JOHNSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE – Mountain country-bluegrass music gives voice to the soul of a proud but down-to-earth people. Holding no place for pretense or putting-on-airs, the unique sound that has been handed down through generations of Johnson Countians remains pure and undiluted.
“The Long Journey Home,” the second annual celebration of the musical heritage belonging to the area, will take place here the first weekend in September. This year’s event will begin on Friday in Mountain City incorporating other aspects of local arts into the activities and continue on Saturday with a musical tour across the county.
In June of last year, a small but dedicated and enthusiastic group began to weave various ideas together into an event they hoped would portray the rich cultural heritage of the people and music of Johnson County. By September, their tapestry of ideas gave birth to “The Long Journey Home – A Musical Heritage Homecoming Tour.” From its inception, the celebration was a resounding success.
The committee, made up of Evelyn Cook, Cristy Dunn, Lois Dunn, Steven Long, Celia Pennington, Temple Reece, Janice Russell, Karla Prudhomme, Minnie Miller, Wanda Payne, and Judy McGuire, wrapped the event around the unveiling of Cristy Dunn’s second mural in her musical heritage series. The revealing of “The Birth of a Ballad: The Capture of Tom Dooley” in downtown Mountain City on Saturday morning marked the beginning of the day’s tour of Johnson County’s musical past, present and future.
Although a large crowd had assembled for the mural unveiling, those responsible for the celebration remained apprehensive about interest and attendance at the various sites on the tour throughout the day.
One of those locations was the spot in Doe Creek where Tom Dula was arrested for the murder of Laura Foster. Here John Winer and Kyman Matherly would be playing death ballads on the creek bank.
“As I drove toward the place where Tom Dula was arrested,” said Evelyn Cook, “I prayed that there would be three cars there.”
As she neared the destination and it came into view, Cook could barely believe her eyes.
“There were cars parked all along the creek and more looking for parking places!” said a grateful and excited Cook.
All the other stops on the day’s tour proved to draw equal interest. The committee knew “The Long Journey Home” was a success and was the beginning of an annual tour and celebration of music in Johnson County.
This year’s celebration will begin on Friday evening, September 2nd with the unveiling of Dunn’s latest mural in downtown Mountain City. Her third mural, entitled “First Sunrise,” features Fiddlin’ Fred Price, Clint Howard, and Clarence “Tom” Ashley who were all local musicians and the trio who helped introduce Doc Watson to the world and usher in the folk music revival of the 1960s.
For the rest of the story, please pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.