Let’s Give a Party: Celebrating the Life and Music of Carl Martin


Big Stone Gap, VA – The Pro-Art Association in partnership with the Southwest Virginia Museum and the Appalachian African American Cultural Center present Let’s Give a Party, a musical and historical event celebrating the life and legacy of Piedmont Blues musician and Big Stone Gap native Carl Martin. Martin made his earliest recordings as a member of several groups, including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours. He also performed in the trio Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong, helping keep alive the African-American old-time string band tradition in Appalachian music. In celebration and honor of Martin’s lasting legacy, Sparky & Rhonda Rucker will perform selections from the music of Carl Martin and others on Saturday, April 2nd at 6:00 PM in the Goodloe Center on the campus of Mountain Empire Community College.

For over fifty years, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker have performed throughout the U.S. as well as overseas, singing songs and telling stories from the American folk tradition. They are internationally recognized as leading musicians, authors, and storytellers. The duo accompanies themselves with fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, blues harmonica, old-time banjo, piano, spoons, and bones. Sparky and Rhonda have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR’s All Things Considered, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and Morning Edition. Their recording, Treasures & Tears, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology, Singing Through the Hard Times.

In conjunction with Saturday evening’s concert, the Southwest Virginia Museum and the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center will present an exhibit highlighting the musical contributions of Carl Martin alongside nearly a dozen other notable African-American musicians from Southwest Virginia, spanning the period from the 1920’s to present day. The exhibit will include photographs featuring pianists Richard Lomax of Osaka and Spike Carson of Lee County, and will also feature Earl Gilmore’s guitar on display. Gilmore was a blues and gospel singer, piano player, and lifelong resident of Clinchco in Dickenson County.

This celebration is brought to you in partnership with the Southwest Virginia Museum and the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center. Tickets are $10 at the door for admission to the concert and exhibit, and all children and students are free. Pro-Art season tickets will be honored for this performance. For the safety of everyone attending, Pro-Art and the Southwest Virginia Museum request patrons to wear a mask for the duration of the performance.

Pro-Art partners with a variety of venues, therefore individuals with mobility issues are encouraged to call or email the Pro-Art office to make arrangements for parking. For evolving conditions related to the global pandemic, inclement weather, or similar unforeseen circumstances, patrons are encouraged to visit proartva.org or call 276-376-4520 for up-to-date information.

Pro-Art’s mission is to promote the arts and expand accessibility to cultural experiences for residents and students in Wise, Lee, and Dickenson Counties and the City of Norton. For more information about our planned performances, please visit proartva.org. You can find the Pro-Art Association on social media @ProArtVA.

Pro-Art is supported in part by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Slemp Foundation, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and Mountain Empire Community College. For more information about Pro-Art, please visit proartva.org, call the office at (276) 376-4520, or send an email to pro-art@uvawise.edu.

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