A couple of weeks ago I set out exploring what we can learn from musical lyrics. Well you might not think the culture and history of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau has been set to music but I’m here to tell you it has indeed.
Mr. Leonard Anderson is native to Jamestown, Tennessee and has written numerous songs about subjects close to our hearts, he writes about regional issues and concerns and if you are from the mountain or descended from the mountain you will identify with much of his music.
I got the chance to speak with him at the Bluegrass Saturday Night Labor Day event. Not surprisingly he asked as many questions as I did – but then I suppose were kind of in the same business, collecting stories and interesting facts and finding a way to use them in our songs or stories. So after I explained that roots are in Martha Washington and I’m passionate about preserving the history and culture of our plateau people he began to tell me how he has been writing songs for more than 40 years with one of his first songs being about the people of Sharp’s Place where he came from.
His favorite way to play his music is on the porch with just a few people gathered around. Here’s a video on You Tube that shows just that type of gathering.
I really started planning to share this lyrical historian with you during the 127 Yard Sale because he has a song about that event which perfectly describes how the world’s longest yard sale got started in the mid-80’s in an attempt to draw tourist dollars to Fentress County. Today it’s grown far beyond the original scope with more outside vendors than local and the residents seem to profit more by renting their yards to the outsiders.
Even that 127 Yard Sale song is best heard with a little mountain-knowledge as he tells about falling into a pile of junk from an old barn and coming out “wearin’ a full set of harness”. You even have to understand our accent a little bit as he has mentions to a neighbor how he’s checking dolls for the manufacturers name “Mattell” which of course we pronounce more like ‘my-tail’… and the neighbor advises him to look behind him where a tail my likely be located.
The particular disc I was listening to, Around Home ends with “Who Am I” and this particular author can certainly identify with his “I’m an ole’ bean picker, chicken catcher and ‘backer setter-outter” and we’ll have to talk more about that song very soon.
I’ve said here before that one of the reasons I love Bluegrass music and the local events is seeing the talent among us, and we have some very talented folks. Isn’t it wonderful that Mr. Anderson has applied his particular talent to the task of recording our culture and recent history?
If you’d like to have your very own Leonard Anderson CD you can reach him at: 931-879-5278 and he’ll be happy to sell you one.