Despite Dr. Ralph Stanley's passing in 2016, the Stanley family tradition continues as his son, Ralph II, famous in his own right, and up-and-coming grandson Nathan Stanley still perform frequently.
The Stanley family is famous, but not all that unique along the Crooked Road . . . other musical families live here as well as plenty of solo performers and band members. You just might happen to see one of these musicians playing at a jam session, performing at an outdoor concert or just living their everyday lives in the place they call "home."
Annabelle’s Curse has traveled beyond long-established folk to craft a profoundly distinctive and soaring sound. While deeply grounded in musical tradition, each song offers the contrast of strong progression woven with striking banjo and guitar riffs, evocative lyrical harmony, stirring imagery, and infectious energy.
Corbin Hayslett, the winner of the Birthplace of Country Music's Orthophonic Joy Music Contest in 2014, hones his skills on the banjo playing Old Time “claw hammer” or “frailing” and Blue Grass picking. Corbin weaves the history of “America’s instrument” through shows with his lively stage presence and singing with his dry wit adding to his family-friendly performances.
Franklin County Performers
Alan Mills is from Ferrum and leader of the Lost and Found Band. He plays bass and sings lead and harmony. He wrote one of the most widely performed and requested bluegrass songs on the circuit — "Love of the Mountains."
Junior (Jr.) Sisk is from Ferrum and currently performs with the band Blue Ridge, as lead vocalist and guitarist. He's been nominated many times for songwriter and lead vocalist of the year by his peers in bluegrass.
The Dry Hill Draggers of Franklin County started with banjo player Jimmy Boyd and his brother, Billy Boyd in 1981. The group has persevered even as some members have died. They are popular performers at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival every year.
The Wright Kids of Rocky Mount won the "Youth Band" competition at the Galax Old Fiddler's Convention in 2006. As their Website says, "They were borned to play bluegrass." Mason, 17, plays fiddle; his sister, Sage, 10, plays fiddle and mandolin; and their little brother Baruch, 7, plays guitar.
Patrick County Performers
Sammy Shelor is leader of the Lonesome River Band and has been with them since 1990. His peers keep nominating him as "Banjo Player of the Year" and he's won the title four times now. He comes from the musical families of the Shelors and Blackards, who were recorded by Ralph Peer in the Bristol Sessions of 1927.
Fiddler Richard Bowman comes from the Bowman Family, another musical family from Patrick County that has dominated the music scene for more than 200 years! He's been a winner at many fiddler's conventions, individually and with his family band, The Slate Mountain Ramblers.
Kenny & Amanda Smith weren't born along the Crooked Road but now live in Meadows of Dan. They were named the International Bluegrass Music Association's "Emerging Artists of the Year" in 2003 and have been bursting in popularity ever since.
Kenny is considered one of the greatest guitar pickers around today, and Amanada has been nominated as "Best Female Vocalist of 2007" by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America.
Master fiddler Buddy Pendleton of Woolwine played fiddle for Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys — talk about being where the action was! During the 1970s, he initially won first place at the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention, and has won it five times so far.
Brian Fain of Stuart took First Place in Clawhammer Banjo at the Charlie Poole Music Festival and is another favorite on the Crooked Road.
Carroll County Performers
James King, known as "The Bluegrass Storyteller," after his last album, was raised in Cana, Va. He credits his guitar playing to a relatively unknown player from the Crooked Road, Rush Edwards, who taught him how to cross pick.
It's been said that King sings as if each song might be his last. He was named "Male Vocalist of the Year - Traditional" by SPBGMA in 2006 and 2007!
Willard Gayheart is a guitarist and singer in Woodlawn, between Hillsville and Galax. He also is a pencil artist whose sketches of famous musicians have appeared in many publications over the years. See him at his gallery — Front Porch Gallery — where a corner is reserved for music lessons and jams.
Roni Stoneman is the First Lady of Banjo, and Star of “Hee Haw.” She is the youngest daughter of Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman, patriarch of the Stoneman Family, one of the most famous family groups in early country music.
Floyd County Performers
Amber Collins & Branch House Pavilion left their other projects and decided to put together a trio to be able to play a wider variety of music including country, gospel, folk, Americana, bluegrass, and acoustic rock songs.
Youngsters getting into the bluegrass spirit include Gravel Road, who hails from the Floyd/New River Valley area, and ShadowGrass, which consists of young musicians from Southwest Virginia and North Carolina.
The Church Sisters, featuring twins Savannah Church on lead vocals and fiddle and Sarah Church on mandolin and harmony vocals, have been described as having "blood harmony."
Dori Freeman’s musical influences span a varied and unique list of musicians including Jackson Browne, Peggy Lee, Rufus Wainwright, along with many others. Dori effortlessly blends together jazz and swing tunes with traditional and acoustic instrumentation to create a sound all her own.
The Loose Strings Band are a group of all girls ranging in age from 16 to 19. They enjoy playing bluegrass, gospel, and country music and are known for their tight vocal harmonies.
The New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters' name comes from the original Bogtrotters, the famous Galax-area band of the 1930s. They won the Old-Time band competition at the 1999 and 2000 Galax Old Fiddler's Convention. Fiddler Eddie Bond with the band is a local favorite.
The band Fescue is actually from Marion, in Smyth County, but they're a favorite because they never miss any scheduled performance and they play a wide range of music and sing great harmonies. They won First Place in Bluegrass Band at Galax Old Fiddlers' Convention in 1997 and 2000.
Grayson County Performers
Wayne Henderson of Rugby, Va., is considered just about the best picker and best-known luthier in the area. He has played just about everywhere, too.
The Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition was established in 1995 to express appreciation for this "living legend."
Bass player Herb Key plays with Henderson. He is actually from across the line in Wilkesboro, N.C., and a fine luthier.
The Wolfe Brothers String Band of Elk Creek first formed during the mid-1970s and re-established their unique old-time sound in the early 1990s. Featuring three vocalists, the band's repertoire ranges from rarely heard traditional songs and tunes to their own original material. Founding members are fiddle player Jerry Correll and Dale Morris plays banjo and guitar. They are joined by Casey Hash on guitar and accordion and Donna Correll on bass.
The Whitetop Mountain Band performs regularly along the Crooked Road throughout the year.
This band was originally founded by Albert Hash, famed fiddler and fiddle maker of the Crooked Road.
Big Country Bluegrass delivers their own hard driving and heartfelt style of bluegrass music, and it makes them crowd favorites wherever they perform songs of the early days of bluegrass music.
The Virginia Luthiers (Wayne Henderson, Jimmy Edmonds, Spencer Strickland and Gerald Anderson) are four very talented musicians and world-renowned musical instrument builders. They make some of the best guitars, mandolins, violins, ukuleles, and banjos available today and can be found playing music together or with many other talented musicians most every weekend.
Washington County Performers
Linda Lay of Bristol plays bass and sings lead vocal. She and banjo player Sammy Shelor recorded part of the Crooked Road series issued by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. And Gin Burris is another musician who recorded in the project.
George Shuffler is famous along the Crooked Road for his syncopated guitar playing. He was a member of The Stanley Brothers Band and is credited of introducing the syncopated guitar to bluegrass music.
He and another popular musician, James Alan Shelton of Dickenson County, showcase their cross-picking talents on a new CD — The Legacy Continues.
Scott County Performers
Papa Joe Smiddy is a top-notch banjo player, but he didn't earn a living at it until his retirement as the first chancellor of the University of Virginia's College at Wise! He and his son, Joe Frank Smiddy play in the band Reedy Creek.
The Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival takes place at Natural Tunnel State Park every September.
The band Moccasin Gap mixes traditional bluegrass with old-time and even pop songs delivered in the bluegrass style. Members are: Eric McMurray on mandolin, fiddle and vocals; Luanne McMurray on upright acoustic bass and vocals; Bob Blackstock, playing rhythm guitar and vocals; Daniel Houseright playing lead guitar; and Keith Sims on banjo.
Dale Jett is third generation Carter. His mother was Jeanette Carter and his grandparents were A.P. and Sara.
He and his sister, Rita Forrester, are keepers of the Carter Family Fold. Dale plays guitar and has a rich baritone voice, and folks in the area say the Carter Legacy is definitely alive when he performs.
Oscar Harris from Mendota often plays with Dale on stage and is an audience favorite . . . and that's an audience who knows the music.
Ron Short from Big Stone Gap has worked in the Roadside Theatre for 26 years as a playwright, musician, composer, actor and director! No wonder he's so well-loved along the Crooked Road.
Wise County Performers
The Midnight Ramblers are mandolin player Austin Boggs, bass player Cherise Bates, banjo player Abram Mullins and guitar player Marcus Johnson.
These teenagers have a huge following and keep a full schedule of gigs all around the Crooked Road and elsewhere.
Dickenson County Performers
Everyone knows Dr. Ralph Stanley, who was born in Dickenson County and still lives here when he's not on tour. He's an inspiration to many musicians along the Crooked Road, not only for his soulful tenor voice and clawhammer banjo style, but because he's a humble man . . . not too famous in his own head to play the local nursing homes . . . for free.
The Clinch Mountain Boys are his band, and Jack Cooke has been with the band as a bass player since 1970. He was one of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys from 1956-1960 and is a big favorite around the Crooked Road.
Ralph Stanley II is a lead singer and plays rhythm guitar. When not on the road as part of his dad's band, he also headlines some shows on his own and has four solo albums out.
You can see the entire family at the Ralph Stanley Festival in May every year.
Lonesome Will Mullins also is from Dickenson County, near Clintwood. He's an accomplished singer, banjo and guitar player and energetic performer. His stage shows are lively from start to finish with tight sets of original tunes plus bluegrass standards and a healthy mix of clawhammer banjo thrown in for good measure.
With all this talent, we doubt he'll be lonesome for long.
Last Updated: 2/20/2020