Appalachia Music

Down Where the Dogwood Trees Grow

If You ever get South of Cincinnati

I started writing this post four years ago. Two different things inspired me to write it, well actually I guess it was three different things. Maybe I should start at the beginning.

When Paul and I were growing up we were huge music fans just as we are now. While we both had an abiding love and appreciation for the traditional music Pap had brought us up on, once we became teenagers we didn’t always like the same genres nor the same musicians. I was much more likely to be jamming to one of the latest top 40 songs or even dare I say it one of the many hard rock bands that were popular in the 1980s.

However there was one musician that was popular during those years that we both loved – Dwight Yoakam.

Right from Yoakam’s first album release we loved him. We loved his sound and we loved his songs. Knowing he wrote much of what he sung made us like him even more. A touch of Appalachia can be found throughout many of Yoakam’s early songs. Paul and I both were crazy over South of Cincinnati which was released on his first album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.

  • The song tells a sad story-being teenagers we loved that
  • The chorus soars in a way that makes you want to sing along
  • We lived were the song called out from -south of the mason dixon where the dogwood trees grow

At one Sunday evening Pickin and Grinnin in the Kitchen session we got to thinking about songs the girls and Paul could sing as a trio with three-part harmony. I’m not sure if it was Paul or me who thought of South of Cincinnati, but having been raised on a healthy diet of Dwight Yoakam the girls were all up for giving it a try. After the first attempt Pap said “You need to keep on that one till you’ve got it perfect. It sounds good!” Hearing Paul and the girls do the song made me fall in love with it all over again.

During the time we were giving the song a go, the girls were taking a US History class at school. One evening I heard them discussing a project they had to complete about the migration of people who left the southern states for the northern states and the steady jobs they offered. I went into the kitchen and told them “Your very family was part of that migration. There was Uncle George and Uncle Jr., Granny’s brothers, who worked in the car factories; there was Aunt Geneaive; there was Mary and Bruce-you know Erin and Jillian’s grandparents; there was Uncle Byers and Aunt Grace, you didn’t know them, but you know Bernice, Ruth, and Kenneth-Byers and Grace were their parents. All of those people lived here. They grew up here just like Granny did, but they moved away to find jobs and ended up living up north the rest of their lives or most of their lives, some of them came back like Byers and Grace. And they all came back to visit when they could.”

Over the following weeks I kept thinking on that migration to the north-more specifically about my family’s migration to the north. All families have migration connections, they exist in Pap’s family too. But somehow as I look at Granny’s family tree it seems like it’s straight out of the history book. Maybe it is easier to see because all of us down here got so excited when family from the north came home to Granny Gazzie’s for a visit. Or maybe it’s easier to see because Granny Gazzie and the children who stayed here never got over missing the ones that left.

So now you can see I was inspired to write this post by Dwight Yoakam, the trio of harmony on South of Cincinnati, and the migration of Granny’s family who moved north for better employment opportunities…it just took me four years to get that inspiration to form itself into a post.

The girls and Paul never did get the song down pat as Pap wanted them too. In fact, we haven’t even done it in a few years. It’s a hard song to sing, but its a mighty good song. One of Yoakam’s best if you ask me.




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  • Reply
    Lily M Stafford
    September 25, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Happy GOLDEN Birthday Chitter and Chatter!! I just can’t get enough of you all! Have a great day you two, God Bless you!!!!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    February 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Beautiful song, filled with longing that kinda brings a tear to your eyes.
    Kinda ironic too, how so many northerners are coming south nowadays, often for the easier days if a restful retirement.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    February 6, 2017 at 3:41 pm


  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    February 5, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Sounded down pat to me. Great song. My Dad left the area when he grew up for the same reason every one who left did, jobs.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Yep Yoakam fans here also, funny how some of us wondered away from our roots, and like a boomarang came right back, for me it was Charlie Daniels, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, Marshall Tucker , Cowboy hats and tight blue jeans. Well, you get my drift. Jeans fit tight now but for a totally different reason, into loose fit more these days, still enjoy me some Skynyrd every once in a while tho. Mighty fine job on the Yoakam song, it is a hard song but he just had that ability to do a song like that and make it sound easy..

  • Reply
    February 5, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    I thought the Gang did a nice job on the Cincinnati song, as did Dwight Yoakam. Three of my oldest brothers went North to work in the car Factories, but the last three of us went South to Atlanta.
    I’ve been up North but I simply like it better here in the mountains where I was raised. When I worked in Atlanta at Davidson-Kennedy Co., I enjoyed the work and furthered my education at a school owned and operated by Lockheed in Marietta. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 5, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    The best part of the video is watching Chitter’s face. She seems to be really getting into the music and enjoying herself. After all that’s the whole point, ain’t it?

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    February 5, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Eva Nell, my condolences on the loss of your brother. I also suffer from one of the Agent Orange maladies. I offer a sailor’s wish in your time of grief.
    My fellow warrior… I wish for you fair winds and following seas, deep green water under your bow, your main rifles trained in the posture of peace and a gentle breeze at your stern.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Many of my kin went north to work and still live there. My Dad worked in Columbus Oh. and Detroit Michigan. He didn’t stay and moved back to E.KY.
    Eva Nell,one of my favorite posters. Sorry to hear about your brother. Another fellow Vietnam vet. gone.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Many of my kin went north to work and still live there. My Dad worked in Columbus Oh. and Detroit Michigan. He didn’t stay and moved back to E.KY.
    Eva Nell,one of my favorite posters. Sorry to hear about your brother. Another fellow Vietnam vet. gone.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Many of my kin went north to work and still live there. My Dad worked in Columbus Oh. and Detroit Michigan. He didn’t stay and moved back to E.KY.
    Eva Nell,one of my favorite posters. Sorry to hear about your brother. Another fellow Vietnam vet. gone.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Many of my kin went north to work and still live there. My Dad worked in Columbus Oh. and Detroit Michigan. He didn’t stay and moved back to E.KY.
    Eva Nell,one of my favorite posters. Sorry to hear about your brother. Another fellow Vietnam vet. gone.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    February 5, 2017 at 10:59 am

    I guess you could call me one of the wanderers, or to be more accurate one of the wonderers, I always wondered what was just over the horizon. I spent thirty years in the Navy before finally settling in Hawaii. But I sometimes stand on my patio looking out over the Pacific and yearn to chase that horizon again.
    I grew up in Winston-Salem. The epitome of success there for a boy who couldn’t afford to go to college was a mind numbing job at either RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Hane’s Hosiery, or Western Electric. I left there in ’61 looking for the sea and the adventure it portended.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    February 5, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Sorry for all the typos. I have a new smart phone that makes me look stupid.
    Then again, my Dad would say “It is a poor craftsman who blames his tools.”
    Either way…

  • Reply
    February 5, 2017 at 10:34 am

    I don’t know how they could get much better even with further practice. It truly is beautiful, and tells such a lonesome story. I personally found it difficult to listen to because there is so much in the song that has touched my own life. Another song almost too true to life is “Where Corn Don’t Grow” by Waylon Jennings.
    Many of my parent’s siblings, nieces, and nephews migrated North and even moved to Southern Florida during the sixties when the coal fields were in a major slump. I, myself, lived several years in a major city. Many returned, but some stayed and buried family far away from their mountain homes. There are still so many beloved family members who live all over the United States. We gather for reunions and unfortunately for funerals. One of the greatest things about most Appalachian families is their love for family and the place of their birth. Also, it has been surprising to me that many who have lived in other states for decades are returned home for burial.
    I can’t complain, as I was fortunate enough to get in a field in wide demand. This enabled me to live where I love “South of Cincinnati.” Maybe my time in a city is responsible for my extreme over appreciation of home.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2017 at 9:33 am

    One of their best. What a treasure to be able to see and hear them play and sing together! Warms my heart!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 5, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I was raised on oldtime gospel and Mother played a pump organ in church. The organ had a handle in the back which one of the young boys would turn as she played.
    I remember her horror when I became infatuated with Elvis. She told me he was the most disgusting thing she had ever seen.
    Can you imagine what she would think today. I find myself judging the things I hear and see coming from young folks but I try to remember times change and the world did not end because liked Elvis.
    Your blog is important because it keeps things in perspective. It reminds us of where we came from and a much gentler world.
    Thanks Tipper.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    February 5, 2017 at 9:12 am

    My musical interests sound similar. I grew up on old songs my great uncles sang but also Let me Haggard and Johnny Cash from my Dad. But, my teenage years were AC/DC, Bob Seger, and (gulp) David Lee Roth.
    But, Dwight Yoakam was always a favorite. Although from eastern Kentucky, he grew up in Columbus. So we counted him as one of our own. My uncle used to watch him play, before he was famous, at a bar called the Stagecoach Inn.
    “Reason, Rightin, Route 23” was the migration song that always got me. When we left Spud Run so my dad could work at the glass plant in Circleville, we drove up 23 and actually lived off of it for awhile.
    I said something to my mom about us being part of the migration a short time back and she said “We only moved 20 minutes north!” I guess we were luckier than most. Still, those years until middle school when they dumped the Hocking County kids, including all my cousins, in the Pickaway School district were some lonely years.
    One last note, my daughter Alex loves “Dee-wight.” She’s my girl.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2017 at 9:04 am

    I love that song and it sounds to me like they already had it down pat.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2017 at 8:53 am

    I am a Dwight Yoakam fan also. Saw him a year ago at Harrah’s in Cherokee. He put on a really good, high energy show. He’s also a fair to middlin’ actor….. I had two uncles who went north to work in the auto industry. One was a rambler and made stops in Kansas,Oregon, and New York state. They both eventually returned home leaving their kids scattered across the country.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 5, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I’m a fan of Dwight Yokam as well and I think the girls and Paul did a darn good job on that one. I don’t think any of our clan migrated off up north. They just mostly stayed around Gilmer and Fannin counties. Well, there was one cousin who went north but from what I heard it was because a jealous husband was looking for him. It seems the cousin and the man’s wife lit out for Ohio and never came back. That could be a country song right there!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 5, 2017 at 8:13 am

    You told my families’ story to. All told, my Dad worked 17 years ‘up north’ in a foundry in Covington, Ky. and in all that time missed coming back home only a few weekends. I went to sixth grade in Cincinnati but I missed the fields and woods the whole time..After that, my brother and I lived with our Grandma for two years.
    I could make a long list of relatives and classmates who moved up to the now-Rust Belt. They maintained connection but their children do not.
    I have been blessed to live and work in the southeast US my whole life. And I have always felt much at home wherever I’ve been.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    February 5, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Both sides of my family were part of that migration. We always went to visit our Kentucky and Tennessee people and they came to Southern Indiana to see us. I remember how fondly those places and people were spoken of. As a child I could never understand why they would leave when they loved it so. It was not till I was older that I realized how hard it was for them to leave their mountains and how determined they were to survive in a new place.

  • Reply
    Bob and Inez Jones
    February 5, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Love it !!!A great song and great harmonies. I agree with Pap-make it your own and sing it! I especially like the intro and break with the fiddle. Sounds great. Have a blessed Sunday.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 5, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Tipper–This post, the song, and musing on Dwight Yoakam open up so many threads of thought. He road north to the automobile and other factories is sometimes called the “Hillbilly Highway.” One of my best friends from high school traveled that road and a lot of folks from the mountains did the same in the 1950s and 1960s. Invariably though, as the plaintive lyrics of “South of Cincinnati” suggest, their hearts stayed behind in the hills and hollows they loved.
    You get some of the same passion for place in other Yoakam songs, notably “I Sang Dixie” and “I’m a Thousand Miles from Nowhere.” He’s got that wonderful twang and is, in my mind, one of the truly great talents of country music.
    Of course that longing for the heartland of one’s homeland in the South has always been a strong thread. I’ve written a lot about the great sporting scribe and poet, Archibald Rutledge, and the title poem to one of his books of poetry is “South of Richmond.” He always felt, when riding the train home at Christmas from his job in the north, that once he was south of Richmond he was where he belonged.
    One other thought for your readers. If they want to understand and appreciate the perspectives, problems, love of place, factors underlying Trump’s election, and much more connected with the regions considered home to hillbillies, they might want to delve into J. D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” It’s a bleak book in many ways, but it’s brilliant.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    February 5, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Tipper: I had trouble reading your post this morning because of my tears! My sister-in-law called me at 6:00 am telling me that her darling Don had died. He was my sweetest brother. He did three rotations in Viet Nam! Exposure to the AGENT ORANGE made his later years mighty rough!
    Sorry to be so down!
    Love, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 5, 2017 at 7:55 am

    What a beautiful story.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 5, 2017 at 7:42 am

    That’s my dad in the picture at the top of this post, Curtis, and my mother’s older sister, Ruth.
    My family were all native to WNC and NGA.
    Mother was born in North GA, very near where I now live. Part of her family went to Haywood county where the paper mill is and some went north to find work. My father was born in Haywood county to a farming family his dad also worked at the paper mill.
    Now days moving and travel is a common thing but back in my parents and grandparents time it was a much bigger and rarer thing.

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