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American music of days gone by endures in Virginia

Joe Wilson, folklorist and founder of the Crooked Road musical heritage tour, talks to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown about the enduring legacy of old-time music in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

In August, tens of thousands of fans and musicians gathered in the small town of Galax, Virginia, for the 79th Old Fiddler’s Convention.

When the festival began in 1935, one of its aims was to keep “alive the memories and sentiments of days gone by.” Folklorist Joe Wilson — founder of the Crooked Road musical heritage tour — says this mission endures across the region.

“It survives in a huge way,” Wilson told Jeffrey Brown.

Wilson traces the strength of the region’s musical tradition to the arrival of furniture factories across southern Virginia and North Carolina after the turn of the 20th century. The influx of jobs gave workers more time — and disposable income — to pursue the music they’d grown up enjoying.

Now most of those factories have moved overseas. The Vaughan-Bassett plant in Galax opened in 1919 and today is one of the last remaining bedroom furniture factories left in the U.S. That plant figures prominently in a new book by Beth Macy, “Factory Man.”

You can watch Jeffrey Brown’s full report on “Factory Man” here

Video by Frank Carlson and Victoria Fleischer.

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