Just about as far northeast in Tennessee as you can get, you’ll find a county that is half Cherokee National Forest and half Watauga Lake. Nestled within those hills of Johnson County lies Mountain City (appropriately named), and each year a celebration takes place honoring the iconic old-time mountain music style that shaped country music as we know it.
The four-day Long Journey Home Tour and Festival, celebrating “Legacies” this year, runs through Sept. 1.
On Friday evening, starting at 6 p.m., Buskin’ on Main Street brings the small town to life with music, friends, and good eating. An extended trailer for the newest Appalachian Memory Keepers’ film, “Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson” and several student films will premiere at dusk. Grayson’s short career produced “The Ballad of Tom Dooley,” “Train 45,” “Handsome Molly,” and about 40 other songs that became the standards of bluegrass and early country music.
On Saturday, Aug. 31, the Musical Heritage Homecoming Tour begins at The Old Mill Music Park, where the Kody Norris show will perform more music from G.B. Grayson. Maps will be available to guide visitors to heritage sites throughout the county, each with live music. At 11 a.m., the next stop is at Farmers State Bank on Church Street in downtown Mountain City, where the new “Legacies” mural will be unveiled. The mural was painted by participants in the mural workshop led by artist Cristy Dunn. Each mural represents a Johnson County album that influenced the history of early country music. This new mural is the sixth in a series that honors the musical heritage of Johnson County.
Guests are encouraged to bring a quilt or lawn chair and be ready to take a trip back in time to experience Clarence “Tom” Ashley’s signature clawhammer banjo style played right on his front porch by Kenny Price, who learned from Tom himself.
Saturday’s tour concludes, as always, at the Fred Price Homeplace, nestled high in the mountains. The Piney Woods Boys will perform selections from the album, “Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s”– Doc Watson’s first album which is now on the National Recording Registry. An open community jam will finish out the day.
Long Journey Home, which organizers say is “about as real as it gets,” closes with a traditional gospel Sunday Singin’ at 2 p.m. at the historic Heritage Hall in downtown Mountain City. “If you were wondering whether authentic Appalachia still exists, look no further,” organizers stress.
To learn more, call Cristy Dunn at (423) 957-6346 or Evelyn Cook at (423) 727-8700, email [email protected] or visit www.longjourneyhome.net.