A Night of Southwest Virginia Culture

We enjoy bluegrass music. This year for our vacation we decided to take a road trip to southwest Virginia and visit the world famous Floyd Country Store.

This store intrigues us. It is a true country store in the middle of a rural town out in the middle of nowhere,  25 miles from  interstate and the fair-size town of Christiansburg.

The store is stocked with interesting and unique gadgets, household giftware, trinkets, old-time natural lotions & ointments, barrels of candy, games, clothes, local artisan walking canes, brooms, and hundreds of bluegrass CD’s of local and world renown artists.

Across the back of the store is a stage.  Every Friday afternoon at 4  they wheel the gondola’s of merchandise into a side room and set up 150 plus chairs in the store.  A thoughtful and warm touch to each metal chair is a pillow, each one a different color and style.

Anticipation builds as the afternoon wanes.  People wander around the store,  sit on chairs on the front porch catching up on the local gossip, lick  ice-cream cones, or fare on local barbecue pork sandwiches available for sale at the cafe within the store.  The staff is friendly and eager to talk about their unique history. They do not start selling tickets until 4:45. Once you get your ticket and a sticker for the front of your shirt,  you may claim a seat with a hat, a napkin with your name scribbled on it or any other object of choice.

Outside informal groups of musicians gather for impromptu jam sessions.  Some evenings there are as many as twelve groups scattered around the area.  Friday evening there were 3 groups braving the heat. People mill around, inside and out, listening to the various groups.

At 6:00 the scheduled program inside begins. The first hour is always a gospel/bluegrass group and the evening is opened with prayer.  Old time favorites such as “I’ll Fly Away”, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Long Black Train” are mixed with lesser known selections.

The Allegheny Strings

The next group plays toe-tapping, foot-stumping, cloggin’ bluegrass dance music intermixed with slower waltzing tunes. More people gather and the crowd comes alive. The dance floor bounces with smiling, bouncing cloggers. I told Gene it makes me want to learn to clog!

The Snow Creek Old Time Band

Short video music clip

The last group, the Round Peak Ramblers, the most professional of the groups, rocked the store with banjo and fiddle playing.  The selection is Bluegrass/Folk/Americana or as the locals say “Mountain” music. Even though the evening was hot and a severe storm brewed outside, the cloggers stumped and danced the evening away.  It was fun to watch a little boy, no more than 6 years old,  pound the floor in perfect beat.  His motto had to be “louder is better”.  We watched a mother teach her adolescence daughter to dance and several regular locals were intensely dedicated southwest Virginia cloggers.

Gene struck up a conversation with one of the managers of the store and gathered lots of interesting tidbits about local culture and history.  He asked the guy what they do with “country music”.  The guy was a loss for words and barely knew how to answer him.  Country and western music just does not exist in the hills of southeast Virginia!

It was a fun evening and almost a step-back in time. We enjoyed talking to various people,  from locals to couples from Louisiana and Toronto, Canada who had come for the experience.  A couple from England won the door prize of coming the furthest.   I had to think of the song from “The Sound of Music”…”the hills are alive with the sound of music“. Southwest Virginia culture is unique and the music stirs the soul. It was an evening we won’t forget.

Note:  This fall (September 9) we will have our 4th annual evening of bluegrass/gospel sponsored by our church on our front lawn.  Visit our church web site www.pmchurch.net  for more information about “Evening on the Lawn”.  Everyone is invited. This year “Mark Templeton and Pocket Change” will be giving the program.


  1. Sara Said:

    I’m so glad you enjoy the musical community and culture of my neck of the woods. I’m from northwest North Carolina (right across the Virginia/NC Boarder). My grandfather, Frank, is a member of the Round Peak Ramblers, as is my boyfriend. I just wanted to say (for future reference) that the true name of this “Bluegrass/folk/Americana/Mountain music” is Old Time Music. Most of the songs (excluding some of the more western, slow-dance tunes) that the Ramblers played are of an oral tradition that has been passed down from some of the earliest Scotch-Irish settlers to the area. This style is a predecessor to Bluegrass, and utilizes a strong fiddle lead with the other instruments playing more rhythmical roles. One of the biggest differences between Old Time Music and Bluegrass is the way the banjo is played; in Old Time they use the “clawhammer” style, while Bluegrass banjo is played using the “three-finger” style (such as in Dueling Banjos or Beverly Hillbillies). Anyways, I just thought you may like to know a little more about the style of music you enjoyed At FCS!

  2. Pat Said:

    Thanks-very interesting. It is a very rich culture!!! Don’t lose it.

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