Singing in the Sun
Hopefully some of you were lucky enough to catch our first installment of The Sun’s new life music program “Singing in the Sun” on our Face Book Site last Thursday. We will be featuring local talent every week through the end of the month and most likely into October. I’m glad of it. There is a lot of talent in these hills and always has been. With Covid 19 a constant worry, it has been difficult for a lot of musicians to find places they can play safely. The Sun wanted to do something about that so our General Manger, Jayme Marcum, came up with the idea of adding some live music to our online presence. From what we’ve seen so far it has been well received. I wish there were a way we could get it to all those who don’t have internet access. If you do have internet access just go ahead and follow The Jackson County Sun on Facebook and you can tune in and listen for free.
So, that was my shameless plug for the newspaper but it leads me where I wanted to go anyway, which is to the music of these mountains. Music is as much a part of our culture here as it has ever been anywhere and it’s certainly something that we can all be proud of. From the old gospel hymns so many of us sang at church as children, to the foot stomping bluegrass reels that graced many a front porch in my growing up days and the winsome tunes of that old folk singer Woody Guthrie and the rock and roll of Elvis, the Beatles and Little Richard, the people of Jackson County cut their teeth on music. I was no different.
Legend has it that when I was too young to talk one of the nuns from St. Paul’s Church in McKee brought me a little transistor radio which hung on the post of my crib bed always. According to my mother, I would cry if anyone turned off my radio. I don’t remember that but I do know that music has always been a part of me. My grandpa Nathan Jones played banjo and I remember sitting on a stump out in his yard dreaming of the day I would be able to make music like that. He promised to teach me but, to my great and perpetual sadness, he died when I was eight. My mother played guitar and used to sing to us and my brother, Mark, picked up the guitar and started learning to play when he was only about 12 years old. For my part, it would be years before I would ever learn to play an instrument and, in truth, I can’t say I ever mastered one. My instrument has always been the one I was born with, my voice and my talent mostly consists of being able to put words together in a way that people understand, and sometimes connect with what I’m saying. I could always sing and it’s a good thing I have some talent for it because otherwise somebody might have put a bucket over my head by now. I can’t stop making music. I’m always humming or whistling or singing some tune or other that is running round in my head. I sometimes think most of my brain is taken up with all the songs I’ve learned or written over the years. Once I learn one or write one it just sort of stays around and, for whatever reason, I can learn all the words to a song in no time.
These days I don’t need to be able to play an instrument because I happen to have married one of the best guitarists I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. We have a little band that’s mostly made up of family and we get together and make music whenever we can. There hasn’t been much opportunity this year for the reasons everyone knows but we’re hoping next year will be different. Even without the opportunity to play for anyone else we manage to learn new songs all the time because we really don’t do music for other people, though we love it when they enjoy what we do. We mostly play music because neither one of us has ever been able to not make music. It’s just a part of us. It flows through us like the creeks and rivers flow through these hills. He worries that his hands will some day give out on him and I worry that one day I won’t have the wind to make these pipes sing but as long as we can, we’ll be making music, for better or for worse.
I hope some of you got to tune in Thursday to hear The Anglin Brother’s play and sing. They’re cut from that same cloth so many Appalachian Musicians seem to be stitched from and I really believe the music will take you home, even if you’re already here.