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Driving The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail

In the hills and hollers of the Blue Ridge are stories that beg to be told. Thanks to The Crooked Road (276/492-2409), we’re learning the stories of the people whose musical talent created bluegrass and country music, two genres that have influenced musicians for nearly a century.

The Crooked Road is a 333-mile-long driving trail stretching from Rocky Mount to Breaks Interstate Park at the Virginia-Kentucky border, connecting visitors with southwestern Virginia’s incredibly rich musical history. The road connects nine major music venues and 60 or so affiliated venues and festivals, crossing 19 counties, four cities, 50 towns, and one state line. Along the way, you can stop for a concert or impromptu jam session, learn some of the history here at any of 26 waysides, where you can also hear recordings of musicians and songs important to the area, or attend one of the many music festivals and gatherings that celebrate these deep musical roots.

Signpost with an illustration of a banjo marking the Crooked Road or Virginia's Heritage Music Trail.
Photo © Doug Kerr, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike.

All along The Crooked Road, you’ll hear names like the Carter Family (June Carter Cash, wife of Johnny Cash, was a second-generation Carter Family singer), “Tennessee” Ernie Ford, Dr. Ralph Stanley, the Mullins Family Singers, and the Stoneman Family. Each of these individuals or family troupes plucked their guitar, bass, and banjo strings and sent out musical vibrations that touched future musicians like Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Nirvana, Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, and Ryan Adams.

The Floyd Country Store is one of the stops on The Crooked Road Music Trail, so it’s easy to begin exploring some musical history from here. The Crooked Road is not an official byway in the manner of the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive, but rather a recommended route along country roads. You can easily hit three highlights of The Crooked Road along the Parkway by visiting Floyd, Galax, and the Blue Ridge Music Center, each of which lies along or near the Parkway.

Watch Katie & the Bubbatones perform at the Floyd Country Store in December 2014:

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