There’s a little corner of the world known as Maces Spring, Virginia. Now, Maces Spring may not strike a familiar note with most people, but it is an important part of the history of Americana and our rich musical heritage. This is the birthplace and home of A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter, the Carter Family. This little dot on the map isn’t too far from the adjoined cities of Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee, the birthplace of recorded country music. Tennessee Ernie Ford was from Bristol, Ralph and, the late, Carter Stanley are from up on Clinch Mountain and the Floyd Country Store in nearby Floyd, Virginia is, yet, another hot spot of traditional mountain music among others.
The Carter Family Fold is now considered to be in Hiltons, Virginia since Maces Spring no longer has a post office. The Fold is a traditional country music venue (no electronic instruments allowed) founded by, the late, Janette Carter, the daughter of A.P. and Sara. Now, I’ve been slinging that Carter name around quite a bit and just in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. June Carter Cash, the late wife of the late, great Johnny Cash, grew up here and is one of Maybelle’s daughter. Both Johnny and June performed at the Fold whenever they were in town visiting family. Johnny last performed there in July 2003, a few months before his death.
The cabin where A.P. Carter was born was moved next to the Fold and there is a Carter Family Museum and the old store there, as well. The thing that moved me about the time I spent there on a cold Saturday evening in January 2008 was that for a very, very modest admission fee, folks from pre-teens to their 80’s (and probably 90’s) all came together. Smiles adorned the faces of everyone. It was like an old-fashioned, country barn dance. Folks got up and clogged while the musicians played and sang. It wasn’t at all unusual to see an 80 something gentleman clogging right along with some pre-adolescent and young teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers. It was as if everyone left their cares and problems at the door. And, of course, the music was . . . well, not only wonderful, but for want of better words, real and authentic.
If you’re ever in southwestern Virginia and you want to sample some real authentic Americana, don’t bypass the Carter Family Fold and Museum. Performances are only on Saturday evenings and you will have to venture a ways off the Interstate, but it’s an experience you’ll not only enjoy, but most likely never forget.