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Festival pays tribute to ‘Papa Joe’

Entertainment Staff • Aug 30, 2013 at 10:01 AM

He’s a well-known old-time musician, entertainer and educator. On Sunday, Sept. 1, Dr. Joseph “Papa Joe” Smiddy will be the guest of honor at the 11th Annual Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival, beginning at 5 p.m. in the amphitheater at Natural Tunnel State Park.

The event is presented by the Cove Ridge Foundation to promote the musical heritage of the area’s Appalachian Mountain culture. It also honors the tireless work of “Papa Joe.”

In addition to being an accomplished old-time banjo picker, Smiddy is chancellor emeritus at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. All the money raised at the festival goes into a scholarship fund for local students.

This year’s featured performers are Dr. Joe Smiddy & Reedy Creek; the ETSU Old Time Pride Band; ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band; Burchette, Faust and Peak; and Folk Soul Revival.

Dr. Joe Smiddy & Reedy Creek, based in Kingsport, have played for more than four decades in venues like the Carter Fold, Clinch Mountain Music Fest, Dock Boggs Festival and Bluegrass on Broad. Inspired by the broad tastes of Papa Joe, the band plays a variety of original and old-time music, and features the traditional claw-hammered banjo playing of Papa Joe, a storyteller as well as a musician.

Papa Joe has played with famous musicians, the not-so-famous and musicians who are just beginning, and he does not distinguish between them.

He loves to encourage children and looks forward to performing each summer at Mountain Empire Community College’s annual Mountain Music School. Papa Joe started Pickin’ in the Park, held select Sunday afternoons during the summer months at Natural Tunnel, with the desire to encourage children and families to play music.

The ETSU Bluegrass and Old Time Pride bands feature students enrolled in East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program. Founded in 1982 by Jack Tottle, it is the oldest established program of its kind at any four-year institution and has thrived on the philosophies of preserving the musical traditions rooted in Appalachian culture while at the same time encouraging creativity and the development of prevailing styles. Students from around the globe come to ETSU exclusively to study the music of the mountains in the rich cultural hearth of Northeast Tennessee.

Burchette, Faust, and Peak was formed in January 2013 by members who have many decades of combined experience. Howard Burchette has been playing guitar, mandolin and fiddle for more than 60 years and has performed with a number of artists, including country singer Conway Twitty.

The Faust brothers, Bill and Elmer, each have played music for many years, although this is their first project together. Bill, who picked up bass and guitar at the age of 15, played in rock bands in the 1960s and later became interested in bluegrass music. Elmer, also known as “Moe,” has been playing harmonica for more than 50 years, performing primarily with church groups. The brothers play in their church band every Sunday.

Herb Peak is a newcomer to bluegrass, but was a music major at ETSU and is the pastor of First Christian Church, where Bill and Elmer attend. Most of his experience is in playing brass instruments, but he is now providing the low end on the bass guitar.

Members of Folk Soul Revival describe themselves as a harmony-drenched, boot-stomping, rowdy, rootsy Americana band from the Appalachian Mountain region of Virginia/Tennessee. They have just released their third album, “Prompting The Dapperness.” The completely fan-funded album — following a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign — returns to the formula that has continued to make the band so endearing.

In 2010, Folk Soul Revival’s second album, “Words Off the Tongue,” was ranked among the Top 15 Albums of the Year by No Depression magazine. “Prompting the Dapperness” reached No. 12 on the iTunes country charts and No. 99 on the overall charts on the day of its release, and has already charted on Billboard Magazine’s Heatseekers Charts at No. 10 (South Atlantic division).

In 2011, the Virginia Tourism Board named Folk Soul Revival the Virginia Band of the Year and in 2012, readers of Virginia Living Magazine ranked the band among the top three in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Papa Joe Smiddy Mountain Music Festival is an official event of Duffield Daze.

All tickets are general admission and may be purchased for $10 in advance or $15 at the gate. Children 12 and under get in free with a paying adult. To purchase tickets by phone, call (276) 940-2674. Tickets are also available at Natural Tunnel; the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce; the ETSU Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music Office in Johnson City; the University of Virginia at Wise Bookstore; Addington Oil in Weber City; and Midtown Quick Stop in Gate City.

About 200 bench seats with backs are available under the amphitheater roof. Festival goers are urged to bring a lawn chair or blanket. Food and drinks are welcome, but no alcohol is allowed on Natural Tunnel State Park property.

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