An Unforgettable Tour Of Loretta Lynn’s Childhood Home In Butcher Hollow, Kentucky

We were locked out of the humble home where country music legend Loretta Lynn grew up and were about to leave Butcher Hollow when someone pulled up in silver Chevy Silverado pickup truck. A trim man with neatly parted gray hair wearing a pair of jeans and a red-checked shirt stepped out of the truck and introduced himself.

“I’m Herman Webb,” he said, shaking my hand.

It took me a minute to realize that this was the brother of country music stars Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gale. But how did he know that we wanted to tour the home they grew up in?

“You were just down at the grocery shop,” he explained, sensing my confusion. “They called and said there was someone here to see the house. I live just 500 feet down the road there, so here I am.”I like old school country music but I’m not so hardcore that I would ordinarily seek out the childhood homes of well-known country music artists. Loretta Lynn, however, is another story. Even if you don’t like country music, you have to love her life story.

The daughter of a coal miner, she was the second of eight children who grew up poor in a place called Butcher Hollow in Van Lear, Kentucky. (It’s pronounced and sometimes spelled Butcher Holler and is named after her mother’s family whose surname was Butcher.) She got married at 15 and had three children by the time she was 19. At 29, she was already a grandmother. Not exactly a textbook formula for success, but after moving out west she was discovered at a talent show in Tacoma and went on to record 16 number one hits, winning four Grammy awards and countless other accolades along the way.

Three of her siblings, sisters Crystal Gayle and Peggy Sue, and brother Jay Lee Webb, also pursued careers in country music, though none were as successful as she was. But despite her fame she never forgot her humble roots. Indeed her most recent album is called Van Lear Rose and her best-known hit, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is all about growing up in the Van Lear coal mines area.

Butcher Hollow is a destination, not a place you just happen to pass through. We were on our way back to Chicago after touring Hatfield-McCoy country in West Virginia and Kentucky and I convinced my wife that an excursion to Lynn’s childhood home was a worthy detour.

We got hopelessly lost but with a little help from some friendly locals we finally found Millers Creek Road, which meanders down to Butcher Hollow. It’s a narrow road that passes through this isolated community of trailers and modest homes. We passed a number of abandoned or burned out homes and shops, and in some ways, it almost seemed like a ghost town until we stopped into Webb Grocery, a small shop filled with Loretta Lynn memorabilia owned by Herman.

The narrow road leading down to the house is overgrown in places, and I kept stopping to get out and look at things that caught my eye: an old white school bus with “Kentucky” written in cursive script and a multicolored flag serving as someone’s curtains; a modest home with a cluttered front porch and a “God Bless America” sign; and a small home that was dwarfed by three huge satellite dishes. The nearest Starbucks, I later confirmed, is an hour and 20 minutes to the north in Huntington, West Virginia. Butcher Hollow is about as off the grid as you can get east of the Mississippi.

After a few minutes of small talk with Herman, 78, on the front porch of the old wooden cabin the family moved to when Loretta was a toddler, he put on one of his sister’s albums and we stepped into the house. The first floor has just two rooms, both with double beds, and a kitchen. (The attic bedrooms are off limits to visitors.) I was immediately struck by how tiny the place is, especially for a huge family, and by the fact that there was graffiti all over the walls.

“I can’t control what they do when they get ahead of you,” Herman explained.

The home is perched on a hilltop and is filled with period antiques the family actually used. Every inch of wall space that isn’t filled with family photos or memorabilia is covered in graffiti – people have signed their names and the date they visited the place or written other messages, like “Welcome to Butcher Holler” to mark their visit.

A trio of teenage girls turned up and Herman led us around the home, telling stories and pointing out the significance of various items on display.

“This is the best piece of furniture I got,” he said in his raspy, Kentucky twang, made horse by a lifetime of work in factories as a painter and welder, grasping a swing positioned in what was once his parent’s bedroom. “This swing was on the porch when I was a little kid.”

He pointed to a photo of his parents and said, “That’s mommy and daddy sittin’ in this swing in nineteen and fifty one. My dad died in 1959, at 52. Mommy remarried but she never did have no more kids.”

Herman told us that the town fell on hard times after the Van Lear coal mine closed in 1948.

“This used to be a thriving town,” he said. “We had plenty of stores, even a stoplight.”

The family moved to Wabash, Indiana, in 1955. Loretta and her husband didn’t care for Indiana so they gravitated west to Washington State where she was discovered. Herman said he returned to Van Lear for good in 1975.

“I don’t know why,” he joked. “Guess I was just homesick.”

A cousin lived in the place into the 70s and Herman started fixing it up, so he could open it to the public in 1986. The house had no electricity or running water, and everyone had to use an outhouse out back when nature called.

“We didn’t have much money,” Herman said. “But neither did anyone else we knew and there was always something to eat.”

He said that they learned how to forage for edible plants and berries on hikes around the surrounding hills. Herman played in a band called the Country Nighthawks; he played the “git-TAR,” but was never able to quit his day job.

“We played a lot of gigs but I could never go too far, because I couldn’t quit my job and we needed the money,” he explained. “But I still play now and again.”

His sisters still come back to Butcher Hollow for visits, and he enjoys visiting with tourists who come to see the place, especially since his wife died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease seven years back.

“This old stove, tea kettle and cabinets here are all the original things we had,” Herman said, leading us through the tiny kitchen. “That churn behind you – I’ve churned buttermilk in that, beat butter, I’ve done it all.”

He showed us a moonshine container, his dad’s coal mining helmet and a host of other items and after showing us around the living room, took a seat on a couch. As much as I enjoyed seeing the house and this unique little forgotten corner of the country, the real treasure in visiting Butcher Hollow was having a chance to meet Herman, who seemed to be in no hurry to go home.

After a nice long chat, we said our goodbyes and on the way back out of town I saw a bumper sticker on a parked car down at the grocery shop that read, “Y’all Been to Butcher Hollow?” I’ve traveled all around the world in the last four decades but I can’t remember ever getting a richer, more authentic slice of a fast vanishing culture than what we experienced in this forgotten little hamlet in the hills of eastern Kentucky.

Hell yeah, I’ve been to Butcher Hollow and I plan to come back around someday too. Hope to see you there.

Think Your Job Is Tough? Take A Tour Of The Beckley Coal Mine In West Virginia For A Reality Check

If you want to feel better about your job, take a tour of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, West Virginia. On a recent tour of the vintage mine we learned about the extreme dangers and hardships miners faced a century ago when hundreds of thousands of people in Appalachia eked out a living mining coal underground.

On a brilliant Saturday morning in March, I took a seat next to my wife and two small boys, ages 3 and 5, in an open-air tram referred to as a “man car” for our tour and our guide, Marvin Turner, a retired coal miner, noticed that my sons had scowls on their faces.

“They’re mad that we didn’t buy them replica coal miners helmets in the gift shop,” I explained.

“Uh-oh,” he said. “There’s nothin’ worse than dealin’ with angry coal miners.”

Marvin asked our group of about 30 people if there were any coal miners on board and when no hands went up, he said, “Good, then if I don’t know the answer to your question, I’ll just make somethin’ up.”
As we descended down into the dark, wet cave-like tunnel on rail tracks Marvin told us a little about the mine, speaking deliberately in his endearing, twangy Appalachian accent. The mine was a small, family run operation that opened in the 1890s and provided coal to heat homes and schools in the area until it was closed in 1910. The city of Beckley had the bright idea to buy it in 1960 and two years later they opened it for public tours. Since then, the city has opened a reconstructed coal camp with a school, church and superintendent and miner’s residences to give visitors an idea of what it was like to live and work at a turn of the century mine.

Marvin explained that the city expanded the size of the mineshaft in order to make it suitable for tours, so when the mine was still functioning it was far more claustrophobic than what we were experiencing.

“Miners spent their whole day in here on their hands and knees,” Marvin said.

He explained that the mine was infested with hundreds of rats, so miners used secure metal lunch pails with sturdy lids to protect their food.

“Here’s the pie pan,” he said, taking the lid off of a pail for our inspection. “Now a miner would know, if he opened the dessert tray and there was nothing there, his wife was mad at him. But they’d be sure to get a nice piece of freshly baked cake or pie on Thursdays, because that was payday.”

Miners would light fuses, shout, “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE IN THE HOLE!” and then run for their lives as up to four tons of coal would come crashing down, coating everyone in a thick dust that would stick in a miner’s mouth and eyes and make his hair itch like crazy. Around the turn of the 20th Century, miners were paid about 20 cents per ton of coal produced, which worked out to about a dollar per day.

But as we learned when we toured the coal camp above ground, their take home pay after expenses often came to practically nothing because they had to buy or rent their own tools, pay rent and buy everything they needed from the company store. Miners were actually paid with a sort of coal currency called scrip, which one could only use within the coal camp. Those who insisted on being paid in hard currency were often expendable.

In the coal camp, we saw a 1937 paystub from a mine in the area that detailed all of the following deductions for one miner.

Pay- $74.14
Store purchases- $15
Rent- $4
Coal- $2.50
Doctor- .75
Hospital- .75
Burial Fund- .30
Smithing- .37
Old Age Pension- .74
Hauling- $1.50

And there were a host of other expenses that were illegible but at the bottom there was the grim reality of the actual take home pay of this particular miner: “Due Employee: $1.68.”

Marvin told us that boys as young as 16 were employed at the mine but fathers often brought boys as young as 8 or 9 in as unpaid apprentices and no one seemed to mind. There was no real safety monitoring in the mine, so miners bought their own canaries and carried them around in little cages.

“If their canary died, they knew they needed to go above ground to get some fresh air,” Marvin said, as droplets of water intermittently plopped down on my notebook in the mine, where it is always 58 degrees.

The fact that mining is still a dangerous occupation was driven home for us after our mine tour by a guide at the coal camp’s schoolhouse who said that local authorities in nearby Whitesville had just erected a memorial to mark the 3 year anniversary of a mine disaster there that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine. According to press reports, there were several safety violations at the mine and two former mine officials are behind bars in connection to the explosion with a criminal investigation still unfolding.

A man in the group asked Marvin about how much coal miners earn these days and he said that in Boone County, West Virginia, a miner could make about $400 per day.

“But they’ve laid off so many people that it’s hard to find work,” said Marvin, who was a coal miner at Mt. Coal #7 just west of Beckley for 24 years before becoming a tour guide in 2008.

West Virginia is the second biggest coal producing state in the country behind Wyoming, but with over 13,000 coal miners working below ground in the state (compared to just 128 in Wyoming) there are more underground miners in West Virginia than any other state. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there were more than 700,000 coal miners in the U.S. in 1923 but just 88,000 by 2011.

As our man car emerged above ground, the brilliant afternoon sunlight felt like an unexpected gift. We were only below ground for 45 minutes but it was long enough to make the warmth of the sun feel glorious. Since our angry little coal miners behaved reasonably well on the tour, we bought them their replica miner’s helmets and before leaving my wife asked Marvin if he would recommend the coal mining profession for our kids.

“Not at all,” he said. “Go to college and become President or somethin’, but don’t do this.”

IF YOU GO: Tickets for the coal mine tour are $20 for adults and $12 for children ages 4-17. (Free for kids under 4) There are a variety of national chain hotels within a few miles of the mine, including a newish Courtyard Marriott, where we stayed, a Holiday Inn, a Hampton Inn, and several others. Less than a mile away from the mine, there’s a Tudor’s Biscuit World location that offers all you can eat biscuits and gravy for $3.19. That alone is a good reason to make the trip to Beckley, which is an hour south of the state capital, Charleston and about a four and a half hour drive from Washington, D.C.

[Photo credit: Dave Seminara]

Kentucky BBQ: Bring Your Own Squirrels, Raccoons, Possums And Porcupines

In Kentucky, you can get a porcupine hickory-smoked for five bucks. A squirrel or a frog will set you back just $2.50. I had no idea that one could kill an animal and then bring it to a place that would smoke it for a fee until I road-tripped to Kentucky last week with my family.

I travel because I’m curious by nature and I like to know how people live in other parts of the country and the world. But America is huge and it’s easy to get lulled into the notion that you have to leave the country in order to experience another culture. Within an hour of arriving in Kentucky last week, I was reminded of how very wrong that assumption is.

Owensboro is only 360 miles due south from my home in suburban Chicago, but the people who live there inhabit a very different world than the one I live in. In Evanston, my adopted hometown, people with extensive record collections and cars made in Scandinavia pay $4 for fancy cups of coffee and $3 for croissants at the weekly farmers market and shell out big bucks for organic treats at either of two Whole Foods locations that are only a half- mile apart along Evanston’s Chicago Avenue.

In Owensboro, people who get their groceries at Wal-Mart and drive pickup trucks can hurl a dead animal onto their trucks and bring it over to the Old Hickory BBQ restaurant, where the good people who run the place have been hickory-smoking meats since 1918. I know we were in a very different place from listening to the rush hour traffic report on the radio: the only traffic tie-up involved a deer carcass.

Old Hickory BBQ was our first stop in the state after spending much of the day driving south from Chicago and it was a perfect introduction to one of America’s most distinctive, and for my taste, interesting states. Coming from Chicago, where you have to clear out your 401k to get a sandwich in some places, everything on the menu appeared to be ridiculously cheap- sandwiches were around $4 and platters including two sides were about $8. The place was moderately full but if it were transported to Chicago with the same prices, there would be a 9-hour wait to get in.

Kentucky’s BBQ specialty is mutton but I was most interested in the burgoo, a stew native to the region that is usually mutton-based. I went up to the take out counter, where many of the BBQ specialties are on display, and Jordan, one of the kitchen staffers, gave me a taste and offered to show me the restaurant smokehouse after our meal (see video below).

I loved the burgoo and everything else I tried and was elated when the bill came. $22 for our family of four, or less than we sometimes spend at McDonald’s. And as soon as I stepped into the smokehouse, I was overcome by the glorious smell of smoking meat. Jordan yanked open one of the smoke chambers and gave us a little tour of the meats people had brought in for 24 hour smoke sessions.

“Here are some pork butts,” he said. “Over there we’ve got some deer hind quarters.”

He said that he’d seen people bring in just about every type of animal you could imagine: squirrel, possum, porcupine, raccoons, frogs, and goats among others. And he confirmed my suspicion that Owensboro wasn’t much of a hotbed for vegetarians. I’m not a hunter and I tend to limit my meat intake but I would have loved to have strung up a hammock in the smokehouse and just enjoyed the seductive smell of grilled meats for hours.

The following night, while staying in a cheap motel in Beaver Dam, forty minutes southeast of Owensboro, and I got another taste of the hunting culture. The hotel’s free breakfast starts at 4:45 A.M. to accommodate the hunters, who filled the place to capacity on the first Saturday night of the deer-hunting season. It turns out that Kentucky has a huge deer population and hunters converge on the state from far and wide. We heard them chattering excitedly in the hotel corridor at 4:15 A.M.

Despite the sleep interruption, we didn’t emerge for breakfast around 9 A.M and the breakfast room was empty until a camouflaged foursome came in and began filling up on biscuits and gravy.

“Seems like you guys are the only hunters who slept in,” I said to a bleary eyed young man with a hunters knife hanging in a long sheath from his belt.

“Oh no,” he replied. “We were down here right at 4:45. We went out hunting and we’re back for our second breakfast now.”

“Did you get any deer?” I asked.

“I saw one,” he said. “But she was too young. I just couldn’t do it.”

The young man explained that deer hunters, like photographers, need to be out at dusk and dawn to stalk their prey. I asked him a whole host of dumb questions that anyone who grew up in Kentucky would already know the answer to, but then was able to show off a little of my own newfound knowledge as well.

“You know,” I said. “There’s a place in Owensboro that’ll smoke a porcupine for just five bucks.”

[Photo and video credits: Dave Seminara]

Kentucky’s Forbidden Donuts

For a place that doesn’t get a whole lot of national press, Kentucky must have as many claims to fame as any state in the country. There’s thoroughbred horseracing, famous family feuds, bluegrass music, and the nation’s most storied college basketball team. And in the food and drink arena, the Bluegrass State is known for KFC, the Bourbon Trail, mutton BBQ, hot browns, burgoo, and mint juleps, not to mention backwoods Old Kentucky favorites like squirrel and possum.
But I’d never heard of Kentucky as a mecca for donut connoisseurs until I read a piece in the New York Times a few weeks ago. William Grimes described the state as “the last calorie-filled province in an enormous swath of territory where the glazed twist, the apple fritter, the chocolate-iced Long John and the vanilla-cream Bismarck hold sway,” and I was hooked.

Regular readers might recall that I’ve gotten into trouble with my wife over the years for taking the family on long detours to Western New York State’s Amish Country in pursuit of donuts. With that unpleasantness in mind, I didn’t insist on hitting all seven donut shops scattered around the central and northern part of the state mentioned in the article. But we were already planning a long-weekend trip to Kentucky when the Times piece came out, so I added donuts to our weekend to-do list.

Our first stop was Hadorn’s Bakery, an institution in Bardstown, a lovely small town in the heart of bourbon country, for more than 26 years. Hadorn’s didn’t make Grimes’s list but I smelled the place from a block away and noticed the line snaking out the door at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and figured it had to be good.

I had to recalibrate my order three times while standing in line though, as the hungry individuals standing before me snatched the last of the pumpkin donuts and two other varieties before I could call out my order. But I came away with a half dozen decadent little beauties: two glazed, two chocolate glazed, a caramel glazed and a pretzel donut.

The plain glazed were 60 cents, the others 70 or 80, and they were all light, moist, fresh and melt-in-your mouth treats. On my walk back to the hotel my plan to divvy up the donuts when I got back to the room went up in smoke, and my wife and sons had to battle it out for what I’d left in the bag.

On Sunday morning, I was ready for round two at Burke’s Bakery in Danville, another appealing small town that hosted the Vice Presidential debate in October. Burke’s was part of the NYT piece and also came highly recommended by Stuart Meyer, who produces a show called Small Town Flavor. Meyer featured Burke’s in an episode of their show (see below), and after watching the segment, I was ready to get in my car and make the 8-hour drive before the clip had even ended.

But you never want to digest too much hype before seeing a movie and donuts are the same way. Burke’s doesn’t open until Noon on Sundays and they bake only a few varieties of donuts rather than their usual full assortment, so I was unable to get the coconut frosted special or any of the others I had in mind. I had a crumb donut and a glazed, both quite good and a bargain at 60 and 65 cents, but it wasn’t the this-donut-has-changed-my-life experience I was hoping for.

On Monday morning, I was geared up to try the maple bacon donuts at Nord’s Bakery, a popular neighborhood joint in the Germantown section of Louisville, but my sons, ages 3 and 5, decided to sleep in late, after we dragged them out late three nights in a row. I didn’t have the heart to wake them up but I feared that my chances of getting one of their famous maple bacon donuts were dwindling with each passing minute. Still, as we set off from our hotel around 10 a.m., I felt like we still had a shot since it was a weekday.

But by the time we found the place, alas, the maple bacon donuts were history. I did feel a bit better though when Martha, the young woman at the counter, told me they’d sold out hours ago, rather than mere minutes, and my mood brightened further after I tucked into a crunch nut donut that was full of nutty, coconut goodness.

We repaired to Sunergos Cofffee next door with a bag full of the little treasures, (they don’t mind and their coffee is great) and my 3-year-old son James devoured his chocolate glazed donut so quickly that he tried to attack my wife’s donut while it was still in her mouth – a sure sign that he knew he’d stumbled across a pretty damn good find.

“This kid is like the Homer Simpson of donuts,” my wife complained, trying to restrain him with an outstretched leg.

Nord’s was the clear winner of our Kentucky donut quest – the others were very good but these were sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-for-them good. Like the Rolling Stones song, I didn’t quite get the donuts I wanted, but I learned that the Bluegrass State does indeed have one more little known treasure to be proud of: its forbidden donuts. But if you want to reach donut nirvana in Kentucky, you need to get your donut loving behind out of bed much earlier than I did to get the good stuff.

[Photo credits: Dave Seminara]

The Music Of Virginia’s Crooked Road

It’s Thursday night in Fries, a lonely little, old mill town in Southwest Virginia with a population of 484 souls. I’m with my wife and two boys at the old Fries (pronounced FREEZE) Theater listening to a jam session with a room half full of senior citizens. Admission is free, donations are accepted and hot dogs go for a buck and a quarter at a makeshift concession stand in the corner of the room.
There are 15 musicians sitting on plastic chairs in a circle under harsh fluorescent lighting, most of them senior citizens, and as they tear into their first tune – a catchy little instrumental number powerful enough to wake the whole slumbering town – I realize that there is nowhere in the world I’d rather be than right here in this old theater listening to a room full of soulful country folk playing the music that’s in their blood.

Fries is our first stop on The Crooked Road, Southwest Virginia’s 253-mile music heritage trail, where old-time Appalachian music and Southern hospitality are alive and well. My boys join the seniors on the makeshift dance floor and before I know it, we’re part of the gang, tapping our feet to haunting renditions of tunes like “Ashokan Farewell,” made famous by Ken Burns and his series on the Civil War, and “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow.”

I’ve paid big bucks in various corners of the globe to see famous musicians whose entourages are bigger than this whole room, but I can’t recall ever enjoying an evening of music the way I’m savoring every melodic moment of this one. My sons introduce us to Ray Vaughan, a 76-year-old house painter wearing a mesh John Deere hat who is showing them how to dance. Vaughan tells us that Fries is the birthplace of Henry Whitter, the first musician to record a country song on a 78 record. His grandson still lives in town.

Vaughan tells us that people in Fries live, breath, eat and sleep music. He’s one of 11 children and each played an instrument.

“The young kids around here mostly go for other types of music,” he admits when I ask why there aren’t any young people in the room. “They’ll pick it up as they get older though. This music here won’t ever die ’cause the songs are just about livin’ the way life is in this area.”

We chat with some of the musicians and learn why they sound so good: they jam here every Thursday night and look forward to it all week long. I ask a few of them, all in their 70s, why they do it and each has essentially the same answer: it keeps us young and it’s who we are.

On Friday, we venture an hour further southwest to Floyd, a delightful small town with country flair and an artsy vibe and make our way to the Floyd Country Store to check out their famous Friday Night Jamboree. The place is, as its name suggests, an old general store with ice cream, food, music and other products for sale. But the place is full with an eclectic mix of locals and travelers, some from as far away as Scandinavia and Australia, to listen to old time music and dance to their heart’s content.

After a gospel outfit completes a pleasant, hour-long warm-up set, a band called Roscoe P and Coal Train takes the stage and electrifies the crowd, which packs the compact dance floor. Everyone wants their photo with Leo Weddle, a regular who wears bib overalls and has but three teeth left.

“I’m pretty much famous,” he tells us. “I’ve danced with people from all over the world. You can’t imagine how many people have taken my picture.”

Weddle tells us that his wife died of cancer four years ago, and he had a rock removed from his gall bladder in 2009. The worst part of the debacle was that he wasn’t able to make it to the jamboree for a good six months. He says that he now has to get kidney dialysis three times a week, but he never misses a Friday night at Floyd’s Country Store.

“Old Time music is in my body,” he says. “I was raised up with it. It’s in my bones. We’re born that way.”

The music is so infectious that we join the crowds on the dance floor and even my little boys practice their flat-footing with a little help from the locals. I wonder why the band we’re listening to isn’t famous and why it costs just $5 to get in. But maybe that’s exactly why the scene and the night are so unforgettable. If I had just one night left on earth, this is exactly where I’d want to be.

On Saturday, we head west on the appropriately crooked Rt. 58 west through a delightfully pastoral landscape to Hiltons, a tiny little country settlement just a stones throw from the Tennessee state line for a concert at The Carter Family Fold. The Carter Family is more or less royalty in the world of country music and the Fold was established next to the old family homestead in 1979.

As we step into the Fold and pay our $7 cover charge, I gravitate to a snack bar that’s manned by a pair of blue-haired volunteers. For $1.50, they serve me the best slice of coconut cake imaginable, and the night only gets better when The Whitewater Bluegrass Company, a terrific five-piece from Asheville takes the stage. The crowd at the Fold is a bit more local than in Floyd and a few of the seniors in the audience have blankets draped over their laps to ward off the autumn chill.

Children flood the dance floor and one woman does a waltz with her dog Opie. She tells us that he was found at the Fold nearly dead and has become something of a mascot in the place.

“He loves music,” she said. “He’s here every Saturday night.”

I can’t help but conclude that Opie is indeed a very lucky dog.

IF YOU GO: I would start a Crooked Road music tour in Fries, on a Thursday night at the Old Fries Theater, then hit the Floyd Country Store on Friday and on Saturday, I’d check out the Fold or I might look for some live music in Galax, a great little town that hosts the world famous Old Fiddlers Convention every August, right in the heart of the Crooked Road. I also recommend a stop at Heartwood, a great place to eat, drink, listen to live music and pick up souvenirs made by local artisans. It’s right off of I-81 in Abingdon.

There’s also a live show every Friday night at the Rex Theater in Galax, but if you go there, you miss the Friday Night Jamboree in Floyd. The Hotel Floyd is a great base if you can get a room there; if not the Hampton Inn in Galax is also a good option.

[Photo and video credits: Dave Seminara]