Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 13, 2014

Music fills the air at Crab Orchard Museum

TAZEWELL, Va. — A sun-splashed afternoon, the warmth of Southwest Virginia hospitality and one of the most beautiful settings of the Old Dominion all combined to make the 12th annual Tazewell County Old Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention an event to remember.

“I’ve been on the committee for this convention since it started 12 years ago,” Garland Roberts, northern district representative on the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors said. “This is Appalachian music at its very best. With cabins from the 1700s and 1800s surrounding the audience and the pickers, I can’t imagine a better place to hold this.”

During its first 11 years, the Fiddlers’ Convention was staged at the Tazewell County Fairgrounds, but this year, the committee moved the venue to the Crab Orchard Museum and Pioneer Park complex, using the front porch of the Daniel-Murray Homestead Cabin as the stage for competitors and performers alike.

“It’s beautiful out here,” Janice Mickles of Norton, Va., said. She and her friend, Retta McArther, also of Norton, were both making their first visit to Pioneer Park.

“I just like it because of the music,” McArther said. The two ladies brought folding chairs, put them under a shade tree and tapped their feet while competitors tried to score points with the judges.

Gaye McPherson of Peterstown decided to compete in the Mountain Dulcimer category  this year. “I competed once before, maybe 3 or 4 years ago,” she said “Johnny (Garland) Roberts signed me up.”

McPherson said her friend, Norma Mahood, loaned her a dulcimer about 7 years ago. “I took it home and never put it down,” she said. She later bought her own Blue Lion dulcimer and decided to give the competition another try. McPherson is retired from Mercer County Schools.

LeRoy Long of Tazewell was set to be honored with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” on Saturday evening. Long as well as the late Johnny Hilt of Tannersville, Va., who was going to be honored Saturday night. Hilt was to be inducted posthumously.

“I started playing music when I was 8 years old,” Long, 58, said. His grandfather passed his love of old time music to Long’s father, who gave that love to LeRoy. “It is a music that tells a story. It tells the story of a farmer or a coal miner, the plight of the Pilgrims, about a favorite dog or a favorite horse. It’s a kind of music that touches your soul.

“I love Crab Orchard Museum, and I am so humbled to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award,” Long said. “It may well be the most humbling experience of my life.”

Long can play mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo or upright base. He grew up at Sugar Grove in Smyth County, Va. “There were 9 kids in my father’s family and all of them played music,” he said. “My grandfather had a little cabin on the side of a mountain, and when we went over there, they played music all day long,” he said. “Some of my dad’s older brothers used to take a taste out of a Mason jar every once and a while, and when they had to go out to relieve themselves, my brother and I would pick up their instruments and play. We had to give them back when they came back.”

He still cherishes the hand-made fiddle that his father gave him. Albert Hash of White Top Mountain made the fiddle. Long’s dad had two, and gave the other to Long’s brother.

The crowds seemed to enjoy the Crab Orchard as the music echoes through the mountains all day long.

“It’s a tremendous setting for this event,” Ron Mullennex, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 said. “We’ll see how well it’s received by the public. I can say it’s a nice place to play music.”

— Contact Bill Archer at

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