If you are visiting the city of Loudon, especially during the summer months, you will find it difficult to miss the distinct sound of East Tennessee that will often be heard drifting across the city especially during the summer months when there is an abundance of festivals, street parties and other events going on. Many of the bars and restaurants also have live bands performing in the evenings particularly during the weekends and much of their sound is still deeply rooted in the music that originated in the region back in the days when the early settlers first arrived from Europe. The English, Scottish and Irish were among the first to emigrate and brought with them their own hymns, ballads and fiddle tunes which evolved over the centuries what is best described as a cross between country and folk music. Of course, being in such close proximity to Knoxville which is deemed to be the birthplace of country music, this is not particularly surprising however it was back in the 18th century that the genre associated with Appalachian music really began.
Many of the immigrants who settled in the area from the 1700s onwards brought the traditional musical styles of their homeland with them and the fiddle in particular was one of the most prominent instruments used in their music. Other instruments include the guitar, fretted dulcimer and banjo with the latter being introduced to the area by African slaves and later became popular with white musicians in the region during the 19th century. African-American musical styles such as jazz and blues also greatly influenced the Appalachian sound as did religious hymns and gospel music. The Bluegrass music that is synonymous with the regions of Tennessee and other nearby states is also deemed to have evolved from the Appalachian country music genre with a few minor variations, as it is traditionally played on acoustic stringed instruments like the fiddle, five-string banjo, string bass and mandolin while the harmonica is also used sometimes too.
It was however the success and popularity of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1940s that really launched the regions musical style onto a national – and later an international – stage when what had previously been referred to as “hillbilly” music, became known as country music. Over the decades since, this has proved to be one of the most popular genres in the whole of the USA producing a multitude of stars including the legendary Dolly Parton who was born and raised in the nearby Great Smokey Mountain range. The folk music revival in the 1960s also had a great impact on this genre with artists such as Bob Dylan performing original as well as rewritten versions of Appalachian songs as have Jerry Garcia and even Bruce Springsteen which certainly helped bring the genre to the attention of a much wider audience both nationally and internationally. If you are in the Loudon area and get the chance to participate in an event with live music provided by local bands you will be sure of a lively evening with lots of singing, dancing and foot tapping that will certainly enhance your cultural experience of the region.