Every Wednesday night from 6:30 to 9:00pm, the Historic 1908 Courthouse sponsors an Old-time Mountain Music Jam. In the summer when the weather is nice, we do it out back in the band stand (gazebo). If the weather is threatening or cold, we move inside. The jam goes on year-round, 52 weeks a year, with exceptions for Christmas and New Years, if they fall on a Wednesday. Otherwise, we’re here. Come join us!
There’s plenty of on-street parking in Courthouse Square, as well as parking at Skyline National Bank, across Independence Avenue, or the lower courthouse lot just across Davis Street.
There is no charge for admission but if you feel like making a donation, it would be greatly appreciated. There are donation boxes around the courthouse for this purpose. Here is a video from the jam.
The jam is informal, not a performance. The musicians play for their own entertainment but plenty of folks just come to listen. If you play, bring your instrument. If not, just sit back and listen, or if so moved, dance!
Old-time music is primarily dance music. It is the music that came before bluegrass. Settlers in this area back in the 1700s and 1800s played it at the end of a long hard day, usually on the front porch. The fiddle is the primary instrument with banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin, dulcimer and other traditional instruments providing the rhythm. The fiddle leads the tune with other instruments taking lead breaks from time to time.
There is singing too, but most tunes are instrumentals.
- We play in one key each night – no switching back and forth between keys. It takes too much time for retuning. We go in a weekly rotation: first the key of D, then A, then the keys of G & C on the third week. Then the rotation starts over back at the Key of D.
- The musicians sit in a circle and we go around the circle asking each musician if they would like to suggest a tune. They have the option of leading the tune or asking someone else to lead it (usually a fiddler). If a musician doesn’t have tune in mind they can just pass it on the the next person. Requests from the listeners are taken if they are in the right key.
- We are open minded about the type of music played but we have a strong preference for old-time (click here for a list). Carter Family songs are heard frequently as well as modern compositions in the old-time style (think John Hartford, Norman Blake, etc.). Bluegrass sneaks in at times as does the occasional Woody Guthrie or Johnny Cash or other “folkie” or “country” song. You won’t hear any Taylor Swift or the like.
ABOUT THE JAM
The jam started sometime around 2004, when local guitarists Clint McCain and Bob DeSanto started getting together around 7 p.m. under the tree behind the 1908 Courthouse. Donna Correll was Grayson County tourism director at the time, and she envisioned the jam as both a tourist attraction for the county and an opportunity for local musicians. So she called up a few of her old-time friends and from that point it became a weekly old-time jam. We feel in some sense that we are carrying on a tradition begun decades ago by the late Blanche and Ellis Nichols, who hosted Tuesday night jams for all comers at their North Independence Avenue home.
We have a regular core group of musicians, many occasional local musicians, and others who drop in from around the country and around the world when they are traveling in our area. Being a stop on Virginia’s Crooked Road Music Trail brings many people to our doorstep.
A list of tunes that we play with some regularity can be found (here), but we enjoy a challenge and new tunes are welcome. Unlike most old-time jams, we back off a bit and give some of our instrumentalists breaks during tunes so that we can enjoy their virtuosity. We gave up trying to deal with refreshments long ago, but some of our loyal fans show up pretty regularly with cookies.