While there are several current television shows featuring live bluegrass music, including Bluegrass Underground and a number of programs on RFD-TV, one of the most popular is surely Song of the Mountains, the monthly concert series at Marion, Virginia’s Lincoln Theatre. Recorded live each month and broadcast in a seasonal format on over 150 PBS affiliate stations throughout the country, it now reaches approximately 52 million viewers each year.
The show’s success has been noticed by legislators in its home state, leading Delegate Jeffrey L. Campbell, a Republican from Marion, to sponsor a bill in the House of Delegates naming Song of the Mountains Virginia’s official television series. Marion Ellis, the show’s executive producer, and Tim White, the show’s host, approached Campbell last year about sponsoring such a bill in hopes that it would raise awareness of the important role the region has played in the history of bluegrass and country music, as well as increase tourism in the area. White recently told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that “The music in this region is big, not just because of its historical value. We have a real opportunity to not just spread the gospel about bluegrass and country music, but to make an economic impact.”
Campbell’s legislation summarizes the benefits of Song of the Mountains, stating that the program “promotes and preserves the music, heritage, and culture of the Southwest region of Virginia.” It also touches on the possible economic effect of the show, noting that audiences in 29 different states are able to watch it – leading to “a potential audience of 93 million viewers.” If just a small fraction of those viewers chose to visit Marion and the surrounding area, it could certainly have a positive effect on the region’s tourist industry.
HB 1927 (perhaps a nod to the famous 1927 recording sessions just down the road in Bristol?) easily passed in the House of Delegates on January 25, with a 99-0 vote. It then passed 32-7 in the Senate yesterday (February 9), and is now headed to the desk of Governor Terry McAuliffe for his signature. It will join other official state emblems such as milk (the state beverage), American dogwood (the state tree), and square dancing (the state folk dance).
Congratulations, Song of the Mountains!