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The Music of the Mountains: African American artists in Appalachia

Black music has been present in East Tennessee since the 1790s. Since then, many artists have contributed to the tapestry of sounds Appalachia is known for.

William Winnett

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Published: 8:41 AM EST February 7, 2023
Updated: 2:05 PM EST February 7, 2023

From Elvis to Usher, Timberlake to Tina Turner to Three Six Mafia, the state of Tennessee has produced innumerable musically gifted artists. 

In the Great Smoky Mountains, Appalachian music birthed the sounds we know as country, bluegrass and rock and roll. For every superstar like Dolly Parton or Kenny Chesney, there’s a Clarence Beeks or a Leola Manning, artists that helped pave the way for all future Tennessee musicians but have faded into obscurity since their heyday.

In celebration of Black History Month, we shed a light on these forgotten musical figures. 

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