A weekend stay last month at the Blackburn Inn in Staunton, Va., gave my wife Juli and me an appreciation for a freedom we usually take for granted — the ability to come and go as we please.
After checking in, we were free to leave the premises to stroll around Staunton’s bustling downtown and enjoy an hour of virtuoso performances at a Bach festival. Later, after dinner in the hotel’s bistro, we returned downtown to enjoy some local brews.
This freedom to leave the grounds was something that thousands of people who had once inhabited the historic hotel and neighboring buildings did not enjoy.
In the eyes of our pilot, it was a bit too windy to fly. The winds had been diminishing, he said, but if they didn’t come down some more, we might have to scrap the flight. And the window of opportunity was closing rapidly. If our flight didn’t start in the next half-hour, there wouldn’t be enough time to complete it before dark.
In one block on Main Street in Marion, Va., you can enjoy first-rate barbecue at Wolfe’s, watch live bluegrass performances at the historic Lincoln Theatre and rest your head at the equally venerable General Francis Marion Hotel.
I first heard this recording of “Faded Coat of Blue” on the radio in California, more than 25 years ago. More than any other song I can think of, it has changed my life.
I was captivated by the singer’s voice, and for years I sought to learn more about her. At first, I knew only her name, Betsy Rutherford. I eventually learned that she was from Galax, Va., that she had recorded an album entitled “Traditional Country Music” in 1970, and that she had died in 1991.
This was the first song on Betsy’s only LP, a wonderful album that beautifully showcased her strong voice and smooth singing style. With the support of Betsy’s family, I made this video and posted it on YouTube almost four years ago. I’m pleased to see that it has now been seen by 4,000 people who otherwise might not have heard her music.
Although she didn’t record any other albums, I have been able to track down some recordings of her performances, and I have posted more than 20 of those songs on YouTube. But this was the first, and it remains my favorite.