It’s no surprise our mountainous area inspired lots of singers.
1) "Rocky Top"
"Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me. Good ole Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee."
When Rocky Top rings outs, you know "It’s Football Time in Tennessee." For die hard Vols fans – a day without "Rocky Top" is a day without sunshine.
Once there was a girl on rocky top, Half bear the other half cat. Wild as a mink, sweet as soda pop, I still dream about that."
*We haven’t been able to verify the existence of "Half bear, half cat" anywhere in East Tennessee, but we’re still looking.
2) "A Boy Named Sue"
"Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July. And I just hit town and my throat was dry, I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew. At an old saloon on a street of mud, There at a table, dealing stud, Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me "Sue."
Johnny Cash’s "A Boy Name Sue" probably doesn’t paint East Tennessee in the best light, but it does prove that we’ve got a lot of grit. If you travel to Gatlinburg, we suggest you don’t follow in the Man in Black’s footsteps – that’s a good way to get arrested. Another suggestion – don’t name your boy Sue.
3) "My Tennessee Mountain Home"
In my Tennessee mountain home, Life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh. In my Tennessee mountain home, Crickets sing in the fields near by."
If you mention East Tennessee and music in the same sentence and don’t include Dolly Parton, then "Bless Your Heart." Nothing says East Tennessee better than Dolly’s "My Tennessee Mountain Home." ‘Nuff said.
4) "Back Where I Come From"
"Some say it’s a backward place, narrow minds on a narrow wage. But I make it a point to say, that’s where I come from."
Kenny Chesney is perhaps one of the most famous faces from East Tennessee. The country superstar hales from Luttrell and graduated from Gibbs High School. His hit "Back Where I Come From" definitely resonates for many who call East Tennessee home.
Perhaps one of the most memorable, Knoxville concerts of all time was when Kenny took the stage in Neyland Stadium during the summer of 2003. Before a packed stadium of roaring fans, Kenny belted out, "I’m an old East Tennessean. Well I’m proud as anyone. That’s where I come from."
We’re proud of you too, Kenny!
5) "All My Ex’s Live In Texas"
"All my ex’s live in Texas. And Texas is the place I’d dearly love to be. But all my ex’s live in Texas. And that’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee."
Nothing is scarier than a woman’s scorn. And George Strait’s "All My Ex’s Live is Texas" can definitely attest to that fear. Fortunately for George, there’s lots of great hide outs in our area, but he better think twice before he crosses a East Tennessee woman.
6) "Wagon Wheel"
"Walkin’ to the south out of RoanokeI, caught a trucker out of Philly had a nice long toke. But he’s a-heading west from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City, Tennessee. I gotta get a move on before the sun. I hear my baby calling my name and I know that she’s the only one. And if I die in Raleigh at least I will die free."
"Wagon Wheel" is about a hitchhiking journey that winds through the Cumberland Gap and Johnson City. Several artists have made this song a hit – Old Crow Medicine Show, Darius Rucker, etc.
But I bet you didn’t know Bob Dylan penned many lyrics in this song. Rolling Stone‘s Andy Greene said "Wagon Wheel" actually stems from Dylan’s "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" soundtrack series. According to the article, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Critter Fuqua got a bootleg copy of the "Pat Garrett." His bandmate Ketch Secor said he couldn’t make out Dylan’s mumbled lyrics at times, so the song changed a bit when Secor wrote out the verses. The rest is history.
7) "The Ballad of Thunder Road"
"Blazing’ right through Knoxville, out on Kingston Pike. Then right outside of Bearden, there they made the fatal strike. He left the road at ninety, that’s all there is to say. The devil got the moonshine and the mountain boy that day."
"Thunder Road" tells you all you need to know about a Tennessee moonshiner. Not only did Robert Mitchum sing the song, but he also starred in, wrote and produced the movie "Thunder Road," which made this ballad famous.
Bet you’ll never think of Kingston Pike the same.
8) "The Tennessee Waltz"
I was dancin’ with my darlin’ to the Tennessee Waltz. When an old friend I happened to see. I introduced her to my loved one and while they were dancin.’ My friend stole my sweetheart from me."
If you’ve been to the Tennessee Theater on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville, you may have heard its "Mighty Wurlitzer" belt out "The Tennessee Waltz." Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King wrote the song in the 1940s. But the voice of Patti Page made the country favorite a major hit in 1950.
This list would have taken all day, so we had to cut it off at eight. But here’s a list of a few honorable mentions:
- "Copperhead Road" by Steve Earle
- "Smokey Mountain Rain" by Ronnie Milsap
- "Tennessee Homesick Blues" by Dolly Parton
- "Southern Comfort Zone" by Brad Paisley
- "Chattanooga Choo Choo" by Glenn Miller and The Andrews Sisters