31 December 2015

County Records, County Sales, and the Irish connection

Many of us use County Sales, based in Floyd, VA, as an essential source of supply for bluegrass and old-time records, DVDs, books, and other goodies; or even simply as a reference resource for finding out what's now available on the market from the immense County catalogue.

The fifty-year history of the remarkable institution that Dave Freeman built can now be read in a feature by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today - and there's a hint in it of the connection between Floyd, VA, and Omagh, Co. Tyrone. A 2008 interview with Dave Freeman is quoted to show that County Sales became a full-time business 'by taking over supplying American country LPs to European customers for a British country music magazine (Country News & Views) that had such a service but then lost its USA supplier...'

One of the editors of Country News & Views at that time was Rodney McElrea of Omagh, who should be considered a national treasure by enthusiasts of bluegrass, old-time, and country music generally in this island. Rodney's unique collection of recordings, documents, and other memorabilia, and his equally unique and encyclopaedic personal knowledge of the music's history and the people connected with it, have put his contributions to the Tony McAuley Lectures series among the most memorable features of annual festivals at the Ulster American Folk Park for many years now. His encouragement to Dave Freeman was, we believe, a factor in County's subsequent rise.

County Records are now marking the half-century with a four-CD set, Legends of old-time music (County 6001) with 113 tracks, many previously unissued. Full details are on the County Sales website.

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