Andrew, Claire, and I spent much of today in Readyville, Tennessee, with my brother Joe, sister-in-law Kerry, and their family (more on our visit in a later post). Joe is an ornamental blacksmith and fellow lover of bluegrass and old-time music. So it seemed fitting – after a day of playing Old Joe Clark and other tunes with Joe and his son Joseph – that I take Andrew & Claire on an educational trip by hallowed ground: the burial place of Uncle Dave Macon.
Affectionately known as the “Dixie Dew Drop,” Uncle Dave was a vaudeville performer and one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry. He came out of a 19th century performing sensibility, but also was one of the first country musicians to take advantage of the new technology of radio.
After his death in 1952, Macon was buried between Murfreesboro and Readyville in the Coleman Cemetery. A new road to Cannon County now bypasses the cemetery, but I turned off the four lane and went over to the Old Woodbury Road to stop by Uncle Dave’s burial place. The state erected a historical marker (see photo above) to help mark the spot.
Uncle Dave’s legacy continues with the annual Uncle Dave Macon Days celebration in Murfreesboro each summer, with the crowning of the Old Time Banjo championship. This year’s celebration takes place on July 10th – 12th.
One of the best books on Uncle Dave and the early days of the Grand Ole Opry is entitled A Good Natured Riot: The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry. It was written by my college professor, world-renown old-time music expert Dr. Charles K. Wolfe, and is both an insightful and fun read. For those coming to Nashville for the fall’s National Preservation Conference, there’s no better work to introduce you to the birth of the commercial country music industry in the city.
There are a few videos taken late in Uncle Dave’s career. My favorite is the following clip from the Grand Ole Opry Movie, with Uncle Dave and his son Dorris playing Take Me Back to My Old Carolina Home. Enjoy.
More to come…