Kentucky * Tennessee * Ohio * West Virginia
When you think of ‘Blue Grass Country’ (Region 4), what things pop into your mind? Bluegrass (or Mountain or Country) Music? Bourbon? Horse Racing? How about… well…blue grass?!
Is there really blue grass in Kentucky? Well, no. And yes. While grass is green in every state, bluegrass has bluish-purple seed heads, so in the spring there is a hue of blue cast over the expanses of grassland when seen from a distance. The area earned its nickname after immigrants from Europe, Asia and North Africa brought these lush, dense, grass seeds with them, as bluegrass is not native to North America.
For our ‘Focused Events’ of the history of the Blue Grass States, we will center our attention on the Mountain/Country/Bluegrass Music that came from this area and has made such a major impact on the world’s music stage. We’ll concentrate on the years between 1900 & 1970.
A). A LITTLE BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO GET US STARTED:
*The folks that migrated to this area in America during the 1600’s were from England, Ireland and Scotland.
*These immigrants brought with them a unique style of music that became the roots of the bluegrass music we know today.
*Most settlers in the area lived in remote areas and wrote songs about the farms and hills that were a part of their lives. This is where the terms, ‘country or mountain’ music came from.
*The invention of the phonograph in the early 1900’s brought this type of music to all areas of the U.S.
B). FOCUSED EVENTS IN BLUE GRASS MUSIC:
*June 14, 1923: Ralph Peer records music from Fiddlin’ John Carson and creates the first “Hillbilly” record and it becomes a regional success.
*1920-1938: Bill Monroe and the Monroe Brothers from Kentucky becomes the most popular Mountain Music Group.
*September 17, 1923: Hank Williams becomes the superstar of the era, but dies at age 29. Hank initially used the pseudonym Luke the Drifter.
*November 28, 1925: The Grand Ole’ Opry begins as a radio show, called “Barn Dance” out of Nashville. It became an instant success.
*August 1927: The Carter family hits the scene.
*1938: Bill Monroe forms ‘Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys’ starting the ‘new’ form of ‘traditional’ Country Music.
*1940-1941: Roy Acuff heads the Grand Ole’ Opry traveling show going overseas to entertain WWII Servicemen.
*1946: Ralph Stanley & the Stanley Bros. make their debut.
*1940: Comedian Minnie Pearl joins the Opry.
*1954: Elvis Presley records his first country album.
*1954: Johnny Cash arrives on the Country Music scene.
*1958: Jerry Lee Lewis records, ‘Great Balls of Fire’.
*1961: Patsy Cline joins the Opry team.
*1961: The Country Music Hall of Fame is established.
*1962: Loretta Lynn becomes an Opry member.
*1966: Dolly Parton makes her music debut.
*1966: Charley Pride becomes the most successful black, country music singer.
*1968: Tammy Wynette records, ‘Stand by Your Man’.
*1975: Willie Nelson releases his bestselling album.
*1976: Loretta Lynn writes her biography.
C). A LITTLE BIT ABOUT EACH STATE:
1). KENTUCKY: Motto: ‘Let Us Give Thanks to God’
*1739 – Capt. Charles de Longueuil discovers Big Bone Lick an interesting state park located in Boone County, showcasing some of America’s Ice Age land mammals. A ‘lick’ is a place where salt is found on the surface of the earth.
*1763: France cedes the area to Britain.
*1774: First permanent settlement in Kentucky at Fort Harrod.
*1778: Thirteen-day siege of Fort Boonesborough in September was the longest siege in United States frontier history.
*1782: ‘Last battle of American Revolution’ fought at Blue Licks, near Mount Olivet.
*1792: Kentucky becomes the 15th state on June 1st.
*1797: Elijah Pepper establishes the first whiskey distillery called Woodford Reserve.
*1809: Abraham Lincoln was born.
*1840: The requirements for a whiskey to be called a bourbon become defined.
*1861: Kentucky declares itself neutral in the American Civil War.
*1862: The bloodiest Civil War Battle to be fought on Kentucky soil was the Battle of Perryville on Oct. 8th.
*1875: The first Kentucky Derby run at the newly built Churchill Downs. There is now about 1 horse for every 12 people in Kentucky!
*1892 – The radio was invented by Kentuckian Nathan B. Stubblefield of Murray.
*1920-1940: Kentucky plays a major role in the evolution of Blue Grass, Mountain, and Country Music.
*1921: Law passed making it legal for women to serve on juries.
*1939: The last public hanging takes places on August 14th.
*1939: Gold depository established at Fort Knox.
*1966: Kentucky is the first Southern state to pass a comprehensive civil rights law.
SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT BOURBON?
We’ve all heard that “all Bourbon is Whiskey, but not all Whiskey is Bourbon”, right? Well here’s the requirements for your backyard hooch to be called ‘Bourbon’:
1). It must be distilled in the U.S. (Not just in Kentucky – but only in the U.S.).
2). It must be at least 51% corn.
3). It must be aged in NEW oak charred barrels.
4). It can be no more than 160 Proof after distillation and must be less than 125 Proof going into the barrel.
5). It can be no more than 80 Proof in the bottle.
6). There must be no flavorings, coloring or other additives.
And there you have it.
Well…I guess that debunks the myth that Bourbon has to be made with Kentucky River water – even though it is thought that the limestone water from Kentucky distinguishes it from all others.
2). TENNESSEE: Motto: ‘Agriculture and Commerce’
*1540: Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto is the first white man known to come to the area.
*1673: James Needham and Gabriel Arthur of Britain explore the Tennessee River Valley.
*1754: French & Indian War
*1763: Treaty of Paris ends French & Indian War giving all lands to the east of the Mississippi River to the British.
*1769: William Bean becomes the first white settler in Tennessee building on the Watauga River. Other settlers begin coming in.
*1772: Settlers form their own government called the Watauga Association. They draw up one of the first written constitutions in North America.
*1775: Daniel Boone, working for the Transylvania Company blazes the ‘Wilderness Road’ and opens roads to the Tennessee settlements.
*1779: Jonesborough becomes the first chartered town and creates the ‘Cumberland Contract’ which establishes government and creates a court system.
*1796: Tennessee becomes the 16th State to join the Union on Jun 1st.
*1800: Congress establishes a post route along the Natchez Trace.
*1812: The worst earthquake in U.S. history happens on Feb 7th in NW Tennessee.
*1812: War of 1812 happens leaving Andrew Jackson a hero.
*1829: Hometown boy, Andrew Jackson becomes President.
*1918: Worst train wreck in U.S. history happens in Nashville on July 9th leaving 101 dead and 117 injured.
*1955: The Grand Ole’ Opry makes a television debut.
*1968: James Earl Ray assassinates Martin Luther King, J
*1976: Alex Haley wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘Roots’.
*1982: World’s Fair is held in Knoxville.
*1982: Elvis’s Graceland Mansion opened to the public on Jun 7th.
3). OHIO: Motto: ‘With God All Things Are Possible’
*1670: Rene-Robert Cavelier explores and claims the Ohio region for France.
*1750: The Ohio Company of Virginia claims the Ohio region for England.
*1787: Ohio becomes part of the Northwest Territory.
*1788: First permanent settlement in Ohio is named Marietta for France’s Queen Marie Antoinette.
*1800: Indian Territory created by the Division Act
*1803: On March 1st, Ohio becomes the Union’s 17th State.
*1811: Tecumseh defeated at the battle of Tippecanoe.
*1812: Fort Meigs constructed to protect Ohio from the British in the War of 1812.
*1832: Ohio and Erie Canals completed.
*1840: North Bend born William Henry Harrison becomes President
*1842: Last of the Indian tribes leave Ohio.
*1849: First Ohio State Fair opens.
*1861-1865: American Civil War
*1868: Ulysses S. Grant from Pleasant Point becomes President.
*1877: Rutherford B. Hayes becomes President.
*1879: Cleveland became the world’s first city to be lighted
*1880: James Garfield, from Orange, is elected President.
*1897: William McKinley becomes President.
*1903: The Wright Brothers from Dayton, become the first in flight.
*1908: William Howard Taft, from Cincinnati, is elected President.
*1920: Warren G. Harding, from Corsica, becomes President.
*1978: The Central Bluegrass Association (COBA) formed in Columbus.
*2001: Ohio is ranked in the top ten in the country for growing corn, oats, winter wheat, soybeans, sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, strawberries; raising chickens, hogs and pigs; and producing maple syrup and many dairy products.
4). WEST VIRGINIA: Motto: ‘Mountaineers Are Always Free’
*1670’s: Exploration of West Virginia under John Lederer.
*1719: Presbyterians founded the first church in West Virginia, Pocomoke Church at Shepherdstown.
*1725: Western Appalachians explored by fur traders.
*1731: Morgan Morgan establishes first settlement in present West Virginia near Bunker Hill in Berkeley County.
*1732: Scotch-Irish, Welsh, and German pioneers settle the western portions of Virginia and Harper’s Ferry establishing the Appalachian Folk Music tradition. .
*1742: Coal Discovered on Coal River near Racine. Coal Mines pop up all over.
*1744: Territory between the Allegheny Mountains and the Ohio River ceded to the English by Indians of the Six Nations.
*1749: First recorded settlement west of the Alleghenies made in Marlinton.
*1754-1763: French & Indian War.
*1771: First Natural gas discovery in West Virginia.
*1782: Only Revolutionary War battle fought at Wheeling.
*1830: Separation of western Virginia from eastern Virginia proposed by The Wheeling Gazette.
*1831: Virginia’s political division is enhanced by slavery debates.
*1836: First railroad reached state at Harpers Ferry.
*1847: First telegraph line reaches W.V at Wheeling.
*1857: Railroad reaches Parkersburg.
*1861-1865: American Civil War. West Virginia contributes soldiers to both the Union and Confederate Armies.
*1863: West Virginia admitted to the Union as 35th state on June 2oth.
*1866: State constitution denies citizenship to all persons who had supported the Confederacy.
*1871: Black males get the vote.
*1885: The National Gas Company of West Virginia established.
*1897: Mary Harris “Mother” Jones sent into West Virginia to organize miners.
What fun it is to venture into the hills of the Blue Grass Region! Be prepared for some fun, some music, some incredible scenery and some down-home everything!
Here is a area where you can relax, be comfortable, casual, and make some new friends! Just don’t help yourself to someone’s backyard moonshine or you might find a buckshot in yer breeches!