Surgoinsville bluegrass stage among first venues selected for Tennessee Music Pathways recognition

Jeff Bobo • Oct 20, 2018 at 11:30 AM

SURGOINSVILLE — For nearly 20 years Bellamy Hardware has been a stop along the “pathway” for many of the nation’s top bluegrass performers. Thanks to a new Tennessee Tourism Commission program, it may soon be on the pathway for lots of new visitors as well.

On Friday, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Division Manager Dave Jones presented the venue with a new sign designating it as a stop on the Tennessee Music Pathways tour.

Bellamy Hardware hosts concerts on the third Saturday of each month, so Friday’s sign presentation was just in time to be appreciated by what would likely be a packed house Saturday night.

Tennessee Music Pathways is an online guided tour similar to two other popular Tennessee tourism initiatives including the Appalachian Quilt Trail, launched in the mid 2000s, and featuring online maps where quilting enthusiasts can find unique quilt designs painted on buildings across the state — including one on the Bellamy Hardware building.

Just a few years ago, Tennessee launched its Civil War Trail, which features maps available online or at interstate rest areas of locations and routes to see locations of Civil War historical significance from one end of Tennessee to the other — including one at Surgoinsville’s Riverfront Park.

What is Tennessee Music Pathways?

Tennessee Music Pathways is a new Tennessee tourism initiative featuring a website (www.tnvacation.com/tennessee-music-pathways) highlighting historic music venues involving seven musical genres in all 95 counties.

Phase I is just now starting with more than 200 locations receiving statues, murals, attractions, historical markers and experiences identifying birthplaces, resting places, hometowns, and locations of Tennessee’s musical pioneers and legends.

“This is an initiative that connects the sites, and the musicians, and the venues, and historic places that are music-related in Tennessee,” Jones told the Times News Friday. “There are seven genres of music that call Tennessee home: blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly and rock-’n’-roll. What we’ve done is create pathways, or connections, to all the musical stories that are in Tennessee. And, if you look at a lot of the music across the country, and even the world, you can find roots that take you all the way back to Tennessee.”

Jones noted that signs and markers will continue to be installed across the state for years to come, and communities are encouraged to submit local music history and related assets that meet the criteria to be considered for inclusion on the Pathways tour.

Why was Bellamy Hardware selected?

Located on Main Street in downtown Surgoinsville, the Bellamy Hardware building was constructed in 1908 and served as a hardware store, grocery store, feed and seed, and John Deere dealership for about 90 years.

For the past 19 years, however, co-owner Johnny Greer has operated Bellamy hardware as a live music venue, with a 170-seat stage area in what used to be a feed and seed storage room that takes up half the building.

Despite the venue’s small size, some of bluegrass’ top charting musicians have played there over the years, often utilizing the stage for recordings due to the room’s exceptional acoustics.

Some of the performers who have appeared at Bellamy Hardware include: Rhonda Vincent, Marty Raybon, The Darrell Webb Band, Tim White, Marshall Wilborn, Lynn Morris and the Johnson Mountain Boys.

Jones noted, however, there’s a rock-’n’-roll element to Bellamy’s story as well. Greer’s brother Billy, who is the bass player for the Rock supergroup Kansas, is an occasional performer on the Bellamy’s stage as well.

“It’s is a very popular venue for concerts, and it’s just a home for authentic music,” Jones said. “Not just bluegrass, but they also feature country, gospel, and rock-’n’-roll. So aside from the building itself having historical significance, and all the great musical performers who’ve played there, it also covers four of the seven musical genres that Pathways is highlighting.”

How did Bellamy’s become a concert hall?

Greer, who is an accomplished bluegrass performer in his own right, approached third generation store operator Eddie Bellamy in the late 1990s and asked him if he ever decided to sell the store to give Greer the first chance to buy it.

Greer’s intention from the beginning was to transform the store into a live music venue, and after Mr. Bellamy passed away, his daughter remembered her dad had asked to give Greer the first chance to purchase the building.

Greer partnered with his brother-in-law Mickey Houston to buy the property in 1999 and transformed one side into an antique store and the other side into a concert hall.

“With these wooden walls, I think we have the best acoustics for live music of anywhere I know of in this little building right here,” Greer said. “It’s really nice to receive this honor from the state, and I hope we’ll get some people traveling through who’ll stop and come see us. It’s sort of like the Crooked Road music trail in Virginia that has generated a lot of tourism for them. I think this will here too when it gets established, and I’m just real proud to be the first one from Hawkins County, and the area, picked to be on it. We enjoy doing the music and we’re going to keep doing it as long as we’re able.”

 Times News file video about Bellamy’s Hardware from 2017:

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