The Library of Virginia

Before Recordings

New Technology

Early Field Recordings

Early Commercial Recording Sessions

Over the Airwaves

Creating Traditional Culture

The Interplay of Musical Styles

"Old Times Tunes" in Southwest Virginia

The Family Band

Mill to Microphone

Piedmont Blues

Tidewater Tradition


Industrialization and the growth of large, modern corporations coincided with the growth of roots music styles. Large businesses often sponsored social clubs, sports teams, and musical groups that performed at company functions and frequently represented their employers at community events. Richmond's Larus and Brother Tobacco Company featured a vocal group from the factory known as the Dixie Spiritual Singers, and the Norfolk and Western Railroad sponsored the Imperial Quartette, a black gospel unit made up of workers, as well as the Sheet Iron and Pipe Shop String Orchestra. Many of the workers in Virginia's mines and factories were rural people who brought their music with them, and many notable musicians formed bands in the mill villages and towns that dotted the landscape.

The development of old-time, blues, and other roots music forms occurred in a rapidly changing, modernizing world. The alienation of industrial work and town and city life may have increased the yearning for traditional music, but exposure to a wider world also broadened the musical tastes of many a Virginian. For example, Hopewell's Tubize Artificial Silk Company, a Belgian-based rayon manufacturer, sponsored several bands including the Tubize Royal Hawaiian Orchestra. Influenced by popular Hawaiian musicians such as Sol Hoopii and King Bennie Nawahi who had already integrated jazz, blues, and popular elements into their repertoire, the Tubize group recorded for OKeh Records in 1929 and played on WRVA into the 1930s. The band members adopted what was one of the first examples of "world music."

Dixie Spiritual Singers
The Dixie Spiritual Singers performed on the first broadcast of radio station WRVA in Richmond in 1925 and became stalwarts of the new enterprise.
The Library of Virginia


The Tubize Royal Hawaiian Orchestra
The Tubize Royal Hawaiian Orchestra, based at a Hopewell rayon plant, performed on Richmond radio station WRVA and recorded for the OKeh label.
Courtesy of Walter Titterington.

All Recordings

Tubize Royal Hawaiian Orchestra, "Sweetheart of Mandalay" (Okeh 45394), recorded in Richmond, Virginia, October 14, 1929. Re-issued on Virginia Roots: the 1929 Richmond Sessions (Outhouse Records 1001).