Smithsonian Magazine covers bluegrass jam

Smithsonian is the online companion for Smithsonian Magazine, the monthly journal published by The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

The web site recently published a report from Kenneth R. Fletcher about the weekly jam sessions at the Floyd Country Store, a venerable institution in southwestern Virginia. The scene he describes may well be an unfamiliar one to the larger part of the site’s readers, and it’s nice to see our music so favorably reported in such a prestigious publication.

If you drive through Floyd on a Friday evening, you’ll have slow down when you pass the country store of this tiny town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Crowds of people mill about the street, many carrying mandolins, banjos, basses and other instruments. In alleys and parking lots they form impromptu groups playing bluegrass and traditional country music. The jam sessions are fluid; a young guitarist backs up a group of old timers and then joins a fiddle player from the Midwest. Inside the spacious Floyd Country Store, bands from across the region play on a small stage and dancers fill the floor. Their tapping feet provide percussion to the music.

After describing his journey to Floyd from his home base in DC, Fletcher gets to the main attraction at the Friday night jams.

While the organized bands play inside the store, musicians of all stripes gather outside to learn from each other, jam and show off a little. The scene echoes musical gatherings that have been going on in the southern Appalachians for centuries. The sessions in Floyd started informally decades ago around the store’s potbelly stove. In the 1980s, it evolved into regular Friday night gatherings. The store itself has seen big changes since Woody and Jackie Crenshaw bought it in 2005. They’ve restored and enlarged the building, upgraded the stage and dance floor and expanded the store’s offerings and operating hours. Open Tuesday through Sunday, it sells everything from ice cream and barbecue sandwiches to overalls and CDs. Outside, new streetlights, sidewalks and benches create inviting nooks for musicians to play.

Read the full piece online at

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.