14 Notes About Virginia’s Music Heritage

by Casey Higgins | Posted: Sep 16, 2014 | Updated: Sep 13, 2019

Comments: 6 Comments

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. CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

Fife and Drums Corp at Colonial Williamsburg. CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.

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. CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com

Carter Family Fold. CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com

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. Ken Burns’ latest documentary, Country Music, features iconic Virginia musicians like the Carter Family and Ralph Stanley, and also features the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol.

8. Speaking of Ralph Stanley…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.

Virginia is for Music Lovers®

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.

14. An award-winning film on the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention was released this year and is sure to get your toes tapping and hands clapping. Be sure to check out the film Fiddlin’!


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. BerkeleyPlantation.com.
4 “How Taps Became Associated with Funerals“. Villaneuva, Jari. TapsBugler.com.


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Avatar Nancy Rodgers says:

Remember Ricky Van Shelton from Grit, Virginia!

Avatar eric says:

Dave Matthews, Keller Williams, gwar,John Ashby and the free state ramblers ,victor Wooten , the Fleck tones…. And I could keep going love me some virginia

Avatar Casey Higgins says:

Great additions to the list! Excellent homegrown music. 🙂

Avatar Sue cochrane says:

Don’t forget Joel walker Sweeney from Appomattox…banjo player, song writer and ” rock star” of the early 1800’s

This is pretty interesting! Gotta love the ‘Happy’ song too.

Avatar Wayne Jordan says:

Nice post! Allow me to add two of the most famous Rockabilly artists to come out of Virginia in the 50s: Norfolk’s Gene Vincent (what Baby Boomer can forget his hit “Be-Bop-A-Lula?) and “The Female Elvis”, RCA recording artist and star of The Virginia Barn Dance – Janis Martin from near Danville.