West Virginia’s Own Music Heritage Trail Is In The Works
Marlinton, WV – Gil Willis is a local business owner, member of the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau board and a life-long music lover. He first came in contact with southwestern Virginia’s Crooked Road music trail almost a decade ago. Since then, he has been kicking around the idea of establishing a similar music trail throughout the mountains in the eastern part of West Virginia.
“The Crooked Road caught my eye probably 8 or 9 years ago when I was over on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which of course is very similar to the Scenic Highway here in Pocahontas County,” Gil says. “I noticed a very well done logo on some signage that had a banjo on it, and that caught my eye. I asked around in a little community called Floyd, VA, and found out that this was a promotional vision that they had had in that area because they had a lot of economic problems with factories and mills. Their way of life was very much different than it was 40-70 years ago. So, the music kind of kept everyone together in a way.”
“So, I thought, for the last 8 years I’ve been thinking about this,” he says, “and trying to wait for the right time and the right opportunity to take what they started over there and morph it or mold it into a marketable project for the eastern side of WV and then eventually maybe even moving into other parts of the state.”
His idea for West Virginia’s music trail is similar to the initial objective of the Crooked Road: to create a network of musical venues that feature and support local musicians who steep themselves in the heritage and traditional music of the region.
“This project is just starting,” Gil says. “It’s going to be a conglomeration of probably 5 or 6 counties, different arts counsels and musicians, different music venues, arts and crafts folks, local food providers, farmers markets. It’s kind of a large groundswell, but the flagship of the whole project will be the music part of the project. That’ll be the guiding light. The music will lead the march, so to speak, of these other activities, and culture, history, crafts and food will march behind and with the music focus.”
While the project is still in its infancy, Gil and others are working hard to bring the music trail into being. With great music, lots of interest and good old fashioned hard work, West Virginia will hopefully have its own heritage music trail within the next year or so, a prospect that is exciting to Gil.
“I think our history here in this state incorporates a lot of music that is our background and our roots,” he says. “It’s something we’re proud of. I think it’s exciting. First of all, because I’m a music lover myself. I don’t play an instrument, but I’ve always been a big supporter of live music and I think that’s exciting, but the real excitement is all this residual and other activities, other culture, other historical aspects that will all dovetail into this which will ultimately make this part of the state and these counties and communities a lot stronger for the long haul.”