Top music venues on Virginia’s Crooked Road

Southwest Virginia, the section of the Commonwealth bordering West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, is home to some of the richest American music heritage in the United States. Rocky Mount is 165 miles east of the state capital, Richmond, but the town of 5,000 residents marks the eastern terminus of The Crooked Road.
Flatfoot dancers of all ages crowd the dance floor at Floyd Country Store in Floyd, Virginia. Image courtesy Michael C. Upton
Flatfoot dancers of all ages crowd the dance floor at Floyd Country Store in Floyd, Virginia. Image courtesy Michael C. Upton /

Running 333 miles from Rocky Mount to the Kentucky border, with a few detours in between, The Crooked Road traces Virginia’s contribution to bluegrass and old-time music. The driving trail celebrates 20 years in 2024 and is home to 10 major music venues and 50 affiliate venues. Here are the spots live music lovers should not miss.

Floyd Country Store

By day, the Floyd Country Store is a simple, small-town store in Floyd, Virginia. Selling sandwiches and ice cream, wares by local artisans, and fun souvenirs, the store transforms in the evening. The racks are slid to the side, tables are carted out back, and rows of chairs are set up for the evening’s entertainment.

The store, which is also home to the Handmade Music School, holds events throughout the week, year-round. But the main event is the Friday Night Jamboree where musicians play old-time music for flatfoot dancers aged toddler to twilight. A traditional mountain music jam takes place every Sunday.

Carter Family Fold

One of the most recognizable names in Southwest Virginia music is the Carter Family. A. P., Maybelle, and Sara Carter are recognized as the first stars of Country music and were pioneers of the recording industry. A. P.’s log cabin birthplace now stands next to the Carter Family Fold, an 800+ seat amphitheater style venue on The Crooked Road.

At the Carter Family Fold, a rustic charm melds with the air of music royalty (Johnny Cash married June Carter), and every Saturday night a new act takes the historic stage. The Fold is a family venue where youngins get in for free or a couple bucks and popcorn and lemonade are the finest refreshments.

Rex Theater

Located in the music hotspot of Galax, the 475-seat historic Rex Theater hosts bluegrass and old-time music concerts. But in 1940, the Rex opened as the area’s first and only movie theatre. Eventually, the City of Galax purchased the property, renovated the interior, and made it part of the Historical Downtown area.

Country music legends meld with up-and-coming acts on Friday nights at the theater. The Rex is home to Blue Ridge Backroads Live, a weekly radio show featuring old-time and bluegrass bands. The town hosts free movies at the Rex every Wednesday.

Blue Ridge Music Center

The Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, a seasonal venue, aims to preserve, interpret, and present the evolving musical traditions of the area. The museum features interactive exhibits, stories from local artists, and traces the musical forms from Europe and West Africa to modern influences on folk, rock, and pop.

The annual Blue Ridge Music Center Summer Concert Series fills an outdoor amphitheater with concerts on Saturday evenings from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Situated at the base of Fisher Peak, the majestic venue also offers access to hiking trails and a visitors center for the Blue Ridge Parkway National Park.

Birthplace of Country Music Museum

A.P., Maybelle, and Sara Carter joined a few other musicians in Bristol to make the first country music recordings, later known as the Bristol Sessions, making the town on the Virginia/Tennessee border the birthplace of country music. This interactive museum celebrates the history and legacy of the genre.

The museum is home to WBCM Radio Bristol, which operates live as folks look on. But the music really comes alive during the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival,  an annual celebration bringing thousands of music lovers to enjoy more than 100 artists.