BEDFORD — For bluegrass lovers, a stroll up to the third floor of the Bedford Museum and Genealogical Library on Friday nights is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Each week the Old Time Music takes center stage in downtown Bedford, drawing crowds who soak in the entertainment and fellowship of informal jam sessions and live band performances. The museum, on East Main Street next to the courthouse, started hosting the weekly gatherings and plans to keep them going at least through the end of the year.
“It’s been pretty successful,” said Doug Cooper, the museum’s director. “I’m going to see how it goes through 2013.”
Cooper, a picker himself, said bluegrass and the museum is a fitting marriage. There is a spacious room on the top floor suitable for events, the location is in the heart of Bedford and enthusiasts have a place to soak in the atmosphere for hours.
“We’ll have a jam,” he said. “Whenever people get tired, they go home. It’s just another attraction to Bedford.”
On Friday, the band Down 2 Earth had a familial connection to Cooper: his brother, Van, of Madison Heights, played the bass.
The bluegrass and gospel band includes Ray Myers of Gretna, Bobby Pillow of Chatham and 13-year-olds Kelsie Myers and Lacey Shelton. A crowd of more than 50 people showed up to tap their feet and clap to an array of tunes, including the well-known songs “Rocky Top Tennessee” and “Jolene.”
Kelsie, Ray’s daughter, plays mandolin and Lacey strums the fiddle. The best friends kept in perfect rhythm with the men and sang to the crowd’s delight.
Sonya Shelton, Lacey’s mother, joined the band to sing Loretta Lynn’s hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” She said her daughter has played bluegrass for three years and is deeply devoted to the genre.
“The great thing is they never complain,” she said of the band’s schedule. “They always are ready and willing to go.”
The group has played in churches, theaters, homes and social functions but a museum is a unique stop, she said.
Gary and Carolyn Harris, of Rustburg, regularly attend the museum’s sessions. The drive is worth it and they are satisfied with having a place locally to listen to live bluegrass each week, she said.
“We just like this type of music,” she said.
John Kirby, of Bedford, comes each week with his wife.
“We like to support the museum,” he said. “A lot of the people we know and a lot we don’t but we enjoy it.”
The first, third and fourth Fridays are “open jam” nights that are free, though donations are welcomed. The second Friday features a band and a $5 charge. If a fifth Friday occurs, no music would be held that night.
Cooper said the museum is not hosting the gatherings to make a profit. The fees and donations help cover the electric bill.
Genny Humphreys, of Bedford, said she loves bluegrass, having been raised on it, and she enjoys the gatherings.
“At least you don’t have to drive to Lynchburg or Roanoke to hear good music,” she said.
Contact Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5556 or email@example.com.