About a year ago, Danville resident Brandon Adams knew he wanted to do a music television show. So he started working on the idea and contacted members of the Old West End community and a friend from the Blue Ridge Public Broadcasting Service.
But he didn’t want to leave town to do the show.
“I said, ‘You know, instead of traveling to my friends’ house, why not have my friends come to my house?'” Adams, guitarist and host and executive producer of the new Blue Ridge PBS series, “The Life of a Musician,” he said in an interview after his Danville premiere on Thursday night.
The TV series takes viewers behind the scenes for conversations and stories from world-famous musical artists. It was filmed at various locations in Danville and features songs performed live on the show.
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Episodes were recorded at historic homes, a historically renovated hotel – The Bee Hotel in downtown South Union Street – and other businesses, including Crema & Vine cafe and wine bar and The Dog-Eared bookstore Page.
The series will begin airing at 9 p.m. on October 15 on Blue Ridge PBS in Roanoke and Virginia Public Media in Richmond. It will also be available on the PBS Passport app.
A screening of the first episode was held Thursday night at the WF Patton House built in 1890 at 926 Main St., owned by Paul Liepe. It spotlighted John Jorgenson, founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who also played guitar for Elton John, Sting and Bob Dylan.
Other episodes will feature artists Sammy Shelor, Larry Cordle, Kristy Cox and other musicians.
During the episode screened before a small crowd in the ballroom of Liepe’s three-story Victorian home on Millionaire’s Row, Jorgenson explained to Adams his practice of performing different musical styles.
“I love all styles of music,” Jorgenson told Adams on the episode of The Bell-Pace-Boatwright House owned by John and Ginger Holbrook on Millionaires Row. “If I’m interested in a style, I go down that path, I study it hard.”
In the 26-minute episode, Adams and Jorgenson played a variety of songs on guitar, including a jazzy and soulful rendition of The Animals’ 1964 hit, “The House of the Rising Sun.” Jorgenson also played the mandolin.
Light up the city
For Adams, bringing his friends to Danville to produce the series wasn’t just about convenience. It was a way to showcase a growing city.
“It’s beautiful here,” said the 44-year-old Charleston, West Virginia native, who has lived in Danville since 2019. “There’s absolutely all this amazing architecture and hard-working people. is a city that’s about to explode, and why not take advantage of it and show it to the world? So it just fell into place naturally.”
Growing up, Adams split her childhood between Kentucky and West Virginia.
He expressed his gratitude for his friends in the Old West End and other parts of town who opened their homes and businesses to talented musicians and PBS crews.
Liepe, a native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, who lived in places across the country before moving into the WF Patton home in 2003, was one such homeowner. Two musicians performed at his residence for the series.
He had worked with Adams to carry out the PBS effort.
“I was looking forward to it happening,” Liepe, 73, said in an interview after the premiere.
Liepe met Adams when the musician moved to the neighborhood.
“He’s a talented performer,” Liepe said. “This [the series] was good for Danville.”
The Friends of the Old West End were the first entity to invest in the production effort for the series, said Liepe, the group’s executive director.
The Old West End National Historic District comprises a concentrated collection of Victorian and Edwardian homes lining Main Street and adjacent side streets.
Friends of the Old West End” ensures a healthy and vibrant community by connecting homeowners, residents and local businesses, and supporting their efforts to preserve and enhance the rich history, architecture, character and diversity of the historic district. National of the Old West End. of Danville, Va.,” according to the band’s website.
Liepe said of Danville, “It’s the right size. There’s just enough stuff – restaurants, shops – to keep me happy without the hassles of a big city.”
He is happy to see the city grow, “but not too much”, he says.
As for allowing artists and hosting the premiere at his home, that’s entirely appropriate, he said. After all, a tobacco buyer who owned the house more than 100 years ago had danced in the very room where the screening took place on Thursday night.
“My goal is to have fun with this house,” Liepe said. “This house was built with the purpose of entertaining and I continue the tradition.”
Showcase a business
Steve DelGiorno, owner of Crema & Vine, had Cox play at his cafe and wine bar that was once a gas station.
He jumped at the chance to be part of the PBS project when he was approached for the idea.
“The obvious answer is, ‘Yes, we want to be part of it,'” DelGiorno said at the premiere. “The opportunity to showcase your business is amazing.”
For the recording session, DelGiorno closed his business on a Sunday evening.
“We rearranged the furniture like a living room,” he said.
Cox, along with the rest of the performers in his Nashville-based band, played banjo and sang in DelGiorno’s company.
“It’s a really cool band,” DelGiorno said.
The first one
At the premiere at Liepe, guests including Old West End neighbors, participating business owners and PBS execs mingled and enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres ahead of the premiere screening. episode.
Just before 8 p.m., about 20 to 30 attendees crowded around the tables in the small ballroom to be watched on a wall-mounted flat-screen TV. It was a festive atmosphere full of anticipation.
Will Anderson, President and CEO of Blue Ridge PBS, expressed his gratitude to everyone for their participation and funding during the opening remarks. It would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce and air the series “if you weren’t there,” Anderson told attendees.
“It’s a fantastic show with great talent, like Austin City Limits,” he said, referring to the live music TV show produced by Austin (Texas) PBS.
Anderson has high expectations for the new series set in Danville.
“This show is going to be big, people,” an animated Anderson told the crowd. “It’s going to be big and it starts here.”
A show like this would only be on PBS, he said, adding that “you’re here tonight for something huge.”
“Gift” for the community
Danville Councilman Lee Vogler, who also made opening remarks, called the series a “gift” to the community.
“The ‘A Musician’s Life’ series is a gift for music lovers like me and for all of you,” Vogler said.
He pointed out that viewers will get a glimpse of the types of music and stories of well-known international artists.
“Projects like this will not only spark conversation, but also inspire our youth,” Vogler said, linking the series to the city’s priority of improving education for area youth.
Adams, who has been a professional musician for over 20 years, started playing music when he was 8 years old. He focuses on acoustic music, leaning towards bluegrass and also plays jazz.
“If you dig Alison Krauss, the Punch Brothers and Tony Rice, mixed with James Taylor and several other great acoustic artists, that’s kind of what I do,” Adams said during an interview on Liepe’s porch after the first one.
Rice, in particular, was a big influence on Adams’ music. Born in Danville in 1951, the bluegrass guitarist and musician died in Reidsville, North Carolina on Christmas Day 2020. He also performed jazz and folk music and was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
“Tony Rice, first and foremost,” Adams said. “Tony was a friend of mine, we recorded together.”
Rice’s love of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell also helped Adams fall in love with their music, Adams said.
“He was my entry into everything I love,” Adams said.
Being on the road for 20 years and then taking a year and a half break from his career as a traveling musician made him appreciate being at home in Danville. He decided to stay in town with his wife and daughter-in-law for a while.
“I’ll eventually get back on the road and eventually start recording more albums, but right now I’m digging just to chill around the house,” he said. “It really is a dream come true. I have no complaints.”