Museum of Appalachia – Tennessee Fall Homecoming

Keys friends, Fred and Diane Colvard, were camped nearby and we visited them at Anchor Down RV Park.  It was fun to visit them while we were both “on the road”. While we were there, a neighboring couple stopped by to chat.  They said they were in the area for the Tennessee Homecoming.  I had never heard of it, but I’m so glad I looked it up and we went.

It is three full days of bluegrass music on four stages at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee. I had never heard of that either.   We had already missed several performers by the time set up our chairs in front of the main stage. However, my attention was drawn to the cane squeezing going on right behind the audience area. I have seen these sorghum presses but, never one being used. OK, I was excited.

Here is another picture for my animal butt collection.  It does show the whole scene, though. The mule is hooked up to the log that sits atop the press, or mill. The poor mule does the hard work, going round and round all day turning the press.  They did have two mules taking turns. The pile of sorghum canes is on the right and the pile on the left is the cane after the juice has been squeezed out.

Sorghum Press

Here is a closer look at the man feeding the canes into the press. The juice drips down into the bucket hanging under the press.

Feeding Sorghum Cane into Press

It took two men to do the job.  One of them had to periodically pat the mule on the rump to get him moving again. I looked it up because I didn’t know what to call the machine and found a nice article in Mother Earth News.

Then, I sat down to enjoy the music.  This is the Stewart Family.

The Stewart Family

Uncle Shuffelo & His Haint Hollow Hootenanny were great.  The woman on the left was playing the washboard and dancing her heart out. The boy in the blue-checkered shirt was playing spoons.

Uncle Shuffelo & His Haint Hollow Hootenanny

They were followed by the Ransom Notes. They are Amanda, Michael, and Amelia Ransom.

The Ransom Notes

I had to  look this up to confirm what I thought I heard him say about his steel guitar.  It is called a resonator guitar.  He is Johnny Bellar, a well known and awarded resonator guitar player.

Johnny Bellar

Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers were also great. They are from Cincinnati, Ohio

Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers

Mike Bentley & Cumberland Gap Connection had a hard-driving bluegrass style. Matt Hiser, on the far right, gave a virtuoso performance on that mandolin.  He was amazing!

Mike Bentley & Cumberland Gap Connection

I took a bathroom break and, while headed to the port-a-potties, took, a picture of the crowd. This is only a small portion of it.


Dale Ann Bradley is a five-time International Bluegrass Music Association “Female Vocalist of the Year.

Dale Ann Bradley

Bill and the Belles from Johnson City, Tennessee was a stand-out group of the day. They played oldies.  I mean real oldies. Like 1920s. Maybe some even a bit older. Their specialty is early country and popular music. Listen to the song on their website for an example.

Bill and the Belles

Leroy Troy was so mesmerizing that I didn’t even take a picture of him. A comedian and banjo player, his “Grandfather’s Clock” was delightful.  I found it on YouTube. While you are there, you may as well listen to his hilarious “Ghost Chickens in the Sky“.

We took a lunch break and missed several performers.  Flat Lonesome was playing when we got back to our seats. The three around the center microphone are siblings. They won three awards at the International Bluegrass Music Association last month. Best Song, Best Album, and Best Group.  I’d say they took the awards by storm.

Flatt Lonesome

Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper were up next.  I realized that Michael Cleveland was blind when one of the band members led him onto the stage and up to his microphone. He was a child prodigy and has been playing the fiddle on the big stage since he was an early teen. He has been named Fiddler of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association TEN TIMES!!

Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper
Michael Cleveland

As I was listening to him play, I thought, “Surely, he has made a pact with the devil”. Watch and listen to him playing Orange Blossom Special and see if you don’t agree.

The last performance we saw was Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time.  Larry Cordle has written songs for many of  country music’s big stars. He formed Lonesome Standard time to get back to the real country music: bluegrass. Here they are playing Murder on Music Row.

Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time

We left the main stage to walk around and look at what else was happening on the museum grounds.  Lots of things were going on.  There were three other stages with bands playing but, I wanted to see what the museum has.

Blacksmiith Shop

There were numerous old cabins, including one that belonged to Mark Twain’s parents. (Not this one)





The large display building has every tool and craft imaginable from the old days.


I enjoyed watching the sheep herding demonstration.  The two sheep dogs obeyed the shepherd’s commands instantly. He was able to get them to separate or collect the sheep with just a few commands.

Sheepherding Demonstration
Log Cabin Church Interior

They were boiling down the juice from the sorghum to make sorghum molasses and were selling jars of it.

Making Sorghum Molasses

This is only a small sampling of the Tennessee Fall Homecoming.