Bobby Patterson was born in Carroll County, Virginia, into a musical family. His mother, Ruby Bryant Patterson, and his father, John Patterson, were also from musical families. His older sister, Virginia, sang and played guitar. In fact Bobby was delivered by Doctor W.P. Davis, one of the original members of the Ballard Branch Bogtrotters Band that won first at the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention in 1935. Bobby started playing the guitar at age 6 and attended his first live bluegrass show at the local Coleman School in 1948. The band was The Blue Ridge Mountain Boys who had just won 1st place at the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention that year.
His first inspiration to recording came when he was ten years old. A next-door neighbor, Willard Sexton, bought a Wilcox-Gay reel to reel recorder and disc cutting machine. Mr. Sexton started recording Bobby’s family including, his grandfather and uncles, cutting 7 inch vinyl records which are still playable today. When his grandfather, Virgil Bryant, who played clawhammer banjo, passed away in 1958 and his beloved Uncle Tyra Cook, who played bluegrass banjo, passed away, he saw the need of preserving this type of mountain music that had been in people’s homes and only experienced by family and friends. He bought his first recorder around 1965 and the rest is history.
In 1969 with the help of his father and Kyle Creed, (who had moved into the community) he built his first recording studio on Coal Creek. He and Kyle became very close friends and Bobby describes Kyle as a 2nd father figure and together they started a studio and record label called Mountain Records. Visitors and musicians who came into the studio were from around the world. They were also known as Kyle Creed - Bobby Patterson and the Camp Creek Boys and was recorded by Leader Records in London, England on an album.
They recorded and produced several albums on the Mountain Label, one being the now famous old-time recording, “June Apple” with Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Bobby Patterson and Audine Lineberry. In 1974 Bobby decided to start his own record label “Heritage Records” and Kyle kept the Mountain Label and produced about 8 more albums on Mountain Records until his health began to fail and he sold the Mountain Label back to Bobby.
In 1976 Bobby recorded Wayne Henderson, Ray Cline and Herb Key’s first album which is considered by many to be the ultimate guitar album. Bobby has been producing recordings of the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Conventions since 1974, including the 39th annual convention. He has been doing live recordings of the convention for 30 years. He is past governor (2006-2008) of Galax Moose Lodge #733, sponsors of the Old Fiddlers’ Convention.
He joined the Highlanders Bluegrass Band in 1973, singing and playing mandolin. In 2009 after 38 years, The Highlanders quit traveling, but still get together occasionally for a show. He has produced over 200 albums during his 50 plus years of recording including 5 albums by the late Jim Shumate (one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys and one of the original Foggy Mountain Boys and the one responsible for getting Earl Scruggs with bill Monroe). He also plays bluegrass and clawhammer banjo and has played on several other project recordings. He is president and founding member of The Blue Ridge Music Makers Guild, which provides an instrument lending library for children and adults who want to learn to play acoustic music. The Guild also provides an instrument petting zoo for kids at different festivals and county fairs.
On November 2007 he received the Life-Time Achievement Award in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions Made to the Spiritual Heritage of the Blue Ridge and in July 2009 at the Richmond Virginia Folk Festival, received the Virginia Heritage Award for Preservation of Traditional Music. The Appalachian Cultural Music Association presented him with the Bluegrass Award in 2014. He has been a member of several gospel groups including a gospel quartet called Heritage IV.
In past summers, from May thru October, you could find Bobby and his long time music partner, Willard Gayheart, performing on Tuesdays at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Bobby Patterson passed away September 24, 2017.