Category: Bluegrass Trails

Kenny Baker | Jenkins, KY | Bluegrass Trails

“We did our pre-departure homework, so we were confident at the time that we’d find some reference in Jenkins or neighbouring Burdine/East Jenkins to master fiddler and former local boy Kenny Baker, best known for his 25-year tenure with Bill Monroe, the longest tenure of any of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. But no, nothing. Not on the streets of the town, nor among the foliage of the town’s Sam Bentley Cemetery. We came up short.”

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Lester Flatt & Benny Martin | Sparta, TN | Bluegrass Trails

“… Sparta is small-town musical Tennessee with some big-name former residents, one of which, Lester Flatt, is one of the most influential proponents of the bluegrass sound he helped to pioneer. Present-day Sparta is grabbing this association with both hands and running with it, even going so far as to brand itself as ‘Bluegrass USA’, and who could blame it if doing so is going to attract the likes of bluegrass-lovin’ us.”

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Tom T. Hall | Olive Hill, KY | Bluegrass Trails

“Portions of the Carter County town of Olive Hill, KY … were as quiet as we’d come to expect from rural Kentucky, but the town is both big enough (population over 1,500) to boast some activity and its residents curious enough to approach us wondering what on earth we obvious out-of-towners were doing poking around somewhere like Olive Hill. “Blame Tom T.”, we said. “Who else?”

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Jimmy Martin | Sneedville, TN | Bluegrass Trails

“… Sneedville, Tennessee, may be one of the poorest towns in the US… but at least it can lay claim to being the hometown of Jimmy ‘King of Bluegrass’ Martin. Suffice it to say, this is the only reason we found ourselves on the streets of the town searching out signs of Sneedville’s favourite son while receiving inquisitive stares from the few locals we encountered; Sneedville is a friendly town (we got free coffee), but it’s still the kind of place where everybody knows everybody else and if you ain’t from round these parts then you’re gonna stand out. We did.”

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Stanley Bros. / Jim & Jesse | Coeburn, VA | Bluegrass Trails

“Very few of the sleepy settlements along southwestern Virginia’s musical Crooked Road, if any, can top Coeburn‘s All-Star lineup of past and present bluegrass A-listers. The dual brother duo of Jim & Jesse McReynolds and Ralph & Carter Stanley are already bluegrass royalty, something Ralph Stanley II, the present generation of Clinch Mountain musicians, may attain someday.”

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Keith Whitley | Sandy Hook, KY | Bluegrass Trails

“We returned to Sandy Hook in 2017. More bluegrass road-trippin’. Yes, the Keith Whitley statue is still there in the town’s Elliot County Memory Garden and the old timers are still frequenting the Frosty Freeze Restaurant to catch up with the local gossip over some simple, hearty fare. Needless to say, it was all very familiar. And all very familiarly quiet.”

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Ricky Skaggs | Cordell, KY | Bluegrass Trails

“Rural Kentucky is home to many a country and bluegrass music heavy-hitter, two of which – one dead, one very much alive – were of particular interest to us on this day, and we went searching for signs of them in two Kentucky towns that you’d probably otherwise have no reason to visit. First up was Cordell, KY boyhood home of one Ricky Skaggs.”

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The Crooked Road, VA | Bluegrass Trails

“… today old-time music and bluegrass festivals are as linked to the Virginia hills as the dark strands of dogwood and fir trees. The state even honours this legacy via its very own Heritage Music Trail along its so-called Crooked Road, a 300-mile-long regional route connecting 19 counties, four cities and over 50 towns and communities where heritage music is celebrated year-round.”

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