The History of Rockabilly in the Commonwealth tells early rock’s story with rare film footage and audio tracks, biographical information, vintage photographs, records, stage costumes, concert promotional materials, juke boxes, studio recording equipment, and, of course, guitars. A double CD and a gallery guide fill out the show.
In the mid-1950s, Elvis Presley played over a dozen show dates in Virginia. Propelling Presley’s rising star was rockabilly, the smart-mouthed teenage child of country music and blues-driven boogie. In a few short years rockabilly barged past the crowd of teen crooners, doo-wop groups, and country-pop singers to kick start the rock ‘n’ roll revolution.
Virginia Rocks: The History of Rockabilly in the Commonwealth highlights the mid-‘50s world where Old Dominion rockers recorded 45 rpm records, performed on radio barn dance shows, lip-synched through “dance party” television shows, and energized thousands of dancers in clubs and high school gymnasiums across the state. Norfolk’s Gene Vincent—a hero to John Lennon, Jim Morrison, and Jeff Beck—led the Virginia charge in the U. S. and England.
The Commonwealth’s rockabilly performers also included the likes of Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, Mac Wiseman, Wayne Newton, Janis Martin (The Female Elvis), Delegate Clint Miller, Joe Maphis (the “creator” of flatpicking), and Link Wray (the father of heavy metal guitar).
Virginia Rocks runs through March 2010 at the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum on the Ferrum College campus. The exhibition has been made possible in part by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
The BRI galleries are open every single day mid-May through mid-August and ddmission is free.