Music

2019 Mountain Dance and Folk Festival

Man sitting with banjo and donkey in the background

Bascom Lamar Lunsford – Photo from Library of Congress

Bio for Bascom Lamar Lunsford from the Blue Ridge Music Trails website:

“Musician, folklorist, and festival organizer Bascom Lamar Lunsford was born in Madison County. His father was a Confederate veteran from East Tennessee, and his mother came from a Unionist family from Buncombe and Madison Counties. His mother was a ballad singer, and her family included fiddlers and other musicians. When Bascom and his brother Blackwell were children, they learned to play the fiddle, and then as teenagers took up the banjo, which would become Lunsford’s primary instrument.

As a grown man, Lunsford worked in many different professions over the years. He was a fruit tree and honey salesman, lawyer, publisher, teacher, and reading clerk in the North Carolina House of Representatives. It was in his work as a fruit tree salesman that Lunsford developed his vast repertoire of traditional songs and tunes. The job required him to travel throughout the mountains, staying with customers, and on his trips he would learn music from the people he met. The songs and tunes that he knew from memory numbered over 300, and the files that he kept included 3,000 pieces. He eventually recorded his memory collection for Columbia University and the Library of Congress.

In 1927 the Asheville Chamber of Commerce asked Lunsford to organize a festival. The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival has been in existence since, occurring every August in Asheville. He also organized festivals at the University of North Carolina, in Raleigh and Cherokee, and in Kentucky, Virginia, and South Carolina. He performed extensively as well, playing for the Roosevelts and the King and Queen of England at the White House in 1939, and composed songs, including the famous “Mountain Dew.” Lunsford died in 1973 at the age of 91.”

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Lunsford’s influence in the southern mountains of Appalachia is still evident. I’ve heard folks reference him all my life. Here’s a couple of neat old videos of him.

A few years back the girls and I were in a movie that was loosely based on Lunsford’s life in western North Carolina. You can see if for free here: “If I Had Wings to Fly.”

And all these years later (getting close to 100 years!) The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival that he started is still going strong. I’ve never been to the event, but I’ve always wanted to go.

The performance line-up for the festival is by invitation only.

The Pressley Girls are beyond honored to be on the roster for this year’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.

You can jump over to The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival page for more details about the event.

Tipper

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    July 24, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Well! I absolutely loved the film – If I Had Wings to Fly! The characters were all so genuine. I might have known that the Pressleys possessed acting aptitude along with their musical talent. By the kitchen clogging lesson, I was wishing I had been Felix! The beech tree tryst was precious, and the upside down mountain vista was a brilliant touch of cinematography. And now I know where the Dr. Ryan elixir magic ingredients come from – Wilson Holler! Tipper, a personal question, if I may. Do you curl your hair, or did you straighten it for your role as Mom in the movie?

  • Reply
    aw griff
    July 24, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Very interesting reading and videos and I’ll watch the movie later today.
    I’m so glad your young ladies got invited to the festival.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 24, 2019 at 9:28 am

    It’s funny how mountain families tend to tie together, in the 1965 film of the Flat Foot dancing of William Cleave “Bill’ McElreath dancing in Madison County with Bascom ties into my family. Bill is the Grandfather of my son-in-law so we share Grand Children and a Great Grandson. Small world isn’t it.

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    July 24, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Lunsford’s recording of Mountain Dew contains two verses I have never heard by anyone else. The first and last verses actually mske it a complete story, rather than disconnected verses. The first sets the location as a courtroom, and the speaker as defendant, the last gives the judges decision. All the other verses are evidence presented in case. I am guessing radio’s under 3 minutes rule caused people to shorten the song.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 24, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Tipper,
    I was at the Henn Theater in 2015 to see you and Chitter and Chatter in the movie “If I Had Wings to Fly.” Jennifer had come up earlier and I had Cataracts removed at the Murphy Medical Center. I could see like a six year old boy again back then.

    I liked the Movie, it’s a little slow, but I wanted to see you and the Girls in a Movie. Like most folks, I was Proud to see my friends in a movie and I saved a seat between me and Tipper in case Matt showed up. And I especially liked it when Chitter and Chatter flirted with the Banjo Picker. He missed his chance! …Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 24, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Wow! Congratulations and best of luck to everyone. You all’s fame is spreading and I expect this could well result in you all being busier than ever. No matter what the Pressley Girls have a loyal fan base.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 24, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Tipper-First of all, hearty congratulations are due in connection with the invitation to this year’s festival. That has to be exciting to all concerned.

    Any of your readers who, after enjoying this post, would like more on Lunsford might want to acquire and read Loyal Jones’ fine biography of Lunsford, “minstrel of the Appalachians.”

    A grand old mountain character whom I’ve studied and written about, Sam Hunnicutt, appeared at the Festival dozens of times. His specialties were yodeling and dog calling, and any time things seemed to be dragging a bit, Lunsford would get old Sam on the stage. Apparently he had a voice that would raise the dead. You can learn more about him in his quaint and interesting book, “Twenty Years Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies.” I wrote a lengthy new introduction for the recent reprint of the book.

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