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Music produced by East Tennesseans up for Grammy award

8:09 PM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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  • Photo Courtesy of the Great Smoky Mountains Association

In 1939, a linguist from California was hired by the National Park to record the dialect and music of the people who were about to leave their homes in the Smoky Mountains. Those recordings are now up for a Grammy Award on February 10. 
"Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music is a collection of rare recordings from the Great Smoky Mountains that were collected in 1939 by Joseph "Sergeant" Hall," said Dr. Ted Olson, Professor of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University.

Hall collected the sounds of the people who were moving out of the mountains so that it could be a National park.

"In addition to collecting the stories and sayings Hall decided to record some of the music of the people of the Smokies," said Olson. "Frankly, we don't know much about the music of the Smokies so that's why this CD is so valuable. It's one of the best documents--recording what Smoky Mountain music sounded like before the National Park."

The music had been a little known secret until 2010 when the Great Smoky Mountains Association released a CD titled Old-Time Smoky Mountains Music.

"We re-mastered and converted them from their former form on acetate and aluminum discs to digitized form to get them on the CD. John Fleenor mastered them at ETSU so that they sounded natural and life-life. Michael Montgomery and I wrote liner notes and Steve Kemp and Kent Cave (with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) promoted and produced it to the general public," said Olson.

Little by little, folks began to hear about the CD and the music it contained.

"Originally it was only offered at the Great Smoky Mountains Visitor Centers. After about 2 years the Grammy committee heard about it and they put it into the nominee finalists for the Best Historical Album Category," said Olson.  The team will face big names in the music industry including: Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Woody Guthrie.

"We're excited that the world is listening to the CD and enjoying it. Win or lose, it's a victory for Joseph Hall and the people of the Smokies that their music is finally being recognized."

All the proceeds of the sales of Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music go to help the Great Smoky Mountains Association with  educational programs to benefit the park and it's visitors.

"All that profit goes into the park which I think would make "Sergeant" Hall pleased, he loved the people and the place. He would be proud that it was an educational project that was benefitting a lot of people."

Olson and the team behind the CD say they're proud of the nomination but even more proud of what it's done for the people who gave up their lives in the mountains so that all of us can enjoy the National Park.

"It's very satisfying personally personally and far more importantly, it's satisfying because it says something about our community," said Olson. "Our part of the world, our Appalachia and people had been overlooked, their voices hadn't been heard up until now."

Recordings included on the CD:  "My Home is in the Smoky Mountain", "Sourwood Mountain", "John Henry", "Don't Forget Me Little Darling", "On Top of Old Smoky", "Mule Skinner Blues", "Ground Hog, Up On Big Pigeon". Click here to learn more.

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