Music grabbed the ear of a young Gail Ceasar as she spent Saturday mornings listening to bluegrass sessions at Poky’s Music in Gretna, Virginia. Those porch get-togethers shaped Ceasar’s future. She had to pick up the guitar and churn out her own music.
“I saw all my cousins and uncles playing. I had an Uncle Joe who played and then Cousin Pete. They played in church and around here. It made me want to learn how to play,” Ceasar said. Pete Witcher, a Pittsylanvia County native, taught Ceaser how to play. She followed the footsteps of her family of musicians and began performing in church. “When I got good enough, I started playing around my cousins. Me and Pete would play together. We played the blues a lot,” she added.
Ceasar’s been strumming the guitar for over 28 years. Just the sound of music inspires her. Delving deeper, growing up in Virginia, listening to the songs from her heritage became the soundtrack for Ceasar. She calls her style “a mix of blues and bluegrass, a little bit of gospel music.”
The first blues song Ceasar wrote was called “Guitar Woman Blues.” It would also become the name of her recently released debut album. “It’s a lot of songs that I’ve played over the years. A lot of songs that I like to play around the house,” she said about the record.
It’s remarkable that Ceasar has been able to focus on creating a record. She lost her Pittsville home to fire one morning in the summer of 2022. Ceasar and her mother investigated a hint of smoke in the air to find flames raging from underneath the house. The fire put Ceasar’s livelihood in jeopardy. Her two guitars and an amplifier were destroyed.
She reached out to the Music Maker Foundation, which is an organization that helps to keep the roots of American music thriving. Quoted from musicmaker.org, “Since 1994, we have served over 500 musicians whose work spans the entire history of American music: blues, gospel, folk, singer-songwriter, Appalachian string band, and Native American.” In a call, Ceasar told Music Maker about her loss. The Foundation “provides financial grants to those who face a crisis.” Music Maker supplied Ceasar with a Martin, a Fender American Stratocaster, and a Fender deluxe reverb amp. She was back in business.
After a successful release of Guitar Woman Blues, Ceasar will perform at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. on February 26. “I’m really looking forward to it. I plan to play a couple of songs from the new album.”