There’s more to the Smokies than just industry and the great outdoors. Cultural traditions brought to the Smokies by different waves of immigrants and frontier settlers have taken on lives of their own in the mountain hollows that dot the region, and they continue to provide great entertainment to locals and visitors alike.
In particular, the music of Appalachia and the Smokies has its own rich history, one that’s kept alive today in Blount County and especially at the Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop. Read on to learn more about it, as well as how you can get a taste of it for yourself right in Blount County.
It Goes Back to the 18th Century
Immigrants from Ireland and what is now called the United Kingdom first settled in the mountain foothills of the southeastern U.S. in the late 18th century, bringing their traditional ballads and dance music (typically fast-paced violin or “fiddle” music) with them. Here, these traditions intersected with others, like banjo-playing, which came up from farther down South. Banjo playing was actually first documented in Knoxville in 1798, so it’s been a part of the region’s legacy for quite some time.
The dulcimer was also a major part of this tradition. Interestingly enough, although the first Appalachian dulcimer was played by Scots-Irish immigrants, there’s no record of anything like the dulcimer in Scotland or Ireland. The instrument itself seems to be a true Southern original, much like the Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop.
Visit Wood-N-Strings to See Dulcimers in Action
Anyone is welcome to come down to Wood-N-Strings in Townsend, Tennessee, which is not a just a shop, but a destination in its own right for fans of the region’s traditional music. The shop offers CDs and books about traditional music, as well as different kinds of dulcimers and other instruments like banjos, lap harps, and even some steel drums. Owners Mike and Connie Clemmer are happy to introduce anyone interested to the virtues of the dulcimer and the joy of playing an instrument that’s relatively easy to learn, and yet provides tremendous satisfaction to both players and audiences.
Check Out the Pickin’ Porch
If it’s summertime, it’s pickin’ time at Wood-N-Strings. Connie and Mike Clemmer play host to local and traveling musicians on their Pickin’ Porch at Wood-N-Strings every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturday at 7 PM, from May through September. Bring your lawn chairs and relax at their woodsy riverside location, while musicians share their talents and commitment to preserving tradition just for the love of it.
When winter rolls around, that doesn’t mean there’s no pickin’ left to enjoy. The Clemmers have a section on their website dedicated to sharing videos from past Pickin’ Porch evenings, so you can still listen to old and new favorites long after the camping chairs have been folded up for the season.