Ok, I know, this blog is about North Carolina. Well, I am writing this from Everett WA and from this distance, Fries Virginia seems like home. Fries is just north of North Carolina and near Galax Virginia and our heritages are intertwined.
There was a propane gas explosion there earlier this month that killed and injured some people. They are having a benefit concert for the victims. Below is information on the concert just as I received it:
Please join us on New Years Day for The Benefit Concert for the Town of Fries Explosion Victims. See details below:
For immediate release
Questions? Call the following:
Brian Reed 276/744-2231
Debbie Robinson 276/236-5309
Joe Wilson 301/346-5767
New Year’s Day Festival In Fries, Virginia, to Benefit Gas Explosion Victims A benefit concert, a jam session, and a traditional New Year’s black-eyed pea feast are part of a New Year’s Day Festival to be held at the Fries School on January 1. Funds raised by the festival will be used to assist
victims of the December 11 gas explosion in Fries.
“Fries is a tiny place that has made big musical contributions to America,” said Debbie Robinson, one of the organizers. “We still have tremendous musical resources in this area, and we think they can help bring us together.”
Fries is an historic mill town of 700 located on the New River. The first successful country music recordings were made in 1923 by Fries mill hand Henry Whitter. His songs, The Wreck of the Southern Old Ninety-Seven, and
The New River Train, helped start the country music industry. Another Fries mill hand, Ernest Stoneman, followed with The Titanic, a hit that told about a tragic shipwreck. Ballad singer Kelly Harrell was yet another Fries mill hand that took his skills to Victor Records in 1924.
The term “hillbilly music” is generalized from the name of a Fries and Galax string band organized in 1924, The Hill Billies. They were the first country music band to appear in a film, the first to perform for a president of the United States, as well as the first to do extensive touring.
Among scores of notable more recent Fries musicians is Jimmy Arnold, a bluegrass and folk rock musician who had a spectacular but heartbreakingly brief musical career in the 1970s and 1980s.
“We believe some of the musicians who have gone on will be pulling for us as we deal with the needs of these families,” Robinson said. Ten bands have agreed to perform in a series of musical programs that will begin at 10 AM on January 1 and continue until 6 PM at the Fries School.
These include a Wayne Henderson and Jimmie Edmonds group, Big Country Bluegrass, Anderson-Strickland, the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters, the Church Sisters, and many others.
The Fries Jam Session musicians, who usually perform each Thursday evening in Fries will host an all day jam session that will take place in the school cafeteria. “Musicians can come and go to the jam session as they
wish,” Robinson said. “Everyone is welcome.”
Gospel groups will begin the series of concert programs at 10 AM in the school auditorium, and gospel singing will continue until 12 PM. Old-time bands will then take over until 2:30 PM. Attention will turn to bluegrass bands at 2:30 with performances by some of the finest groups in the region. At 5 PM a program of classic rock and roll with Bill’s Basement Band will begin. The sponsoring organizations include the Town of Fries, the Fries School, and the Blue Ridge Music Center, BB&T ,WBRF-FM-98.1. Members of the
“Fries Coming Together Committee” organizing the festival include Mayor Mike Spears, Town Manager Brian Reed, Police Chief Bobby Jones, Junior Anderson, and Debbie Robinson and Joe Wilson of the Blue Ridge Music
Center. Area churches will be providing baked goods that will be sold with profits benefiting the families. Among the homemade goodies will be two traditional New Year’s foods that are said to bring good luck for the next
year. These are black-eyed peas with ham, made by an old Grayson County recipe, and kale soup with smoked sausage, made as Thomas Jefferson described it. Rhea Bourne owner of New River Trail Café and her staff who lost their jobs will use the Fries School cafeteria to prepare plate
lunches which will be available at her lunch special price of $5.99. The restaurant has been closed due to severe damage received in the explosion. “Her restaurant has been the main center of activity in Fries in recent
years and is sorely missed”. Plans are being made to reopen as soon as possible.
Admission to the concert will be a donation of $10.
Volunteers are doing all work, and funds will be distributed to families harmed by the gas explosion on the basis of need.
Two beloved members of the Fries community died in the explosion, and three others were seriously injured. The needs of the families are great.
Randy Johnson representing God’s Pit Crew will be on hand with a tractor trailer loaded with goods to be distributed to Town of Fries citizens.
He will also have Counselors from Crossroads Christian Organization available.
Persons who wish to volunteer, make a contribution, or ask questions should call 276-236-5309, or 276-744-2231.