The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development unveiled four new historical markers this week, two of which honor heroes in the world of bluegrass music. Both Doyle Lawson and Barry Bales attended unveilings of their Tennessee Music Pathways markers in Kingsport last Thursday (June 10).
Doyle, of course, has been entertaining bluegrass music lovers now for almost 60 years. He has worked with nearly everyone in the second generation of bluegrass, from Jimmy Martin and J.D. Crowe to Tony Rice and Charlie Wallers. His touring band, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver has topped bluegrass charts and sold out festivals since 1979, with more than three dozen albums still in print. Though he has announced the retirement of the band after the 2022 season, he remains one of the biggest draws on the bluegrass circuit.
Barry came to national prominence playing bass with Alison Krauss & Union Station, a position he still holds when Alison tours. Since joining Union Station in 1990, he has become a first call bassist, a noted producer, and a songwriter on the country and bluegrass scene. He is also the owner and operator of Bales Farm in Mosheim, TN raising livestock on land that has been in his family since 1886. He and his wife offer pasture-raised beef, chicken, and pork plus fresh eggs to the east Tennessee market.
The installation of these markers is an ongoing project of the Tennessee Tourism Department, who are working to find artists all across the state, both current and historic, to be honored with a Music Pathways marker, based on some specific criteria.
Jill Kilgore, Public Relations and Media Manager for the Department, tells us that while they have already located several hundred possible sites for markers, they are also asking the public to submit ideas, with an eye towards having multiple markers in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
“Our department worked with the state historian and did internal research to identify more than 500 possible locations for markers, including birthplaces, resting places, hometowns, high schools and churches, locations of first-known recordings or performances of the musical pioneers and legends.”
Bales was able to attend the unveiling last week with his wife, Aliceson, their son, Marshall, and his parents, and says that the timing was perfect.
“What an amazing honor! It’s always special when anybody takes notice of your work, but to be recognized this way by my hometown and my state is simply over the top. I have been so blessed throughout my career to be a small part of some amazing music created with many amazing musicians, and I’ve made so many wonderful friends along the way. I was thrilled to be included in this list of honorees – especially to be in the same group as one of my all-time heroes, Doyle Lawson. And it just happened to fall on my 31st anniversary as a member of Alison Krauss and Union Station.”
We weren’t able to each up with Lawson for comment, though he shared the following with his followers on Facebook when he got home from the ceremony.
“What a day this has been. I, along with renowned bass player Barry Bales, blues man Brownie McGhee, and blues guitarist, Leslie Riddle, were honored by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the City of Kingsport in receiving our individual Tennessee Music Pathways Marker. My heartfelt thanks to all you who made this such a humbling but enjoyable day!”
Banjo player Charlie Cushman had previously been honored with a Music Pathways marker. Other markers of interest to bluegrass fans includes ones for the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree, the Uncle Dave Macon festival, the Sutton Old Time Music Hour, and for Jamie Dailey, The Isaacs, and George Gruhn Guitars. There are also markers for the Bill Monroe statue at the Ryman Auditorium, The Station Inn, The Down Home, and the Savannah Bluegrass Festival. A complete list of markers is available online.
Congratulations to Doyle and Barry, and all who have been honored in this way!