John Rice Irwin - the Author
John Rice Irwin is an accomplished author. His latest project is titled "The Story Behind the Story of Country Music." (tentatively scheduled for bookstores in October 1999) This publication contains information on 6-8 individuals, or performing groups involved in early traditional music of the southern Appalachians.
As Irwin recounts, "I am focusing on a few individuals involved in early traditional music and want to do a story on their lives, what they did, what influences they had. For example, Earl Scruggs - when he started out on the farm - his daddy died when he was four years old. His mother didn't even own the farm. They had forty acres they lived on and Earl started working in the textile mills when he was fifteen, maybe sixteen. He worked twelve hours a day."
"I'm finishing a chapter on Grandpa Jones. And then I'm doing one on an old gentleman named Bob Douglas - born in 1900 - and that makes him ninety-nine years old. He lived down in the Cumberland Mountains. He got his first pair of shoes when he was eight years old. He learned to play the fiddle and won contests all over the U.S."
Irwin further emphasizes, "There is a pattern here. Everyone of the people I've interviewed had no encouragement - no one to say, 'Now you need to practice.' We should learn something from that."
Others to be included in this text will include Bashful Brother Oswald, Mac Wiseman, Raymond Fairchild, the Carters, and possibly the Parton family. His goal is to look at the lives - where did their influences come from? And finally, how did the small geographic region surrounding East Tennessee become a focal point for early music?
In Conclusion
If you have an interest in the heritage and culture of the Southern Appalachians and/or you just enjoy authentic music of the Southern mountains, you can't go wrong with a road trip to Norris, Tennessee, and a visit with John Rice Irwin. There is something for you at the Museum of Appalachia. The Tennessee Fall Homecoming is held the 2nd full week of October each year and includes an all star lineup of bluegrass performers. 1999 highlighted Ricky Skaggs, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Mac Wiseman, Doyle Lawson, and John Hartford among others. Earl Scruggs is scheduled to headline the 2000 edition. So check that calendar and hit the road. You won't be disappointed.
Click HERE for more information on the Museum of Appalachia.
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