Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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Some Musicians Of The County

Dykes Magic City Trio, l-r: John Dykes, Myrtle Vermillion and Hubert Mahaffey.

By Patricia Hensley

     When the first settlers came to Scott County they brought with them their love of music, which was as much a part of their daily lives as eating, sleeping and working.

     Whether it was singing in church on Sunday, sitting on the front porch on a warm summer evening, a get-together at the local school house or just working in the fields, people sang, danced and made music at every opportunity. Music and song became on the one hand a means of escape from the everyday worries of rural life. But on the other hand, music was a way of giving voice to deep feelings many stoic mountain people, especially the men, found difficult to express otherwise.

     There is probably not a family Scott Comity that does not have a musician of some sort in their background. Of course little is known of most of these early part-time musicians, other than references to "Uncle Tom's fiddle playing," or "Aunt Ida's singing." It wasn't until the advent of records and radio that many musicians became famous and their accomplishments therefore noted. One of the few exceptions was William Kilgore, who was listed in Civil War records as a musician in the Union Army.

     A few of the musicians from Scott County became widely known for their musical endeavors, the Carter Family being the most famous example. However, there were many lesser-known local artists who contributed significantly to the of American musical tradition, and many still doing so to this day.

     Some, while not achieving wider fame, most certainly had some influence upon those who did. Take for example, The Scott Brothers, Lloyd and Charles. They began playing on the Saturday Evening Matinee in Bristol's WOPI in 1927, and later took on a young Lester Flatt in Roanoke to form the "Harmonizers." They continued this group until their retirement from the music business in 1946. Lester Flatt went on to meet Earl Scruggs, and the rest is legend.

     One of the earliest recordings of country music was made by a Scott County group, the "Dykes Magic City Trio." This group was led by John Dykes on fiddle, Hubert Mahaffey on guitar and Myrtle Porter Vermillion playing autoharp. In March of 1927 the group left Gate City for New York City to record on the Brunswick label. In a letter to her family Myrtle wrote: "They decided they couldn't set through with us till Friday night. We made 21/2 records today - besides Mr. Dock Boggs' work. He didn't quite get finished. Oh you just ought to hear the autoharp on the records. They let us hear one that wasn't quite perfect. They sure did brag on it. They told us we didn't have no idea what fine records we made. Said they would out sell any of the scientific stuff."

     Dykes Magic City Trio recorded about 12 songs during that trip to New York, and were paid $50 for each song. They came home to Scott County and worked in the area playing at dances in private homes and occasionally a schoolhouse. They never knew how many of their records sold.

     Cleo McNutt, Myrtle Vermillion's daughter, has continued her mother's autoharp playing. Working with other local musicians such as Red Lambert, Charlie Mack Daugherty and Joe Good, Mrs. McNutt carries on the family tradition.

 

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