Franklin County, Virginia has long been a hotbed of musical activity, although often overshadowed by the notoriety of the Galax Fiddler’s Convention and the Southwest Virginia musical traditions documented by Alan Jabbour. During the 1940s-1950s, the local newspaper largely reported on high school choirs and bands or the minstrel show put on by the Lions Club,but the occasional ad for a Fiddler’s Convention or a visiting popular musician hints at the musical events enjoyed by the local farmers and factory workers. One of the musicians who came out of this culture was Nelson Avery “Pedro” Cooper (1924-2011). Pedro was a self-taught Franklin County musician who overcame personal hardships and disability; after losing part of his left arm in a factory accident, he retaught himself to play banjo (and dobro) and continued to lead his band “The Pumpkin Vines.” An unpublished interview with brother Cash Cooper examines Pedro’s fascination with recording and broadcast technology as well as his musical development and influences.
Franklin County, Virginia is outside the formal Appalachian Regional Commission’s defined geographic area. The area is often culturally associated with Appalachia, in part because of the musical traditions but also because of the (in)famous moonshining activities.