Bluegrass associations and clubs are often the glue that holds a community of pickers and fans together, and where you find a strong following for the music, you’ll usually also find a strong circle of people who work to keep the interest and fellowship going.
Since June 7, 1969, people in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia have had the Roanoke Fiddle & Banjo Club to support and promote bluegrass in the region, which includes the city and county of Roanoke, plus adjacent towns like Salem and Vinton, and nearby Botetourt County.
So this month, the Club is taking the occasion to celebrate their Golden Anniversary, marking 50 years of fostering bluegrass in the area. From the start, it had been a private membership organization, supporting itself with either annual dues or, as they do currently, a modest $7 admission fee to attend their monthly concerts.
Food is served as well, prepared by the ladies of the Club, and these get-togethers allow friends to catch up and brag about their children and grandchildren, some of whom grow up playing bluegrass with the veterans. You can grab a seat and enjoy the show, or take a walk through the jamming rooms.
On the first Saturday of each month, you can count on a Fiddle & Banjo Club concert in Roanoke, with a number of local groups on stage to entertain. Often the best fun is found among the jammers outside of the concert area, which floods into the parking lot during the warm weather months. Many a part time band has formed on the fringes of a Club show, and many a new bluegrass fan has been made by joining in the fun.
Over the past 50 years, F&BC concerts have been held at a variety of locations around Roanoke. At one time, they were held regularly at the civic center auditorium downtown. These were quite well attended, with dozens of secondary jams breaking out, until Roanoke landed a professional hockey team and the Club was no longer able to get a guarantee for the first Saturday of the month.
Most every bluegrass musician who has ever lived in Roanoke has appeared on the Fiddle & Banjo Club stage, including members of top groups like The Lost and Found, Lonesome River Band, Upland Express, Kenny & Amanda Smith Band, and many, many others.
At one point, the monthly shows were recorded and broadcast the next Saturday night on local radio. They became so popular that the Club produced and released 5 LPS of live performances at the concerts. A special 50th Anniversary CD has been prepared from those recordings, which will be available later this month.
The regular monthly show for July is set for this weekend, July 6, with a special Anniversary celebration on July 20. The 50 years of hosting bluegrass in Roanoke will be marked at both sessions.
Everyone is invited to the July 20 jubilee, which will run from 2:00 until 9:00 p.m. at the Braeloch venue just outside of town in Vinton, VA. Things will be set up as a one-day festival, with 10 bands set to perform. In addition to music, two of the region’s top luthiers will be on hand to do instrument repair on site.
There is no fee to attend, and there are facilities there to allow the music to go on rain or shine. Food and drink will be available as well.
You can learn more about the Roanoke Fiddle & Banjo Club, its 50 year history in Virginia, and their upcoming events online.
Congratulations, and here’s to 50 more!