Near Fries in Grayson County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Erected 2000 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number UE-2.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Department of Historic Resources series list. A significant historical month for this entry is December 1923.
Location. 36° 42.812′ N, 80° 59.32′ Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Fries VA 24330, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named Fries (approx. 0.4 miles away); “New River Train” Song (approx. 0.4 miles away); Grayson County / Carroll County (approx. 1.3 miles away); First Court of Grayson County (approx. 3½ miles away); Old County Seat (approx. 4.4 miles away); The Railroad: Lifeline to the World (approx. 4.7 miles away); Carroll County / Grayson County (approx. 4.7 miles away); Galax (approx. 4.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fries.
More about this marker. This marker replaced a marker with this same title and number that was located at the other end of town at the Carroll County line that read “Center of early recorded country music. On March 1, 1923, in New York City, Henry Whitter of Fries, Virginia, recorded two songs ‘The Wreck of the Old 97’ and ‘Lonesome Road Blues.’ These were among the first successful country recordings by a country artist. His recordings inspired many other local artists to record including E. V. ‘Pop’ Stoneman and Kelly Harrell. All three men were employees of the Fries Textile Plant.”
Regarding Fries. The hillside town and the New River can be seen in the distance from this pull-off.
Also see . . .
1. Henry Whitter: Wreck of the Old 97 (1923). MP3 file on the Internet Archive. (Submitted on June 4, 2013.)
2. Vernon Dalhart: Wreck of the Old ’97 (1924). YouTube audio of Victor Recording 19427.
Well they gave him his orders at Monroe Virginia
Sayin’ Steve you're way behind time.
This is not 38, it's old 97
You must put her into Spencer on time.
Then he turned around and said to his black greasy fireman
Shovel on a little more coal.
And when we cross that White Oak Mountain
But it’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville
And from Lima it’s on a three mile grade.
It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes,
See what a jump he made.
He was goin’ down the grade makin’ 90 miles an hour
When his whistle broke into a scream.
He was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle
A-scalded to death by the steam.
Then the telegram come to Washington station
and this is how it read.
Oh that brave engineer that run old 97
He’s a layin’ in old Danville dead.
So now all you ladies you better take a warnin’
from this time on and learn.
Never speak harsh words to your true lovin’ husband
He may leave you and never return.
(Submitted on June 4, 2013.)
3. Henry Whitter: Lonesome Road Blues (1924). MP3 file on the Internet Archive. (Submitted on June 4, 2013.)
4. Wikipedia Entry for Henry Whitter. “Whitter learned to play the guitar from an early age, and later on, the fiddle, banjo, harmonica and piano. His love of music made him dream of a career as an artist and he spent much time listening to cylinder recordings of Uncle Josh. He found work in a cotton mill called Fries Washington Mill, but through the years 1923-1926 he frequently took time off to record. He claimed that his first session was
“In his first session, he recorded nine songs, including ‘Wreck On the Southern Old 97’ coupled with ‘Lonesome Road Blues.’ The recording was released in January 1924 and was quite successful. The light opera singer and country musician Vernon Dalhart heard ‘Wreck On the Southern Old 97’ and decided to record it. (That particular recording coupled with ‘The Prisoner’s Song,’ went on to become the first million-selling record in country music in 1924.) Other songs in Whitter’s repertoire would become standards, such as ‘The New River Train’ and ‘Put My Little Shoes Away.’ He was the first to record the harmonica tunes ‘Lost John’ and ‘Fox Chase.‘ He also recorded cover versions of hits by other performer’s such as Uncle Dave Macon’s ‘Keep My Skillet Good And Greasy’ and Kelly Harrell’s ‘I Wish I Was Single Again.’ Although a limited musician, he supplied what record-buyers wanted and sold very well. However, by 1926 there were more skilled musicians in the market, which may explain why Okeh ceased to record Whitter.” (Submitted on June 4, 2013.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on June 4, 2013, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 967 times since then and 157 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 4, 2013, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 3. submitted on June 4, 2013. 4. submitted on June 4, 2013, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 5. submitted on June 5, 2013. 6, 7. submitted on June 6, 2013, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.