West Tennessee ‘Loves’ Bluegrass Music

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By Carolyn Tomlin
Guest Columnist

One of the best kept secrets of West Tennessee is the Golden Circle Opry where bluegrass, gospel and old time country music is played. Scheduled at 5:00 pm, the second Saturday, November through April, the sounds of string instruments can be heard at South Jackson Community Center, Malesus Park, Hwy. 18, South, Jackson, Tenn.
The Golden Circle Opry started as a place to gather, listen, and perform the old-time music. Now in the 20th year, twelve bands rotate on the six-month schedule and two perform for each event. John and Patsy
Few are the producers and managers of the Opry and Linda Kauffman represents the City of Jackson. The Jackson Recreation and Parks Dept. provide the building, utilities and manage the concession stand.
John Few has been involved in music as an avocation most of his life. “When I was a teenager in the Memphis area, I had a five-member band known as ‘Tiarra,” says Few. “We played mostly the Beetles music, which was popular then. From percussion, I moved to string instruments. One of the reason I enjoyed this music, was the environment—which was family oriented. And this hasn’t changed; it’s still a place for allages and a good atmosphere.” Two bands that Few manages and performs in are the Possum Road Band and Providence Road Band.
Few relate that many of those involved in playing this style music grew up listening to bluegrass music on the radio. In the 1920s and 1930s Bill Monroe, a native Kentucky, called his band “Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys.” His band started a new form of “traditional” county music. Appearing on the Grand Ole Opry in 1939, Monroe and his band became one of the most popular groups to come out of the Nashville scene.
Between 1948-1969, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt and The Foggy Mountain Boys introduced bluegrass music to national television, radio and carried the music all over America.
Many of those who play this old-time music grew up in small churches where they heard Southern Gospel and used Red-Back Hymns. The bluegrass heard today reflects influences from a wide variety of music, including jazz, contemporary country, Celtic, rock and; roll, and Southern gospel. Ken Burns recently produced a documentary of County Music.
Bluegrass festivals are world-wide. The trend is growing as several television and movies feature soundtracks of bluegrass, including, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bonnie and Clyde; Clyde, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? In addition to the Opry, two other events are planned in the area: Oct 12, 2019 – 1:00 to 5:00 PM, “3 rd Annual Hatchie Bottom Bluegrass Jamboree” West TN Delta Heritage Center, Brownsville, TN Oct 19, 2019 – 2:00 to 8:00 PM, Grand Opening “Papa Daddy’s Restaurant_ Mercer, TN
The Golden Circle Opry not only pulls people from West Tennessee, but also North Alabama and North Mississippi. People of all ages attend, listen and some dance to the music. A donation of $5 per adult will be accepted at the door. Concessions offered by Southwest District Senior/
Olympics. For information: gcopry@gmail.com