Dave Freeman with Larry Sparks and Don Rigsby at the 2006 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards.

Dave Freeman with Larry Sparks and Don Rigsby at the 2006 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards.

What started as a hobby back in the early 1960s has become a thriving business for a family intent on preserving and promoting the best in authentic rural American music—or “Mountain Music” as it is known by many folks. Based in Floyd, Virginia since 1974, County Sales is now known world-wide as having the biggest selection of Bluegrass and Old Time CDs, DVDs, and books to be found anywhere.

David Freeman, a railway mail clerk, used his vacation time to hunt down old 78rpm records by such artists as the Carter Family, Charlie Poole and Uncle Dave Macon—records that had pretty well disappeared by the early 1950s, but Floyd County turned out to be one of the best sources for such treasured “finds”. “I spent about two weeks in and around Floyd County in the early sixties” says Freeman. “Things were a little different back then” he notes, “but the people were really friendly, and I have lots of great memories from those trips, including making the old Moses Restaurant a destination for lunch each day, (meat & three for just 85 cents, as I recall!”)

With some encouragement from a British magazine and various record collectors all across the USA, Freeman quit his day job in August of 1965, starting a record label—County Records—and his retail business (County Sales) with a typewriter, a tape machine and $ 500.00 in savings. “The mail trains were being discontinued one by one at the time, and I could see the writing on the wall” says Freeman, who enjoyed working on the R.P.O.s (Railway Post Offices), but fancied a career in the music business even more.

Moving from New York City to Floyd County in 1974 with his wife and first child, Freeman found that there was indeed a significant market for the music he loved but that the major record labels looked down on or mostly ignored. Near the Blue Ridge Parkway and really right in the heart of the mountains, County Sales grew, mostly by word of mouth, and its early local customers had stories to tell of visits to Floyd by such famous performers as Bill and Charlie Monroe and the legendary Charlie Poole. (County Sales actually occupies the old PIX Theatre building where the 1930s and 40s hosted shows by Bill & Charlie Monroe, Roy Hall, and many of the biggest names in Country music).

“In the 1970s there were no CDs or DVDs—it was all LPs (long playing vinyl)” says Freeman, who now expresses amazement at the number of well produced records that come out each month, many of them featuring extremely talented teenagers. “In that respect the music is in very good hands these days, and there are more Bluegrass and Old Time records coming out than ever before—there is really a wealth of great music out there, and plenty of fans to enjoy it” says Freeman, whose shop is visited almost daily by fans and customers from many foreign countries. As Freeman says, “It’s a great feeling to be able to guide folks to the music they love, whether it be Flatt & Scruggs, Molly O’Day, The Carter Family, Hank Williams, the Delmore Brothers or Alison Krauss”.

~Dee Walace