Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not Grand Ole Opry, But The Carter Family Fold

This past Saturday night, I headed to Tennessee, not to go to the Opry, but instead, going to the Carter Family Fold, which is located in Hiltons, Virginia. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it as it is a trip back in time to the way country music used to be. I have been there several times before and while it is not the easiest place to get to, it is well worth the trip.

The Carter Family Fold sits next to the A.P. Carter General Store, which has been renovated and is now The Carter Family Museum. It is a one room building, but it covers the story of The Carter Family very well, from the days of A.P., Sara and Maybelle, right up to the present time. There is also some good information on Johnny Cash, and on Marty Stuart and Tom T. Hall, who helped to keep the Carter Family Fold going. Next to the store is A.P. Carter's birthplace, the original log cabin that has been moved to the present location from up in the mountains. The cabin is just like it was back when A.P. was born and is very interesting. There is a photo album in the cabin that covers all of the Carters who live in the area, which would include all the cousins, etc. Again, very interesting and both of these buildings have no admission charge, just a donation. The buildings are only open on Saturday evenings, starting at 6:00 p.m. and then during intermission of the show.

The Carter Fold itself is next to the general store. Saturday night music started back in the 1960's in A.P. Carter's General Store and when the crowds outgrew the store, A.P. and Sara's daughter, Janette, along with brother Joe Carter, build The Carter Fold. Since Janette passed away, her daughter Rita Forrester runs the place.

The shows are on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., and go year round. The Carter Fold is now enclosed althought the doors are opened for additonal seating on the upper lawn. It now has inside seating for about 850 people and Saturday night's show with The Dollar Brothers, drew about 400. They are a bluegrass group from North Carolina and played from 7:30 until past 10, with a 15 minute intermission. And, they were pretty good. I bought one of their CD's that they had for sale. The Carter Fold does not allow electric instruments, with the only exceptions made for Johnny Cash, who used to play there once each year, and Marty Stuart, who still plays at the Carter Fold. The admission is only $7.00, with reduced rates for children. Many of those who were there on Saturday night were regulars and I would say it reminded me of the Saturday night square dances that you would see in the western movies.

The other feature about the Carter Family Fold is that there is a big dance area down in front of the stage, where many people were up and clogging to the songs, which were kept fast paced, for the most part. Many of the cloggers, which I would number up to 50, were on the floor all night.

It was another great experience and if you are interested, they have a website with their weekly schedule listed up until the end of the year. They also have a yearly festival, celebrating the first Bristol recordings, that is held the 1st Saturday in August. I have attended the festival before, and it draws thousands of people. Again, well worth the price.

If you want to see where and how country music began and what it was like back in the old days, I recommend at least one trip up to the Carter Family Fold, for some good country music.

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