Music has always played an integral role in the lives of the people of Southern Appalachia. For this simple and resourceful folk, music was a powerful and constant companion; it was a creative outlet that provided hope, joy, and solace; it lightened their burdens, and also spread happiness to others. No matter what you call the music now—bluegrass, country, old-time, hillbilly—it is the music of a unique breed of people who were part of one of the most fascinating music stories in this nation’s history.
It is most curious that a people from this small, rural region in the Southern Appalachian Mountains has had so much influence on the music listened to by people throughout the world. Some of these artists emerged to become music legends, while some never played outside the confines of their homes. The exhibit hall profiles a number of regional musicians, in addition to household names like Bill Monroe, Roy Acuff, The Carter Family, and Uncle Dave Macon.
This exhibit also features an extensive collection of musical instruments; banjos, guitars, fiddles, and dobros are just a few of the many different types of instruments on display. True to form, the Appalachian people were both industrious and creative when fashioning their own musical instruments. Our collection includes banjos made from ham cans, hubcaps, and cookie tins. There’s also a guitar made from a toilet seat, and even a fiddle made from the jawbone of a mule.
Museum founder, John Rice Irwin, has written two books about Appalachian music: A People and Their Music, and Musical Instruments of The Southern Appalachian Mountains. Both titles are available for purchase in the Gift Shop at the Museum of Appalachia.