussy. Richmond still harbors an extremely strong hardcore scene, emerging from the shadows of the mid 80's Four Walls Falling, Fed Up, Set Straight, Step Above, Count Me Out and Dead Serious. More recently a resurgence of old school hardcore punk has risen from Richmond with such bands as Direct Control, Government Warning, Wasted Time, etc. Richmond also has a small post-hardcore scene with bands such as Remaniscense, Wow, Owls! and Ultra Dolphins.

Norfolk was known, during hardcore's heyday, for violent clashes between punks and local military personnel from the Navy base. Ray Barbieri (Agnostic Front, Warzone) and John Joseph McGeown (Cro-Mags) became punks while serving in Norfolk due to a judge's order.

There were many semi-pros, who played venues from the late 30's-early fifties, in Southwestern Virginia. Roanoke was a hub for some of these lesser known music men, who came and went, through the early years, of country music radio, and stage performances, throughout this part of Virginia. One of the more notable ones, was a group known as The Blue Ridge Entertainer's. It was led by Roy Hall, who had done some work in Nashville, and was very popular on the Roanoke music scene. Roy was a man of considerable talent, and well liked by his band members. Among his band members was Jayhue, and Saiford Hall (related to him), Wayne Watson, and a popular music man by the name of Eddie Dooley. Eddie grew up in a musical family, on his mother's side. Many of the men played music, and did some performing. Eddie enjoyed being part of Roy's Band. Sadly, Roy's music career ended when he was killed in a tragic car crash. "Eddie" Dooley, was a friend to Roy, as well as a member of his band and had considered going to Nashville with Roy, who had been asking him to do so. The group had just opened a show for Hank Snow, in Wytheville, Va the night Roy Hall was killed. They had just returned and he had dropped Eddie off at his home. Very soon after Roy had left, Eddie learned of Roy's untimely death, and was very saddened. Eddie went on to play with a number of local bands after Roy died. He was a multi-talented self-taught musician, who played about 6 different instruments, equally well. He played guitar, Hawaiian (or steel) guitar, fiddle, piano, and a number of other instruments. When a band member was out, Eddie could fill in most any position needed. He was also a talented singer. Among the bands he played with, were, the "Virginia Pioneers", "Wanderers of the Wasteland"(led by Woody Mashburn), "Hamilton's Hawaiians", and many more. He had also filled in some on the popular "Dixie Playboys" show, when they were on radio. There were others, besides Eddie, who played and were members of some of these early bands. There was Ralph Hambrick, Shannon Kincaid, Jimmy Argenbright, Carl Decker, Ralph Thomas, and many more. Some of these men, were very talented men, and although many had day to day jobs....were known as regular performers on radio, road shows, and stage shows, in Roanoke, and the surrounding areas. Some of these men have now died. Eddie died in December, 2001. These men may have been lesser known, but still made a significant mark, as pioneers, on early country radio, in Southwestern Virginia,and deserve to be recognized for the contributions they made, to the music history, in Virginia. (More information can be found, in the archives of the "Blue Ridge Institute", in Ferrum, Va).


  1. ^ a b c d Byron, pgs. 310 - 321
  2. ^ "The world's Top 10 hip-hop producers". CanWest News Service. September 19, 2006. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  3. ^ "Charities".  
  4. ^ "RIAA". 
  5. ^ Fussell, pgs. 59 - 62
  6. ^ Fussell
  7. ^ Blush


  • Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Feral House.  
  • Byron, Janet (1996). Country Music Lover's Guide to the U.S.A. (1st ed. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  
  • Fussell, Fred C. (2003). Blue Ridge Music Trails: Finding a Place in the Circle. North Carolina Folklife Institute.  
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