One of the more unfortunate stereotypes associated with bluegrass music for years is the hillbilly moonshiner. From cartoons in the 1940s through much more recent advertising images, people became familiar with the barefoot hayseed carrying a jog of moonshine and a rifle, while banjo music plays in the background.
As times have changed, and the manufacturing of moonshine spirits has moved from the hills and hollers into federally-licensed, state of the art distilleries, the affiliation with bluegrass has stuck, and is now warmly embraced by the Old Smoky Distillery in Tennessee. The company was the first to license a facility for making moonshine whiskey in the eastern part of the state, and they use bluegrass music as part of the marketing and promotion for their more than 20 flavors of old style hooch, taken from authentic family recipes handed down for generations.
In addition to daily live performances at both their Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg locations year ’round, Ole Smoky will host a major series of free concerts featuring nationally prominent bluegrass and Americana acts. Visitors to the distilleries, which have something of a family-friendly, theme park vibe, will be able to enjoy music from IIIrd Tyme Out, Volume Five, The Soggy Bottom Boys, NewTown and more over the course of the summer. This series, billed as The Summer Of ‘Shine, is co-produced by Moonstruck Management, based in nearby Jonesborough.
Things get started the first weekend in May, with a show featuring The Boxmasters, a band fronted by award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton.
Summer Of ‘Shine concerts booked to date include:
- May 3 – Boxmasters
- May 12 – Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out
- May 27 – The Bankesters
- June 16 – Hogslop String Band
- June 19 – The Baker Family
- June 24 – Les Stroud
- July 7 – The Soggy Bottom Boys
- July 12 – The Cleverlys
- July 29 – Volume Five
- August 26 – The Wayfarers
- September 8 – NewTown
- October 13 – Hogslop String Band
More concerts are expected to be added before the summer is out.
There will be no admission charge to attend any of these shows, but the folks at Ole Smoky hope you’ll pick up some of their wares while you’re there. All of their whiskey, from the traditional clear to fruit and spice flavored, and oak-aged varieties, are packaged in mason jars. You can even pick up tiny little jars of single-serving shine.
With this part of Tennessee such a hot tourist location, Ole Smoky’s Summer Of ‘Shine should bring a good many bluegrass lovers into Sevier County, TN this season.