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  • Linda

Country Roots

Ken Burns' 8 part series on Country Music was amazing. I watched every episode intently and enjoyed it thoroughly. I grew up on the sidelines of Country Music and still learned a lot. So many memories came back to me.

Daddy grew up in Gate City, Virginia, just over the Tennessee line. If you watched the first episode of the Country Music documentary on PBS, it told of the Carter Family and the first recordings of Country Music in Bristol, Tn. And it was in this area that Daddy grew up. I see how he was deeply influenced by music at the time and just what was going on around him. They say he walked to school carrying his fiddle. On front porches all across the country, before television and even radio, people gathered and sang about their lives. I bet someone in your family did too.

This was back in Virginia.

After moving to Tennessee with his family, Daddy had dreams of having a band. As a young man he sat in front of Grandpa's Paint and Body Shop and played the fiddle. A man stopped by and introduced himself and invited him to come home with him because they too played music and sang. And Mamma just told me last year that she remembers the first time he walked through the yard carrying that fiddle. The man who brought Daddy home was my Uncle Eugene. They all sang together and Daddy and Mamma fell in love. The rest is a lot of history.

Just like many of the stories of the musicians I heard on the documentary, Daddy was determined to make a living doing what he loved, playing music and singing and also writing songs. Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass Music was a friend and someone Daddy admired...a lot. Evidently, since my younger brother is named for him. He recorded one of the songs Daddy wrote, which was an honor. Mamma and Daddy stuck to the old time

Loretta Lynn

music. They began their career in the 40's and saw all the changes through the years. He had a radio show called the All Request Jamboree, where avid country music listeners would call in and request a song. He played a song for the person and they heard their name and their song played. He made the connection. Loretta Lynn came to visit and bring one of her records back when they personally came to visit radio stations. Daddy was friends with many of the Grand Ole Opry members. They understood each other because they all had the same roots.

Daddy leaning against sign, my Uncle Eugene kneeling. Notice the upright bass on the car. They were on the road to play a show.

I have memories of going to the Ryman as a little girl. We would enter through the alley into the backstage area. I think Mamma and I went around to the audience to watch once, but in all my years of living around here, my Grand Ole Opry visits were all backstage. When the new building was opened, we got to visit Roy Acuff's dressing room. His right hand man was Bashful Brother Oswald, who played the dobro. He called me "Linder".

The Ken Burns special weaves in all the changes Country Music went through. And I will say, I gravitated to Southern Rock, which had its roots in Country. I think Carol, my friend, and I saw every concert in the 70s, especially Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam. One of my favorite groups was the Marshall Tucker Band.

In the 80s I went to work at WMTS radio which was a country station that mostly played the more modern and smooth side of country...Countrypolitan as it was dubbed on the PBS special. The owners, John & Sherry McCreery were from Nashville and no stranger to the Opry and Hank Snow as well.

Yes, that is me and yes that is a record. The 8 track tapes were recorded commercials. It was a lot of fun.

I was able to go to many events while working at WMTS. A Press Pass is a handy thing to have. My sister, Betty and I got to go backstage at an Alabama concert for the press event. A great memory. Daddy and Mamma had a lifetime of music, both singing and writing. They started out in radio and had a long running television show. They had many good friends in the music business, including Johnny & June Carter Cash. I got to go along to visit their home in Hendersonville at Christmas one year.

Daddy put the instruments in the hands of my brothers, Joe and Bill, and both are very proficient at playing several instruments. Both have also written songs as well. But the love of music did not escape my sister and I. It is not uncommon for music to be a part of any of our gatherings. It always has been. But there is so much more, a love for people and a love for home and humble beginnings, yet doing the thing you love for a living.

I am so thankful for the rich heritage I have in music. And not only in music, but in faith. All of Daddy's songs were songs of faith, while Mamma's were about growing up and family. Daddy wrote about faith in his music, so I know it was in his heart. Mamma lived it out before us everyday. I got a big dose of a love for music and family. Some of my favorite sounds now are hearing my son play guitar and make up songs for my grandsons and hearing Dewey sing beside me in church. My daughter and I share favorite songs with each other.

So glad Ken Burns documented this very important part of our Country's rich music heritage, which blends so many backgrounds and tells our stories through songs. I highly recommend it. I loved their quote, Country Music is known as "3 chords and the truth".

And now my soul has settled into another type of music, that of praise and worship. Interestingly enough, that music has changed over the years too and has its roots in Nashville. The words and the melody, I can truly sing from my heart.

And for me, the words matter. It's all in the song and it reaches the soul.

Watching Ken Burns' Country Music this last week inspired me to dig out these old photos. Johnny Cash's home, which sadly burned. Johnny Cash, Billl Monroe & my family, Marty Stuart, Brenda Lee, Alabama, Crystal Gayle, Roy Acuff, Michael Martin Murphy, Grant Turner (Opry announcer) & Daddy, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Buffett

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