Willy Gurley

Spotlight: Willy Gurley & The Fainting Goat Studio

Tucked away in the back roads of Bedford County, you’ll discover The Fainting Goat, a 1500 square foot, two-room recording studio and control room, with 20 foot vaulted ceilings, operated by local musician and drummer Willy Gurley.

The Fainting Goat provides artists a comfortable space for recording, and access to some truly unique equipment and instruments. From the Kurzweil K250 that was played by Bruce Springsteen in a studio in Richmond, to an Acoustic 360 bass cabinet that was used in numerous shows with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, to a vintage 1967 Bandmaster amplifier, the studio is equipped with more than 100 instruments, including guitars, drums horns, even an accordion.

It was at the young age of seven that Gurley was first introduced to music. His dad, Hal, who owns local seafood restaurant and live music venue, Clam Diggers, started finding and collecting guitars, keyboards, and other cool, rare instruments to fill his house, and Willy started learning how to play them. It was in 2006, that Hal had the idea to build a recording studio, and studio construction and sound proofing began. While it took several years to fully complete, Willy continued to develop his love and training for music by studying at The Jefferson Center’s Music Lab, an after school program in Roanoke focused on music production and performance.

The Harvester Closes Out Huge Week of Music with JJ Grey & Mofro

The Harvester Performance Center closed out a legendary week of music last night with a standing only show by JJ Grey & Mofro, with opening act Major and the Monbacks. This show was the forth in a series that kicked off on Thursday with Buddy Guy, followed by Charlie Daniels on Friday night, and George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers on Saturday.

Blue Ridge Rocks photographer Meagan Reynolds was on site for three of those four shows. You can read the full review on Buddy Guy here, and check out a Meagan’s review and photos of Friday nights’ and last nights’ shows by clicking the “Details” link below.

American Treasure Buddy Guy Shares Lessons from the Harvester Stage

Buddy Guy is one of the last of the original great bluesmen, and he is carrying the load just fine. Last night he carried it to the Harvester with a performance that felt like he was surrounded onstage by the blues masters who had gone before him, as he schooled the crowd on what great blues is all about.

“Here’s your education,” proclaimed Buddy Guy last night from the Harvester stage as he broke into the first few notes of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.”

At eighty, Guy, who has played with blues icons Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter, and has since influenced every great rock and blues guitarist, is still bringing major heat to the stage. Last night’s performance was no exception, featuring hits from his own records, including his opening song, “Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues” to “Someone Else Is Steppin,” as well as a few of the classics, including “Fever,” originally recorded by Little Willie John, and “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” a Muddy Waters original.

Gary Jackson

The Reverend G Recipe

Gary Jackson has heard the comment often over the years, that’s he’s the one who has ignited the growth and maturation of the Blue Ridge Region’s music scene.“People tell me all the time that I’ve been a catalyst for how the music scene has exploded in and around Roanoke,” Jackson said recently.

The scene, of course, has been listed as one of the quality of life factors that have induced a recent spate of economic development for the Roanoke Valley. In other words, music and arts events equal jobs in the minds of companies such as Deschutes, which earlier this year announced that it will spend millions and bring jobs by opening a new brewery in the region.

The truth is, Jackson says, the growing sophistication of the music scene is a combination of factors and the work of others that has been just as important as his influence.

“Would it have happened anyway?” he asked. “Probably.”
Still, there’s no denying that Jackson has served as an agent of change to take Roanoke and its surrounding venues to a new level of respect and maturity in the music business.

There’s no better evidence of that than the fact that Parkway Brewing Company has named one of its brews, a kölsch, after “The Reverend.”

A longtime industry figure who has decades of experience in the business engaging bands and musicians, Jackson has been spreading his gospel of great music since he relocated here more than a decade ago.

Suddenly, top music acts that had never played Roanoke on a regular basis began looking at it as a friendly spot on the map.

It was Roanoke real estate developer Ed Walker who first nicknamed Jackson “the Reverend” after becoming infatuated with the top shelf shows that Jackson was staging at the old 202 Market.

Artist Spotlight: Kyle Forry

“Performing live didn’t always come easy for me. I’ve been playing guitar for nearly 20 years, and singing for about 10 years. It took at least a year or two of playing gigs almost every weekend for me to feel comfortable as a performer. It took awhile, but now performing live is amazing! There are good nights and bad, but when you have the audience in the palm of your hand, and they’re feeling your songs, there’s nothing in the world like it.”

“One of my favorite nights performing came two years ago, on the night of the grand opening of The Harvester Performance Center. My good friend, Levi Lowrey, who was on Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label, was booked to play the grand opening with Clay Cook from the Zac Brown Band. I spoke with Levi and Gary Jackson about being the opening act, and they were gracious enough to let me, along with my bandmate Justin Arnett, open the very first show. I’d never been more terrified and thrilled to play in front of an audience in my life.

“The house was packed, and all eyes were focused on us. When I stepped out on that stage and began to speak, I felt the tears well up in my eyes. so I made the introduction short and sweet. In the 10 years I’d been performing, I’d never experienced that kind of undivided attention from an audience. I was accustom to playing in bars, full of drinkers. It was especially emotional because I grew up in Rocky Mount. To be the very first act to perform on the Harvester stage, in my hometown, was and is the highlight of my musical career. The night became even more special when Leny, who is one of my musical heroes, joined us on stage with his fiddle. Together we played a song I wrote, “Some Kind of Magic,” that seeks to capture the magic of being a musician. I’ll never forget those 45 minutes for the rest of my life.”

Jonathan Barker

Artist Spotlight: Jonathan Barker

“My mom played piano, and I remember being a kid and lying in bed and listening to her play on her old upright. I had wanted to play the drums, but after the school deadline to sign up mysteriously came and went without my parents signing the authorization slip, my mom offered to pay for piano lessons. That was in 4th grade.”

“By the time I started high school, I knew that I wanted music to be a big part of my life. I wanted to be a part of the magic that people feel watching and experiencing live music. It’s those magical experiences that I still live for. Those nights when you lose yourself in the music and in the moment. The only thing that matters is the music and your connection with the audience and the others on stage with you. It’s those nights when the music takes over, the crowd is completely tuned in and the band is just the medium that’s connecting the music to the soul.”

Bubba Webster

Artist Snapshot: Bubba J Webster

“I’m comin’ to you straight outta Mont-Vegas! I’m a proud product of Montvale, VA in Bedford County. Growing up in the rural shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I discovered music from my rockin’ older cousin, Mark, and my bluegrass guitarist grandfather, Carl. Before long I started playing bass for a band that would eventually become Curmudgeon, a ska-punkish act who played the area from the 90’s to 2002.”

“Performing live is like creating a common space to exist with your audience and bandmates. It’s an emotional, electric transfer of energy. I remember so many great moments, but my dearest memories are of the people I’ve performed with and seeing that look on their face when it all clicks together. That pocket gets found and everyone is taken higher.”
“There is tremendous joy in making a noise that people enjoy hearing, in writing a song that resonates with a listener, and in the creative process with talented conspirators. I believe in the therapeutic power of music and desire to make as much as possible while my body allows me to. I have a rare condition called AKU that destroys your weight bearing joints. I’d like to use my music talents to help raise awareness and drive research. But mainly I just want to play what I love until the wheels fall off.”

Matt Leonard

Artist Spotlight: Matt Leonard

“Some call me Matty Dub. I play drums for a number of bands in the region including Relacksachian, Groova Scape, The Dead Reckoning, GOTE, Sly Devil, & Welcome to Hoonah.”

“I first got started in music when I was a baby. My older brother was a percussion player in school band and we always had instruments around the house. One of my earliest memories was using drumsticks to ‘tickle the ivories’ on Mom’s piano (which didn’t go over well with her). I guess I’ve always loved making noise. When I was old enough, I also joined the Woodrow Wilson middle school band, but chose to play bass clarinet to broaden my views of music. Then came high school; Led Zeppelin were gods and rock and roll consumed me, so I taught myself to play drums.”

Steele Cookin'

Salem Restaurant & Lounge Dials Up Live Music

It was another steamy summer night as bluesy rock chords rang out from the walls at Billy’s Barn in Salem. Inside the crowd was divided. Some hung close to the bar where two friendly female bartenders were pouring drinks and serving up cold beers, including the newest draft offering, the Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewery. The remainder were heating things up further on the dance floor to the sounds of the Steel Cookin’ Band playing the R&B classic “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter So Mean”. Billy’s Barn is known by many as a locals’ place that serves up consistently good American food, most nights with a side of live music. What some don’t know is that it’s also a place steeped in history.

Located at 1790 Thompson Memorial Dr., Billy’s Barn originally opened its doors in 1969. Billy Miles Sr., who erected the original building, operated the eatery until 1993. During those early years, Billy Sr. built a solid reputation for the restaurant, delivering high quality meals and entertainment that established a loyal customer base. Billy Sr. was also a real character, and his personality and reputation made the place a beloved destination. A weekly seafood buffet was such a hit with customers that some of the older patrons still reminiscence about it now 30 years later.

In a recent interview, current manager and Billy Sr.’s grandson, Chad Miles, spoke fondly of his memories, “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was one of three places that did live music and dance music. The place had a big city feel. Athletic coaches and celebrities, and people in the know, came through these doors.”