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When Kylene Barker, Miss America of 1979 and a Galax native, requested that Crooked Road musicians perform at her country club in Florida this past September, there were three days of sold-out bluegrass shows in Naples, Fla.
Wayne Henderson, Gerald Anderson, Spencer Strickland, Jeff Little, Steve Lewis, Josh Lewis and Jimmy Edmonds were some of the local legends that performed there.
It was from these performances that the musicians decided to team up to create an album of Christmas tunes.
“Christmas Along the Crooked Road” features these talents, along with Helen White and the Junior Appalachian Musicians. The CD features holiday favorites such as “Deck the Halls,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Silent Night,” “What Child is This,” “Blue Christmas” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”
All songs were specially selected by the musicians.
Barker said it all started when she emceed at the Rex Theater for the Crooked Road musicians. Debbie Robinson, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s director of programs, invited her here.
She then invited them to Florida to perform at her club. “While they were in Florida, instead of putting them up in a hotel, some of the [club] members took them in,” said Barker. “Over breakfast, I asked Spencer and Gerald if they had ever recorded a Christmas CD.”
Anderson quickly researched some of the top Christmas songs and pulled together all the musicians. They spent four days in a studio in September.
It wasn’t until Barker had graduated high school and moved out of the area that she became acquainted with mountain music. “I listened to Doobie Brothers and Three Dog Night, but I became reacquainted with my roots and have fallen in love with the music,” she said. “I never realized the talents here until later on... These guys are just born to play music.”
Her father, Kyle Barker, introduced her to the music when he started volunteering for the Blue Ridge Music Center.
When she proposed the idea to host a bluegrass concert in Florida, many at her club asked, “‘What is bluegrass?’ They were skeptics,” she said. “But I told them, ‘You will appreciate what these musicians are about.”
So after a couple of nights of sold-out shows, they had to add another night.
“People just had such a good time and were tapping their feet,” said Barker.
The children of JAM, which is a local youth music program, chose to play, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
“Once everyone got involved, Kylene insisted that we get the JAM kids involved,” said Robinson. “This gives the program more exposure.”
Listening to the songs, Barker said, is an amazing musical experience. “The music on this CD will give you chills,” she said.
Strickland said many of the musicians had never performed together in a studio until now. “I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I had a great time playing with Jimmy and Wayne.”
Strickland chose to record “Winter Wonderland,” which recalls fond memories of his mother when he was a young boy.
“We got to choose our own songs, which brings a fresher approach,” he said. “When you hear the songs musicians like to play, you hear something more special behind it.”
The CD has sold quite well, noted Robinson.