Bobby Patterson’s musical journey began on April 1, 1942, when he was born in the Coal Creek community of Carroll County, Virginia. Dr. W. P. Davis, the main local doctor at the time, delivered the baby boy. Dr. Davis was also an autoharp player and leader of the Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters stringband as well as one of the originators of the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention where the Bogtrotters won first place in 1935.
Mr. Patterson’s mother played guitar, and his maternal grandfather and three uncles were all musicians. On his father’s side, his father and his five brothers were musicians. Bobby started playing the guitar at age 6. He saved pennies to buy his first guitar, a Stella for $29.95 from Porter Furniture Store in Galax. At age 7, he got to hear and see his first live musical peformance at Coleman School just above where he lived.
At age 12, Bobby entered a talent show at school and played and sang “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” winning first prize. By 16, he became interested in playing the banjo that Uncle Tyra had given him. His neighbor Charles Hawks gave Bobby his first banjo lesson including the 3-finger roll and one gospel tune, “Uncloudy Day.” By age 18 Patterson was playing the banjo with different bluegrass groups. A few years later he joined Kyle Creed and The Camp Creek Boys Band.
In 1972 he built his first recording studio with help from his father and Kyle Creed, created a record label, and started recording and producing albums under the name of Mountain Records. Two years later he sold his interest in Mountain Records to Kyle and formed his own label, Heritage Records. In 1974 he joined the Highlanders Bluegrass Band playing mandolin. Still with them today after 35 years, he has played up and down the Blue Ridge from Tennessee to New York City.
In 1976 Mr. Patterson recorded Wayne Henderson’s first album with Ray Cline and Herb Key.
In 1983, he opened a record and hobby shop, The Heritage Shoppe, visible from Route 58 at Woodlawn, Virginia, and still in business today. In 1985 he bought back Kyle’s Mountain Records label and continued producing those recordings. In 1989 he built a larger recording studio on Coal Creek Road, continuing to work with many groups recording and producing projects for Heritage Records and custom projects. The recording studio was moved to the basement of The Heritage Shoppe in 2002.
In 1987, Patterson helped start the Old Time Herald magazine, a national publication dedicated to Old-Time Music.
Today Bobby Patterson is still a key link between local musicians and the community. He serves on the Galax Tourism Advisory Board and the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts Advisory Board. As president of the Blue Ridge Music Makers Guild since 1999, Patterson works with emerging youth musicians year-round, helps organize festivals and concerts, and promotes traditional music. As a leader in the Galax Moose Lodge (Governor 2006-07), he organizes the annual Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention—considered one of the oldest and largest fiddler’s conventions in the world.
In conclusion, Bobby Patterson has been continuously playing, recording, and preserving string music from the Blue Ridge for nearly 40 years.