November 2018 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Off The Record: Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard – Pioneering Women of Bluegrass

Our Radio Bristol DJs are a diverse bunch – and they like a huge variety of musical genres and artists. In our “Off the Record” posts, we ask one of them to tell us all about a song, record or artist they love.

“West Virginia, oh my home
West Virginia, where I belong
In the dead of the night, in the still and the quiet
I slip away like a bird in flight
Back to those hills, the place that I call home.

Well I paid the price for the leavin’
And this life I have is not one I thought I’d find
Just let me live, love, let my cry, but when I go just let me die
Among the friends who’ll remember when I’m gone.”

“West Virginia My Home” by Hazel Dickens, courtesy of Cowboylyrics.com

I’m extremely proud of my Appalachian heritage and have made it my mission to promote the region in a positive light – there is just so much amazing music, culture, and history that has emerged from Appalachia! I’m also proud to call West Virginia my home state, and as a musician and scholar of traditional music, I’ve been greatly inspired by traditional folk singer-songwriter Hazel Dickens, a West Virginia native herself. Dickens became well known in the mid-1960s as a prominent female figure in Appalachian music, known for her high and lonesome mountain sound.

Today I’ll be highlighting some tunes from the album, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard: Pioneering Women of Bluegrass, a Smithsonian Folkways collection. This album has been a true inspiration to me throughout the years, as the first time I heard it I was likely completing my undergraduate degree in Traditional Bluegrass Music from Glenville State College. Being in the college bluegrass band during this time was inspiring, and one of my favorite things to do was discovering “new” tunes from history.

The album cover shows both women singing together and playing their respective instruments -- bass and guitar.
The cover for Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard’s Pioneering Women of Bluegrass album. From Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website

Hazel Dickens (June 1, 1925–April 22, 2011) was born in Montcalm, West Virginia, the 8th of 11 children. She grew up in a poor mining town, and her early exposure and experiences in poverty are a major theme in many of her songs. Influenced by early country musicians like The Carter Family and Uncle Dave Macon, Dickens merged elements from the country and bluegrass genres to tell stories of life as she knew it. At age 19, she moved to Baltimore to find work in a factory in order to escape the poverty-stricken hills of home. While in Baltimore, she and her siblings would often visit music festivals in the area. It was during this time in the 1960s that she befriended Alice Gerrard, a classically trained singer who had a love of old-time music. The two formed a duo, and with Hazel on the upright bass and Alice on the acoustic guitar, they toured and performed up until the late 1970s and were instrumental in the folk and bluegrass movement of the era.

Dickens and Gerrard became influential figures in traditional music during a time when women weren’t seen fronting a band. The folk music industry was dominated with male performers and instrumentalists, and in a magazine interview Dickens was quoted as saying “I’m not sure if they looked at us as a novelty, or if they took us seriously….” The duo produced four albums together, and their record Who’s That Knocking is one of the earliest recorded bluegrass albums created by women. With their powerful and soulful harmonies, and by recording a wide variety of songs addressing politics and Appalachian issues, the duo became and continue to act as powerful role models for women in music.

Here are just a few of my favorite songs from the Pioneering Women of Bluegrass collection, which features Dickens and Gerrard singing a variety of traditional songs highlighting poverty, love, and loss, amongst the popular themes, and with moving vocals, harmonies, and back-up instrumentation by Lamar Grier, Chubby Wise, David Grisman, and Billy Baker.

“T.B. Blues (They’re at Rest Together)”

This story song is a heart-wrenching one at best, telling the tale of love and loss and the heartbreak of being broken apart by illness, especially the relentlessness of tuberculosis.

“A Distant Land to Roam”

Dickens and Gerrard were inspired by The Carter Family and recorded several of their songs; “A Distant Land to Roam” was originally recorded by the Carters in 1929. The song tells the story of leaving home and eventually meeting one’s family again in heaven.

“I Just Got Wise”

One of my all-time favorites from this album, this witty and upbeat tune features a lady who is fed up with her cheatin’ lover. After being let down time and time again, she realizes he’s not going to change, and so she “got wise” and moved on.

Hazel Dickens are Alice Gerrard are true symbols of Appalachian musicians, and their music continues to act as a tool that gives the region and its people a voice, highlighting important issues surrounding poverty, mining, and everyday life. It’s always fun to bring these old and sometimes forgotten songs back to life – and to introduce them to new listeners. I hope you check out some of these songs and become inspired by their music today!

Bristol Rhythm Sounds of the Season: A Festivus for the Rest of Us!

Nothing brings people together like music and the holidays so, for those of us who are really missing the festival atmosphere of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion and are looking for a way to extend that joyful noise into the Christmas season, we’ve got ya covered.

From rockin’ original cuts by Old 97’s, Scott Miller, and Deer Tick to Christmas standards bluegrass’d up by the Del McCoury Band, Ricky Skaggs, and Sam Bush, we’ve scoured the interwebz to compile for you some of the most awesome Christmas tuneage in the universe, guaranteed to fill your holidays with lots of Bristol Rhythm cheer.

So while you’re basting that turkey, trimming the tree, wrapping those gifts, or just sitting around enjoying a tasty seasonal beverage, make it a Bristol Rhythm holiday party with nearly four hours of Christmas music performed by an eclectic mix of stellar festival artists, all in one handy Spotify playlist—and have a very merry Bristol Rhythm Christmas!

Enjoy Bristol Rhythm Sounds of the Season: A Festivus Playlist for the rest of us!

The Great Golden Gathering: African-Americans Living History through School Traditions

The Great Golden Gathering celebrates the 14 former African-American elementary and high schools in upper East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and the surrounding areas that all closed for integration in 1965. Formed in 2015, the Great Golden Gathering reunites all of the alumni, bringing them together every two years to relive friendships, camaraderie, and their shared heritage.

Two alumni hold a large white banner with gold lettering announcing the Great Golden Gathering 2015.
Banner welcoming the participants to the first Great Golden Gathering in 2015. Photograph courtesy of Calvin Sneed

The 14 former African-American schools are:

Austin High School, Knoxville, Tennessee
Arty-Lee High School, Dante, Virginia
Bland High School, Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Douglass High School, Bristol, Virginia
Douglas High School, Elizabethton, Tennessee
Douglass High School, Kingsport, Tennessee
George Clem High School, Greeneville, Tennessee
Langston High School, Johnson City, Tennessee
Morristown West High School-Morristown College, Morristown, Tennessee
Nelson-Merry High School, Jefferson City, Tennessee
Prospect Elementary School, Gate City, Virginia
Slater High School, Bristol, Tennessee
Swift High School-Swift College, Rogersville, Tennessee
Tanner High School, Newport, Tennessee

While many of the individual school alumni associations occasionally hold their own get-togethers, the idea of a universal mega-reunion was introduced in 2015 as a way to celebrate former football and basketball rivalries between schools in the all-black former Tri-State Athletic Conference. Through those competitions, young African-American children got to know their neighbors in nearby cities pretty well. The rivalries quickly grew to include academic competitions like spelling bees, art competitions, and high school band and choral concerts.

Left pic: Two alumni greet each other with a hug; right pic: Several tables of alumni fill a room for the Great Golden Gathering banquet.
At the Great Golden Gathering in 2015, alumni greeted each other for the first time in years and came together for a celebratory banquet. Photographs courtesy of Calvin Sneed

The relationships forged years ago live on during the Great Golden Gathering, as alumni celebrate their connected histories and the legacies of the schools they attended.

“After all, we have always been really good friends,” says Langston High School graduate Bill Coleman. “By attending the Great Golden Gathering, we are celebrating the opportunity to come together one more time while we still can.”

The first Great Golden Gathering was held in Bristol, Virginia in 2015 on the 50th anniversary of the schools closing for integration. Alumni came from several states to renew friendships, laugh, joke, and rekindle – with good humor – old rivalries. It was also a chance to share displays from the alumni associations and to recognize achievements.

Calvin Sneed poses with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who holds a clear plaque honorarium.
Great Golden Gathering President Calvin Sneed presenting an honorarium to Reverend Jesse Jackson. Photograph courtesy of Calvin Sneed

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, noted statesman and founder of Rainbow/PUSH, sent a video message to the group banquet, commemorating the Gathering’s purpose and congratulating the participants for keeping the spirit of their schools alive. The 2015 guest speaker was Ms. Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee NAACP. Both received honorariums from the alumni for their service to the cause of civil rights. Enthusiasm was so high among the alumni at the inaugural event, that they all agreed to schedule a Gathering every other year, as many individual African-American school alumni associations do.

Purple Great Golden Gathering 2017 banner with yellow lettering including the names of the schools and a map of upper east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.
Welcoming banner for the 2017 Great Golden Gathering. Photograph courtesy of Calvin Sneed

The Great Golden Gathering 2017 was held in Kingsport, Tennessee, with the goal of “keeping all of the visiting alumni so busy, that they would forget they were tired”! After many activities, alumni were spellbound by the banquet speech of Tennessee State Representative Johnnie Turner of Memphis, a soldier in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1950s for which she was also given an honorarium from the group. Her speech on the struggles of African-Americans during segregation and integration was a familiar story, one that everyone identified with and understood.

“Each Great Golden Gathering is a good fellowship with people that you love,” says Douglass-Kingsport graduate Douglas Releford. “We’d had folks on walkers, in wheelchairs, and on canes attending the Gatherings, and some of them bring their grandchildren and great-grandchildren with them. We always have activities for them, and through displays, they can learn about the heritage of the schools their ancestors attended.”

“It’s not just our history,” he continues. “It’s their history, too.”

Several tables filled with alumni at the Great Golden Gathering banquet in 2017.
The second Great Golden Gathering in 2017 in Kingsport, Tennessee. Photograph courtesy of Calvin Sneed

Many Gathering attendees have lamented the fact that their collective histories are vanishing with the passing of alumni, and when that history is gone, it could be gone forever.

Larry Bell, who graduated from Slater High School, told the Bristol Herald Courier at the first Gathering reunion that in the past, many younger African Americans would respond in disbelief when he told them he “grew up in an era when blacks and whites attended separate schools. They could not understand that at one point in our history, blacks could not sit at the same lunch counters as whites, use the same restrooms, or drink from the same water fountains.”

A line of alumni hold hands as they gather together in prayer at the Great Golden Gathering.
School alumni forming a Prayer Chain after the Great Golden Gathering’s Memorial Prayer Service. Photograph courtesy of Calvin Sneed

I know that how we overcame those inequities is wrapped in the histories and legacies of these wonderful schools that taught us that we are people too. It is the single most important thing that we as alumni can pass on to our descendants through the Gathering. Along with reading, writing and arithmetic, life itself was taught to us in our schools, as integration loomed ahead. We were taught how to survive outside segregation.

And so there is an urgency to the Great Golden Gathering mega-reunions. Our numbers are deteriorating fast, and we don’t want to not be able to see each other – and of course, there’s going to be a time when we want to see each another and cannot. That’s why we have got to enjoy each other now, the hugs and laughter as we once did, right now, because tomorrow is not promised.

Three alumni post for a selfie together.
School alumni saying goodbye after the Great Golden Gathering Memorial Prayer Service in 2017. Photograph courtesy of Calvin Sneed

The next Great Golden Gathering is scheduled for Johnson City, Tennessee, in 2019. The idea is to rotate each Gathering among the schools’ alumni bases. You can learn more about a few of the African-American schools in this area at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s current special exhibit, For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, which includes a supplementary display on Slater and Douglass schools in Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia.

All Roads Lead To Farm and Fun Time

Farm and Fun Time was back again on November 8 with another foot-stomping installment. This month’s show featured old-time and bluegrass music at its finest! Thanks to our sponsor Eastman Credit Union, Radio Bristol was able to bring Farm and Fun Time not only to those in the audience or tuned in to WBCM-LP, but to viewers far and wide via Facebook Live. Be sure to like WBCM – Radio Bristol on Facebook to tune in every month!

Three pics of Bill and the Belles: two pics of them singing together in a group and one detail shot of Kalia, the fiddle player.
Bill and the Belles brought their sweet harmonies and on-stage charm to a packed audience at November’s Farm and Fun Time. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Earl Neikirk

Host band Bill and the Belles kicked the show off with their astounding harmonies, including a new tune called “I’ll Never Get Along with You.” Our “Heirloom Recipe” presenter this month was Bristol chef and businessman Joe Deel. The Burger Bar, where Hank Williams allegedly ate his last meal, is a landmark in Historic Downtown Bristol, and Joe has been the owner since 2012. Joe keeps his recipes in touch with Bristol’s history, including his recipe for chili from Bunting’s Pharmacy. While Bunting’s is long gone, the legacy of this community gathering place lives on at the Burger Bar. In honor of Bunting’s legendary chili, Bill and the Belles crooned that “Chili Dog Crave.”

Joe at the mic describing his perfect chili.
Joe Deel’s rendition of his chili recipe, based on that of the famous Bunting’s Pharmacy, had the Farm and Fun Time crowd ready to sit down to a bowl! © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Earl Neikirk

Our first featured musical guests were Franklin County, Virginia’s Five Mile Mountain Road. Fronted by Fiddlin’ Billy Hurt, Five Mile Mountain Road plays driving dance music, ranging from rip-roaring old-time breakdowns to beautifully crooned swing pieces and everything in between. Though Billy’s fiddle led the charge on most pieces, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Brennen Ernst set aside his guitar and dazzled the audience with his piano prowess too. After playing James Scott’s “Frog Legs Rag,” Ernst provided driving piano accompaniment on a pair of Charlie Poole tunes. If you enjoy the full spectrum of country music, you’ll love Five Mile Mountain Road.

Three pics of Five Mile Mountain Road, including close-up shots of the guitar and fiddle players.
The energy on stage during Five Mile Mountain Road’s set was infectious! © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Earl Neikirk

For this month’s “ASD Farm Report,” we visited Cave Ridge Farm in Blountville, Tennessee. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to visit some heritage turkeys! If you’re looking for an alternative to the frozen bird from the super market, look no further! Here’s a video from our visit:

The name Farm and Fun Time is synonymous with bluegrass music, and our last musical guests were none other than one of the genre’s all-time most celebrated bands, Blue Highway. Though they are a nationally acclaimed band, these guys are no strangers to Bristol, having played many times here through the years and having roots in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina. The band played many of their original cutting-edge tunes that have brought them acclaim, but they also performed Dr. Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Backstep” and the standard “Darlin’ Nellie Across the Sea” in tribute to the music’s roots here in Bristol. It was truly a privilege to have such bluegrass luminaries on the Farm and Fun Time stage.

Three pics of Blue Highway, including close up shots of the bass and guitar players.
Blue Highway performed to a rapt crowd. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Earl Neikirk

Thanks to everyone who came out and made this a wonderful evening of fun and music! While our Christmas Show featuring Carolina Blue, Sally and George, and the Church Sisters is now sold out, you can catch it on Facebook Live! Tickets for January’s Farm and Fun Time are going fast, so get your tickets today, and join us for a celebration of Appalachian balladry!

“With A Little Help From My Friends…” at King University!

In order for the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) to pass on the history and traditions of our region’s music heritage to future generations, it’s crucial that we engage our region’s youth in our educational and cultural programming in a variety of ways. One way we cultivate good Bristol vibes is through partnerships. A fine example is our creative relationship with the faculty and students of King University’s Department of Digital Media Art & Design (KingDMAD) at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.

It really began in 2010 when we first reached out to Virginia Intermont College (VI). We were in desperate need of good event photography at Bristol Rhythm, and the school had a reputation for turning out fine photographers. It was a great partnership that lasted until the institution (sadly) closed its doors in 2014. Two of the college’s most beloved and talented professors, Neil Staples and Jay Phyfer, graciously organized a crew of former students to come back to shoot the festival after the school had closed. BCM continues to call on Neil, Jay, and many of those VI photog alumni when we need good photography at the festival and smaller events.

In 2012 the festival’s needs expanded to include more social media content, and a new curriculum at King University opened the door for us to work with their students. Chris Stewart was the innovative head of the department at that time. When he left to become Marketing Director at L. C. King Manufacturing Co., Joe Strickland took the reins, along with Lee Jones—both stellar educators and photographers in their own right.

Three student photographers pose and take photos of the photographer!
Just a few of the King University student photographers at work during Bristol Rhythm 2018. © King University DMAD; photographer: Joe Strickland

King DMAD students have had the opportunity to work with video production companies and marketing agencies during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, and it’s a relationship that we hope will continue to flourish. But most of all, it’s our sincerest hope that all of the students we work with gain real-world experience that will help shape their future as they fall in love with our festival and with Bristol.

Written by rising senior Caleb Beverly, this DMAD blog post on the King University website gives a glimpse into the Bristol Rhythm experience from a student’s perspective:

Students Return to Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival

King students returned to the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival this year. King DMAD students worked together with professors Joe Strickland and Lee Jones, producing over 15,000 photographs. The students were tasked with capturing images of specific bands and covering the festival atmosphere. Over the weekend, photographs from King volunteers were included in the official nightly recaps of the festival.

Left pic: Band member jumping in the air beside a piano on stage; center: a detail of some of the atmosphere decorations on display at the festival; right: a close-up showing a band member playing his guitar.
The King University student photographers worked hard to get some really striking and memorable shots of the festival. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographers: Faust Crapiz, Christina Thomas, and Brandon Reese

Students were grateful for the chance to get hands-on with event coverage. They appreciated the unique challenges of working with different conditions throughout each day. Covering the festival forces students to be resourceful and to apply what they have learned in the classroom in a professional work environment.

This year, professional video group Loch & Key Productions provided another great opportunity, allowing King students to work directly with the video team. Throughout the weekend, select students took shifts with Loch & Key, experiencing promotional video production firsthand. Andy Feliu, a co-owner of Loch & Key, said:

“We’re big believers that the best way to learn in our field is to get your hands dirty so we were excited to bring on a few King University students to join our team. With this being our fourth year covering the festival, we’ve got a solid grasp of the audience and what makes Bristol special. Compared to any other festival we cover, Rhythm & Roots has by far the most stages, has the most variety when it comes to the actual festival goer, and the lineup itself spans a broad range of musical genres. These elements, along with just a great atmosphere overall, make BRRR a perfect opportunity for students to learn about video production in the context of live performance and event coverage.”

A female student with a cameraman from Loch & Key.
A King University student works with Loch & Key. © King University DMAD; photographer: Joe Strickland

Kim Davis, Director of Marketing for the Birthplace of Country Music, had this to say of King students’ involvement:

“Working with King University’s Digital Media Art & Design program has been very important to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, as the students are a vital part of the photography strategy. Each year the talent of the students and our partnership gets stronger, and working with King University is always a great experience. We are thankful for the students’ excitement and participation in the festival.”

Instrument Interview: Uncle Dave Macon’s Banjo

“Instrument Interview” posts are a chance to sit down with the instruments of traditional, country, bluegrass, and roots music – from different types of instruments to specific ones related to artists, luthiers, and songwriters – and learn more about them. Ten questions are posed, and the instruments answer! Today we talk with Uncle Dave Macon’s banjo.

Who are you?

I am a Gibson 5-string banjo, Model RB-1. I was born in 1928 at the Gibson Company’s facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was my good fortune to be the first banjo given to Uncle Dave Macon by Gibson as part of a national advertising campaign. I was made special, without a resonator and with a wooden dowling, all to make me lighter so Uncle Dave could better perform his “trick banjo playing,” as he called it. I stayed with Uncle Dave for nearly 25 years, until he passed away in 1952. Most other production RB-1s at the time were made for sale; in 1928 a Gibson banjo with case sold for $26.

Where did you first meet Uncle Dave?

I’ll never forget that day! In 1928 the folks at Gibson had hired Uncle Dave as a promoter for their national advertising campaign, and so a photo shoot was set up to help with the promotion. A Gibson sales representative took me to a photographer’s shop – Wagner Studios in Cullman, Alabama – and I met Uncle Dave there for the first time. I have to say, it was love at first sight for both of us. He looked at my fine craftsmanship with glee, and it was my pleasure to be in the hands of the most renowned and popular banjo player of the day, all the while knowing that I was headed for center stage at the Grand Ole Opry.

Sam McGee was part of the Gibson photo shoot too; here he is seen with Uncle Dave and their new Gibson instruments in 1928. Courtesy of Macon-Doubler Family

Were you his only banjo?

No, I wasn’t. And I want to share some private information that most people don’t know. Uncle Dave and his dear wife, Miss Tildy, raised seven sons. As part of compensation for his advertising work, Gibson agreed to provide Uncle Dave with other banjos, and before long, he had seven Gibson banjos in all. We were like a second family to Uncle Dave, and being the first he acquired, the other banjos looked up to me like an older brother. Not to be prideful, but Uncle Dave eventually gave away or set aside the first banjos with which he had started his career and used only us Gibsons. The Dixie Dewdrop truly believed the punch line of Gibson’s advertising campaign: “Only a Gibson is good enough.”

Is it true that Uncle Dave always performed using three banjos?

It sure is! He used three banjos so he could switch quickly from song to song without having to re-tune his instrument. The three banjos were tuned in the keys of C, F, and G. I was always set to the key of C.

What are your fondest memories of being with the Dixie Dewdrop?

No doubt, it was being part of his shows. It was fun, but Uncle Dave really made us work. Once he took to the stage, it was non-stop action. His picking style made it sound as though us Gibsons were singing right along with him, and we often felt we were the center of the show, even though we knew that was Uncle Dave’s rightful place. We had to twang, spin, and twirl throughout the entire show – without much rest! When we’d get overheated from all the frenetic playing, Uncle Dave would remove his big, black hat and fan us to cool us down, a stunt that always made the house roar. With the travel and all, it was hard work, but Uncle Dave really cared for us. Like I said, he treated his seven Gibson banjos like a second set of sons.

Uncle Dave didn’t begin his career as a professional entertainer until he was age 50. Did that help or hurt him?

It definitely helped him. By the time he turned 50, he was at the peak of his playing abilities. He had also learned so many other traditional songs that younger musicians just didn’t know. His age also gave him confidence in dealing with all the people we encountered. Uncle Dave was always honest and fair with folks, especially when it came to his financial dealings.

Uncle Dave Macon in a shirt, vest and trousers playing the banjo sitting down.
The Dixie Dewdrop always played sitting down to facilitate his “trick banjo playing.” Courtesy of Macon-Doubler Family

Were there any special, personal moments you’d like to share?

Well, most folks know that Uncle Dave fought alcoholism and depression for much of his life. What they don’t know is that when he began to recover from these episodes, he would call for a banjo. One of his Gibson banjos would hop into his lap, and he’d start to play and sing. Before long, that music would completely restore sobriety and lift the fog of depression. The cure for Dave Macon’s ailments didn’t come from a little box of pills or a medicine bottle; all of us Gibson banjos were his best therapy!

What happened to you after Uncle Dave passed away?

What a sad time that was for us! One of us was stolen from Uncle Dave’s house, even before the estate sale was conducted, and has not been seen since. However, Uncle Dave had left instructions for his Gibsons to be given to folks who he knew would take good care of us. His son Dorris, who had played with his father for nearly 25 years, knew Uncle Dave’s wishes and carried out those instructions. Our little Gibson family was broken up and given to various entertainers. I had a fortunate fate, being bequeathed to Roy Acuff, who really appreciated what I and Uncle Dave had done together. One of us went to Stringbean, another to Brother Oswald, another to June Carter, and yet another to Earl Scruggs. We still don’t know the fate of the seventh banjo. Uncle Dave honored us all in a special way. On his tombstone is inscribed the epitaph “The World’s Most Outstanding Banjoist.” I like to think that all of us Gibsons had a lot to do with making that tribute a reality.

And so where are you now?

I’m on public display at the rear of Ryman Auditorium in Nashville as part of the Roy Acuff Collection. I hang in a display case that also features a short history of the song “Rock About My Sara Jane,” one of Uncle Dave’s most popular tunes, which he learned while living in Nashville as a teenager. From my vantage point, I can still see the center stage of Ryman Auditorium, where Uncle Dave played and sang his last song ever on March 1, 1952, not long before he passed away.

I’ve heard you can also be seen somewhere else?

The second location where I can be seen is on Uncle Dave’s roadside monument located just east of Woodbury, Tennessee. It was placed there by other Opry stars in 1955 to honor Uncle Dave’s great status as the “Grand Ole Man of the Grand Ole Opry.” Near the top of the tall memorial, Uncle Dave is depicted in a fine, chiseled profile. I’m shown right below in full relief, 5-strings and all! It is an honor for me, and all the other Gibson banjos, to know that our name and reputation will always be remembered as part of Uncle Dave’s music and performance legacy.

*To learn more about Uncle Dave Macon, his banjos, and his life in music, join Michael Doubler in the museum’s Performance Theater on Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 1:00pm for a talk and signing of his new book Dixie Dewdrop: The Uncle Dave Macon Story. This program is free and open to the public.

Stone marker to Uncle Dave Macon with his profile and banjo carved at the top and a memorial text to him below.
The Uncle Dave Macon monument stands east of Woodbury, Tennessee, along Route 70S. Courtesy of Macon-Doubler Family