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Mountain Valley Culture

Local Voices
Photograph courtesy of Tennessee Tourism

The rolling hills of East Tennessee form the cradle of country music. Inspired by the traditional folklore, dialect, and music of early English and Scottish settlers in Appalachia, the simple tunes of old time music and bluegrass gave birth to the music careers of legends like Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Carter family, as well as the first ever recorded country music.

The local agricultural economy that incubated this early form of Tennessee music soon gave way to enterprising industrialists, and river cities such as Knoxville and Chattanooga became bustling Meccas of factories and foundries. In the early1940s Big Band legend Glenn Miller and his orchestra captured Chattanooga’s rise as the “Dynamo of Dixie” with his famous song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The song put Chattanooga on the map, as the region developed into a Southern crossroads within easy traveling distance of Nashville, Birmingham, and Atlanta.

After decades of declining industry, river city downtowns are being revitalized by the arts. Outdoor activities are attracting world-class rowing teams, kayakers, rock climbers, and cyclists. Summer outdoor music festivals draw crowds to parks and waterfronts. Today the East Tennessee River Valley is rediscovering a cultural economy along its riverbanks, and the new focus is on quality of life.

– Melissa Turner