History of Tennessee/Tennessee in US Popular Culture (1795-present)



Nashville is the capital of Tennessee. It is home to places like Tootsies and The Grand Ole Opry. These famous locations are where multiple performers have found success through meeting industry executives who had seen them perform. The city is full of these ‘lucky encounter’ stories that have launched the careers of many artists in the music industry.

Tootsies Orchid Lounge in Nashville

With a small-town atmosphere, many musicians make Nashville the central place to create. The open environment, and willingness to experiment with art has consistently drawn people to not only the city of Nashville, but the state of Tennessee itself. Nashville was the foundation for country music through the development of radio in the early 1920’s. In 1925 a local Nashville company began the WSM radio station as a means of self-promotional advertisements. The Nashville station included a weekly show called the “Barn Dance”, which gained success and eventually transformed into the extremely famous Grand Ole Opry. This is when musicians began traveling to Nashville in hopes of success. Record labels and music companies started to establish an industry, and the constant search for new musical talent was emerging. Nashville even hosts the annual Country Music Awards to celebrate the achievements of the musicians performing country music. The music business was quickly developing, and so was the success of many performers. Musicians began pouring out hit records achieving attention around the United States.

Dolly Parton

Country music legend Dolly Parton on stage at the Grand Ole Opry during a live broadcast in Nashville, Tenn., on April 23, 2005

Dolly Parton was one of the many famous performers from Tennessee. Born in 1946, she grew up to become one of the most well-known American performers. Dolly emerged onto the music scene in Nashville in 1964. Taking inspiration from Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline, she was able to appeal to working-class women in rural America in an industry that was very much dominated by men. Parton was able to create a country-pop crossover giving her huge mainstream appeal, becoming the biggest name in the music business. She gained success through her multiple hits like “9 to 5” and “Jolene”. Dolly Parton was most well known for her country records that were constantly played on the radio, and for her positive outlook on life. The singer was recognized for her unique catchy song writing and vocals, establishing her creative base within Nashville. She also acted in multiple movies, achieving fame throughout the United States, as well as internationally. She was dubbed the “girl-singer” and paved the way for other country-pop female singers such as Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. Along with her many talents, Dolly Parton was also a smart business woman. In 1980, the popular singer became interested in the idea of her own amusement park. The Dollywood theme park opened in 1986, gaining immediate popularity through her many fans. The amusement park featured different rides all named after the singer's hit songs, along with multiple forms of Dolly Parton merchandise. Dollywood is still open today and is the most popular tourist attraction in Tennessee, receiving over two million visitors each year.

The Grand Ole Opry

Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Tennessee

The Grand Ole Opry was a radio show that is considered to have made country music famous in Tennessee. George Hay, a radio announcer from Indiana, started a radio series called the 'Barn Dance', inspired by country hoedowns he had attended. The series consisted of broadcasted live performances from various local country artists. Hay was hired by Tennessee WSM radio station in 1925, and was given an hour segment in which he brought the structure of his Barn Dance series, giving it the name The Grand Ole Opry. The program quickly rose in popularity, partially due to the constraints of the Great Depression making radio the dominant medium for country music. In 1934, the well established program went on to open its own booking agency called the Artist Service Bureau, which scheduled tours for their artists and further expanded the exposure and popularity of country music. By 1940, artists of the Grand Ole Opry were being booked in fifteen states and in more than 2,500 cities and towns. Nashville was dubbed Music City U.S.A for the first time on the radio station, with the city still holding the title to this day.

Every year hundreds of people gather to see the live shows and millions of others tune into the radio broadcasts. The Grand Ole Opry is considered to be the longest running radio program in history. With its first live performance by Jimmy Thompson, other early performers include Minnie Pearl, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Monroe. In subsequent years, the Opry welcomed a variety of artists, many of which would go on to become country music icons, like Dolly Parton and more recently American Idol winner, Carrie Underwood.

The Opry resided at the historic Ryman Auditorium until around 1974 where it then moved to the newly built Grand Ole Opry House. Today, it honours country music by exhibiting country legends and chart-toppers. Located in Nashville, Tennessee the Grand Ole Opry is a world-famous establishment that is the heart of country music in Tennessee. It is fundamental to the history of Tennessee because up until the 1940s country music was mainly based in New York, but this gradually changed, and it made its way to Tennessee, establishing Nashville as the music city.

The Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium

The Ryman Auditorium is recognized as a country music landmark that formerly housed the Grand Ole Opry, a long-running weekly radio show, until the mid-70s. Originally built in 1892, the auditorium was created as a gospel tabernacle but was eventually established as the auditorium it is today. The auditorium holds approximately 3500 seats. In 1926, traditional theatres were being converted into “movie houses” leaving the Ryman Auditorium the only stage for theatre, concerts, and recitals. When nationally famous individuals came to Nashville it was expected that they went to the Ryman Auditorium. In 1907, future president Woodrow Wilson was welcomed to the auditorium when visiting Tennessee.

The Country Music Hall of Fame

Country Music Hall of Fame (Northwest face)

The Country Music Hall of Fame is located in Nashville, Tennessee, the capital of country music. Early research indicates that approximately 550,000 visitors would make their way to Tennessee for the Hall of Fame during its first year of opening. Nashville has many musicians, singers, songwriters, and producers that have aided in the creation of this musical state. The Country Music Hall of Fame is now a grand tourist attraction that recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Recently, almost all of the one million visitors are tourists, which are comprised of historians, musicologists, and the legends themselves. The museum has over 2.5 million artifacts that are in the process of being digitized, making them available to the public. The museum is creating opportunities and preserving the history of Tennessee’s musical culture which Congress acknowledged in 2008, passing a bill recognizing country music as a truly American form of art.

Jubilee Singers of Fisk

Jubilee Singers, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee

Another large influence on the music of Tennessee is religion. Gospel music has made a huge impact on the state and how it has developed a culture of musical support within churches. Gospel groups like the Jubilee Singers of Fisk began singing together in the 1960’s, and still continue to perform around the United States. People originally joined gospel groups often as a method to support their church through involvement. This was often the way people were introduced to music and were able to grow an interest in singing, teamwork, and performance.

Bristol Sessions


Popular music was commercialized with the help of Tennessee. The state can be attributed for many popular works in the development of popular music genres including country, jazz, R&B, and southern rock. Bristol sessions are a series of recording sessions that were held in Bristol, Tennessee when Ralph Peer set out to discover local musicians in 1927. He had chose Bristol due to its close proximity to many local artists, and ease of access from other southern states. These sessions were considered influential to the history of music because the equipment used in them was considered to be top quality and the sessions were said to have discovered famous talents. Working in the Bristol sessions was seen as work that influenced the country music genre in the USA. These sessions included the fiddle, banjo, traditional ballads, gospel music, rustic comedy, and instrumentals that were considered legendary.

Historians called these sessions the “big bang” of country because of the evolution of the music through the years. Johnny Cash is credited to calling the Bristol sessions the most important event for the history of country music. These sessions established the first recordings of Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Alfred Reed, and The Carter Family. The idea of Bristol's influence on the music industry has established the attention of the public from around the world. Media attention was drawn to Bristol because of the sessions, which led to the Country Music Museum opening and country music becoming a prominent part of popular culture.


Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee

Not to be outshone by Nashville, Memphis has been given the nicknames “Home of the Blues” and “Birthplace of Rock and Roll”. William Christopher (W.C) Handy, commonly referred to as the "Father of the Blues", was an African American man from Alabama who spent the early years of his career leading and arranging various bands and travelling with minstrel shows. In the early years of the twentieth century he settled in Memphis where he began transcribing and arranging African American folk music into sheet music, which had not been done before this time. He is also commemorated as the first to write and record blues music with his 1912 recording of his song "Memphis Blues", which was soon followed by "St.Louis Blues" in 1914. During the 1920's and 1930's, Memphis became the leading recording centre for Delta Blues music. A time referred to as the "Golden age of Tennessee Blues". The Victor Talking Machine Company would carry out annual field session recordings in Memphis from 1927 till 1930. Following World War II through the 1950's, the cultural establishment of Robert Church's Beale Street had grown into a highly influential hub for rhythm and blues and electric blues artists. It attracted an abundance of talent, such as B.B King and Tennessee native, Tina Turner. Memphis continued to grow, influencing the music industry within the United States through it's unique blend and creation of genres.

Another important contributor to the Memphis music culture was another Alabama man named Sam Phillips, who was the owner of the Memphis Recording Service. Phillips got his big break as a producer after his work with B.B King, which lead to an onslaught of interest in the service his company was providing from a wide variety of regional talent. In 1953, Phillips started the famous independent record label Sun Records, which went onto craft the sounds of the early work for some of the most important figures in rock and roll. Sun Records is responsible for the first recordings of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more. His unique style of studio recording and his considerable ear for talent led to several number one records on the country charts, such as; Carl Perkins - Blue Suede Shoes, Johnny Cash - I Walk The Line, and Jerry Lee Lewis - Great Balls of Fire.

Suffice to say, the city of Memphis has a storied history in the music industry, and like Nashville has seen many influential artists begin their careers there. In addition to these two, Memphis has been the birthplace or home of stars from the genres of Rock & Roll, R&B, Soul, Jazz and even Hip-Hop, with names such as Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J, and current stars such as Young Dolph and Blocboy JB, all hailing from the city. This goes to show that while cities such as Nashville and Memphis are attractions based on the music made in the past, there are many fresh faces that are making the climb towards stardom who call the state of Tennessee home.

Beale Street


Blues music originated in the African American cultures in the southern states during the early twentieth century, and became widely popularized in the city of Memphis. Following the Civil War, the southern area of downtown Memphis was changed from an upper-middle class white neighbourhood, to a commercial location for the African American population. After a devastating outbreak of yellow fever in 1878-1879 much of Memphis was left abandoned. African American entrepreneur Robert Church bought significant land plots in downtown Memphis, eventually transforming the area surrounding Beale Street into the centre of African American culture and the headquarters for civil rights, politics, and religion.

Elvis Presley and Graceland

A cropped and retouched picture, showing a headshot of Elvis Presley.

As for what made Memphis such an attraction to musicians and fans alike can be accredited to the King of Rock & Roll himself, Elvis Presley. While being famous for his approach on Rock & Roll, Elvis had inspirations from other genres around Memphis incorporated into his music style. His songs carried strong undertones of Memphis Blues and R&B, which in effect shined a light on the talent of Memphis who had already been producing these genres of music. Through this fusing of genres, Elvis made Memphis into a tourist attraction, with everyone wanting to not only see the King perform live, but they were also drawn to the other styles the area had to offer. There was also Graceland, Elvis’ mansion which still offers tours of the property as well as live concerts from local artists. So, while Memphis does not have many fancy attractions or tropical weather, music has shaped the city into one of the main attractions in the country, and the musicians behind this music have made a large contribution to the industry over the years.

During the 1950s a large popularity of Rock & Roll began developing in Memphis, which only continued to grow in popularity. Young people had started to gain more access to music platforms like personal radio, and family televisions. This led to highly focused teenage oriented music, and experimental new sounds had gained popularity. New young performers became successful, and the genre of Rock & Roll made a huge impact.

One of the most influential performers during this time was a young male performer named Elvis Presley. Presley moved to Memphis, Tennessee when he was thirteen years old. This is where he began his career in music, eventually becoming the iconic figure of Rock & Roll that he’s known for today. Elvis was interested in music from an early age, and eventually was signed to the popular label, Sun Records. Elvis became extremely popular with his one of a kind look, new music, and appeal to American youth, it made a base for the beginning of celebrity culture.

Tennessee Barbecue


Of all the signature foods and forms of culture of the South, none unites and divides people like barbecue. In the South many variations of barbecue exists, and Southerners often greatly disagree on the appropriate meat, style of sauce, technique of cooking, and side dishes. Barbecue has been a staple food of the South as it is consumed across different racial groups, social classes, and religions. The food has proven to be a staple of the Southern United States, with its popularity lasting centuries and its consumption expanding world wide.

Memphis, Tennessee has proclaimed itself to be the biggest and best in terms of barbecue. It is even consumed for breakfast, with over 100 barbecue serving restaurants, some of which open as early as 9 am. They are home to the world’s largest pork barbecue contest every May, the World Championship of Barbecue Cooking Contest. As previously stated, there is great dispute over all aspects of barbecue, such as choice of meat, style of sauce/seasoning, and sides. Memphis typically barbecues pork, as do the majority of Southern states. In terms of sauce Memphis is well known for 2 sects of sauces and seasonings; a dry rack of seasoned ribs, and a wet rib slathered in a sweet tomato style sauce, which is often spiked with a form of liquid smoke. However, sauce is not often utilized in Memphis barbecue. The type of wood typically used in Tennessee barbecuing is hickory. Finally, in terms of sides, individuals in Memphis typically serve a mayonnaise based coleslaw. In fact, their signature barbecue dish is a pulled pork sandwich, topped with coleslaw. In addition to the pulled pork sandwich, Memphis has invented signature dishes such as the barbecue pizza, and the less popular barbecue spaghetti.

Pork ribs at the start of slow cooking in an above-ground barbecue "pit" at Leonard's Pit Barbecue - Memphis, Tennessee, USA

In the 1930’s President Roosevelt described Southern poverty as the most serious economic problem facing America. In this time period pigs were essential to Southerners survival, being one of the most efficient sources of food. For this reason, pork and barbecue has continued to be a large source of nutrition in the diets of those living in the Southern states. The word barbecue first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1661 meaning "any such framework whether used for cooking or some other purpose, like supporting a mattress”, however it has since narrowed to mean “the food and social event where it was served”. The English vocabulary usage of the term barbecue was originally adopted from the First Nations, and was referred to as the process of cooking and smoking meat. Although, by 1773 individuals began using the term to refer to a social event with historical figures such as George Washington using the phrase in multiple writings, such as a writing from 1769 stating, “went in to Alexandria to a barbecue”.

According to historian Ed Williams, whole hog barbecue originated in the 1500s. The first whole hog barbecue occurred in the region in 1541, when First Nations organized a surprise attack on a Spanish camp near the South of the Chickasaw Bluff. During the attack, most of the pigs that were brought over by the Spaniards were unintentionally burned to death, resulting in the first barbecue within the Mid-South. The Spaniards brought over herds of pigs, due to them being a popular source of protein, and pigs being a low maintenance animal. In the South, the slaughter of a full grown pig would be a huge celebratory feast throughout the neighbourhood.

Tennessee Whiskey


The consumption of whiskey may be associated with all Southern states, but the production is primarily associated with the mid Southern states, specifically Tennessee and Kentucky. Whiskey refers to any spirit distilled from fermented grain and is aged in hardwood barrels. In comparison, bourbon whiskey is a spirit made from a mash of corn, and small amounts of malted barley, rye, or wheat. Bourbon is also aged in heavily charred barrels that are used only once. Bourbon is the most popular type of American whiskey, however the best selling brand of American whiskey is Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey. Tennessee whiskey is produced exactly like bourbon, except it is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before barrelling. Bourbon was once the most popular distilled spirit in the United States, but following World War 2 its popularity began decreasing everywhere but the Southern states, which is still referred to as the “bourbon belt”. Due to South Bourbon and Whiskey culture Southerners are often stereotyped as “Hillbillies” or “Moonshiners”. Moonshining received its poor reputation during the prohibition due to bootleggers selling low-quality, sugar based moonshine. This association has stuck with Bourbon and Whiskey culture in the Southern states and has lead to an inaccurate stereotypes of Southerns being lazy “hillbilly” moonshiners.

The manufacturing and sale of whiskey is one of the most important industries in Tennessee, going back all the way to 1771. A popular brand of Tennessee whiskey is George Dickel Tennessee sour mash whiskey. At first, distilleries did not market and make their own whiskey, and instead would buy barrels of whiskey directly from distilleries. During this period of time whiskey would be sold in barrels and jugs, but later on would be sold in bottles. The counties that would produce the most Tennessee sour mash whiskey were Robinson and Lincoln, and later Moore County where Jack Daniel’s is produced. Tennessee whiskey has become popular to a point that there is many country songs about it. In particular 'Tennessee Whiskey', written by Dean Dylan and Linda Hargrove, sung by David Allen Coe. A 2015 cover of the song by Chris Stapleton went six times platinum according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey

A bottle of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey

Lynchburg, Tennessee is home to the Jack Daniel’s distillery, the nation's oldest registered distillery. In the 1860s Jack Newton Daniel choose the Lynchburg cave spring hollows as the perfect site for his whiskey manufacturing business. Jack Daniel’s has been distilling whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee since the mid-nineteenth century. Jack Daniels is an internationally acclaimed whiskey. The whiskey is created using the cold spring water, which is kept at a constant 56 degrees, and is free of any trace minerals. The Tennessee style whiskey is distinct from other whiskeys as it retains some of the yeast from previous runs to use as a starter, it then goes through the process of charcoal leaching, and oaken-cask warehousing. Daniels nephew Lem Motlow inherited the business in 1907 and was refused to close operations during the prohibition. Throughout prohibition, he opened “Lynchburg Hardware”, however soon after the repeal of the prohibition he resumed distillery operations.

Jack Daniels has since become a well known brand that sells a wide range of products beyond whiskey. As of 2007, the brand had 2006 retail stores totalling $17 million. The brand has become largely associated with Rock & Roll pop culture in Europe creating an issue with brand marketing, as it has become increasingly difficult to balance the brand's authentic Tennessee heritage, and its modern Rock & Roll following. Jack Daniel's sold more whiskey abroad than in its American market in 2008 for the first time in their company's history. Global demand for Jack Daniel’s so huge to be able to handle all this global demand for the whiskey the Browns- Foreman cooperation who own Jack Daniel’s, they had to invest 100,000,000 dollars into upgrading distillery. The brand has begun selling a wide range of products such as liquor chocolates, fudge, t-shirts, accessories, calendars, bar accessories, and of course the main product continues to be whiskey. In 2007 the brand introduced a line of barbecue sauces in the U.K as a tribute to the brand's Southern roots. The sauces came in 4 flavours; original, smoky, chilli, and honey, and of course all 4 of which contained Jack Daniels giving it an authentic whiskey flavour.

Andrew Jackson



Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767 in the region of the Carolinas, which would later become the state of Tennessee. Andrew Jackson started his career in law and became a state prosecutor in the Tennessee region. During his career as a lawyer he was one of the lawmakers who drafted Tennessee’s constitution.

Once Tennessee was an official part of the United States, the people of Tennessee elected Andrew Jackson as their first member of Congress. After his term in Congress, he gave up on politics for the time being, and decided to focus on law. Due to his legal background he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Later, Jackson was elected the General of the volunteer Tennessee Militia, and later he became a General in the United States Army when his militia was called to duty during the War of 1812. As a General, Andrew Jackson led a very successful war campaign that included the demolishing of the Creek Indians aligned with Britain, and the destruction of British and Spanish troops occupying Florida and Louisiana. Jacksons most famous battle occurred in New Orleans where he gained fame and was credited with helping to end the War of 1812. The fame Andrew Jackson gained from the war led to his successful Presidential run in 1828, where he would become the 7th President of the United States, and serve two terms in office.

Andrew Jackson's Controversial Past


Although Andrew Jackson is revered by many Americans, his name comes with some controversy. Andrew Jackson’s contentious past has made him an even more prominent historical figure as his name is either thought of as a national hero or villain. One controversy which followed Andrew Jackson during his life is the location of his real birth place. Andrew Jackson stated during his life that he was born in South Carolina, as he was a strong supporter of southern rights and North Carolina, where he may have been born was a Union state. The debate regarding his birth place depends upon which house Andrew Jackson was actually born in, as historians argue whether he was born in the McKemey house in North Carolina or the Crawford house in South Carolina. Andrew Jackson is championed as a hero of the south, however the real location of his birth whether it be in the Union state of North Carolina or the Confederation state of South Carolina is often debated. Andrew Jackson’s contentious past is also due to his poor treatment of minorities. He was a large and unapologetic slave owner in Tennessee, and throughout his political career he was always a strong supporter of slavery.

"Portrait of King Andrew I"

Aside from slavery, Andrew Jackson has a very controversial past due to his treatment of native American populations. During Jackson’s administration the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed which allowed for the removal of Cherokee Indians from east of the Mississippi. In order to pass this law Jackson said to Congress that “this emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aboriginals to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land.” Jackson expanded further and said, “our conduct toward these people” would “reflect our national character.” Jackson did not keep his word however and the passing of the Indian Removal act in 1830 was catastrophic against aboriginal communities. The military was used to violently and forcibly remove all aboriginals east of the Mississippi, regardless if they agreed to go or not. One account in Alfred Cave's journal article described the military action of removing aboriginal communities. This account stated they “had not only taken the Indians land from them and burnt and destroyed their houses and corn but used violence against their persons.” The law passed by Congress did not allow for forced removal of aboriginal populations, and the fact that Andrew Jackson approved of such violent action leaves a stain on his legacy. Due to Andrew Jackson’s past, some of his detractors went on to draw a portrait of him as “King Andrew I.” These detractors believed Andrew Jackson lacked a respect for the rule of law in America and acted as a “king” who was above the law during his presidency.

Idolization of Andrew Jackson


Andrew Jackson became a patriotic figure for many Americans. Jackson was so beloved by his supporters that in a rally in New Orleans celebrating an anniversary of his famous victory, upwards of 30,000 people showed up to get a glimpse of an old and frail Jackson waving from his carriage. This was one of Jackson’s last public appearances as he was terminally ill, still his supporters came in the thousands to support their hero.

Andrew Jackson has been held as an inspiration by countless Americans. One famous historical figure who viewed Jackson as an idol of was General Douglas MacArthur, who led American Forces in the Pacific during World War II. During MacArthur’s failed presidential run he subscribed to Andrew Jackson’s beliefs of peace through a show of strength, and that there was no such thing as limited war or limited political causes. These Jacksonian beliefs scared voters as they were worried about the potential of more wars under MacArthur and as a result not did elect him. A statue of Andrew Jackson in New Orleans commemorates his victory in the famous Battle of New Orleans. Protest groups have called for the removal of this statue due to his policy on aboriginal displacement and also because he was a slave owner. These protest groups have successfully managed to have a statue of Robert E. Lee removed and are now taking aim at other controversial historical figures including Andrew Jackson.

Andrew Jackson has been in the news recently as current President Donald Trump has stated that he is his presidential idol. Donald Trump chose to hang a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office once he was elected President. When questioned about his decision to choose Jackson's portrait, Trump said he was an “amazing figure in American History.” On the 250th anniversary of Andrew Jackson’s death, President Donald Trump decided to visit his tomb and lay a wreath in his honor. These two actions in support of Andrew Jackson by Donald Trump were early in his presidency and made him even more of a controversial figure in American politics. By supporting Andrew Jackson and revering him as his hero, people believe Trump in turn is supporting all of Andrew Jacksons disreputable actions in the past.

Stereotypes of Rural Tennessee


Common Stereotypes


Following suit with the majority of stereotypes, misconceptions surrounding rural Tennessee stem from a realistic description of a small group dwelling there, which have then been popularized and applied to the entire population. Rural Tennessee is considered to be both farmland and the land that runs through the Appalachian Mountains. Both are depicted as having an embedded “culture of poverty”, which refers to living in impoverished conditions as a way of life, which is passed on from generation to generation, and as being isolated from urban lifestyles. Many popular misconceptions of rural Tennessee follow those that are believed of the rural South, and features primarily negative stereotypes. It is considered to be a highly conservative area, unprogressive, and lazy, and with a high population of uneducated individuals.

Rural countryside near Dayton, Tennessee (2898309573)

The people who live in rural Tennessee are more often stereotyped than the land itself, the two most common derogatory terms used are “hillbilly” and “redneck”. Both terms are commonly used to stereotype a typically white and uneducated individual, who is isolated from urban Tennessee. Despite both being stereotypes of the rural Tennessee population, there are underlying differences between the stereotypes “hillbilly” and “redneck”. The “hillbilly” stereotype is arguably gentler then “redneck”, and depicts someone who is kind, simple, and lives in impoverished conditions. They are often depicted in rags, with a dirty and unhygienic appearance. Moreover, the stereotype draws an image of someone who is unemployed, unintelligent, has poor social skills, and occupying mainly the rural mountain area of Tennessee. Contrastingly, a “redneck” is used with a more offensive undertone when describing the individuals living in rural Tennessee. This stereotype is used to refer to those who typically occupy the farmland, and are described as being violent, ignorant, and often racist. When using this stereotype, people usually produce images that also coincide with the term “white trash”, and are also depicted as living in poverty. It is a term often used to negatively describe the working-class white male, a group in which there is a high population of in rural Tennessee.

Origins of Rural Tennessee Stereotypes


The belief that those who dwell in rural Tennessee are different from those living in urban areas dates back to the early ninetieth century, when urban dwellers discovered the presence of “strange and peculiar people” living in the surrounding mountains. They were different from those who lived in cities, and therefore labelled as such. Word spread of rural Tennessee dwellers, and the stereotypes we still see today were created. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that the stereotype of rural Tennessee was popularized, mainly through different media outlets. It began in magazines and newspapers that were popular in urban areas, and then spread to radio and television, all would mock and reduce the status of those hailing from the rural south for the pleasure of their consumers. This particularly occurred during the era of the Great Depression, and the stereotype of the “hillbilly” was truly born, and prior images of strange and unfamiliar rural dwellers were replaced with those of simple and foolish men. During this time, the stereotyped shifted from those in rural Tennessee being unintelligent and backward, and took on a more comical tone. They were seen as a joke, and were often used as bumbling characters in funny stories, which effectively distracted non-rural people from the prevalent poverty during the 1930’s.

Media Portrayal of Rural Tennessee


It is not often that rural Tennessee itself is portrayed in the media, it is commonly clumped in with the rest of the rural South, which is portrayed using the same stereotypes. The pictures used in the media of rural Tennessee depict acres of farmland, and small towns with little connection to the urban areas. The people are portrayed as unintelligent and poor, a trend that began in the early twentieth centuries with creation of comics such as “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith”, “Li’l Abner”, and “Long Sam”.

Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan from The Beverly Hillbillies - 1970

There are also television shows which do not focus not on rural Tennessee, but portray images of people that are stereotyped as coming from the rural South. The popular show “The Beverly Hillbillies”, which aired on CBS from 1962-1971 followed the story of an uncivilized and foolish hillbilly family that moves from the Appalachian Mountains, to the Hollywood hills. This shows popularity pushed for the creation of shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” (CBS, 1960-1968), “The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS, 1979-1982), and “Hee Haw” (CBS, 1969-1971), all of which further popularized stereotypes of Southern families. Reality television shows such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (TLC, 2012-2014) aired the lives of a stereotypical Southern family, and has become one of the main images that represent the Southern rural population. In 2002, CBS pitched an idea for the show “The Real Beverly Hillbillies”, in which a poor, rural family would be moved from their Appalachian home to a Beverly Hills mansion. This idea was shot down by critics, and did not end up airing.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park



View east from Clingman's Dome GSMNP NC1

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is located alongside the border of Tennessee and North Carolina and makes up a 13-county area. Great Smokey National Park covers 522,427 acres of land which includes lakes, streams, hiking trails, historical buildings, and a bountiful forest full of nature and wildlife. Great Smokey Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern united states and is the most visited federal national park with an estimate reaching over 11 million visitors a year. The park was established in 1934 with considerable donations of monetary or property coming from John D. Rockefeller, The U.S Government, and several private citizens who helped either donate land or finances for the project. The region of Great Smokey National Park was once home to a community of loggers and mountain people who prospered off the land and its resources. The park is known for preserving many historical buildings of south-Appalachian history.



Great Smokey Mountains is home to 10 developed campgrounds with over 1000 sites you can camp at. In 2013 an estimated 224,557 total nights were spent by people camping out at Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The park offers 4 different styles of camping with • Backcountry: An ideal camping experience for hikers and backpackers. To access these sites, you must hike for miles to reach the campgrounds. • Frontcountry: Ideal for those looking to camp near their cars with access to electricity, water, and restrooms. This experience is recommended for those who are newer to camping and those with younger children. • Ground Campgrounds: These are campgrounds for those with parties of 8 or more present. Located besides the frontcountry campgrounds. • Horse Camps: These campgrounds are unique in the fact they allow for the hitching of horses for an overnight camp. These sites are accessible by car/road for easy access. There is a total of 5 Horse Camps located around the national park. Be advised that all overnight stays require a permit and reservation in advance.

Great Smoky Mountains map





Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to an incredible selection of wildlife which includes nearly 50 species of fur bearing animals, 200+ avian, 34 reptiles, 30 amphibians, and 60 fish. Black Bears, Coyotes, and Bobcats lurk in the region, and are considered to be the apex predators of the park. There is an estimated population of 1,500 black bears in the smokies, with an average of 2 bears per square mile.



The extensive forest of Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to 125 native trees, 18 non- native varieties of trees, and 5000 species of vegetation have also been found in the region. Great Smokey Mountains National Park is known for its extensive forest of red spruce and hardwoods that consume the greater area of the region. The park is 95% covered with trees and has over 2000 miles of streams that crisscross the park. The streams and lakes are filled with fish and aquatic life.

Activities in The Park Hiking


Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to 850 miles of trails for hiking, including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Great Smokey Mountains have a wide range of trails from beginner to advanced to help pander towards a general populous who is either looking for a challenge or is merely looking to have fun at an introductory level. A few of the most popular locations are Charlies Bunion, Alum Cave Bluffs, Rainbow Falls, Chimney Tops, and Andrews Bald. Be advised that bear pepper spray is requested to bring due to the regions large black bear population.

Firefly Event


For a 2 week stretch anywhere from late May to late June is the Firefly Event at Great Smokey National Park. This is in thanks to the large population of Synchronous Firefly present at the park which take part in a mating ritual around the 6-month mark of the year. The fireflies emit a flashing frequency to help find a mate, thus giving off the light we see in fireflies. Biking Bicyclists and joggers can enjoy Cades Cove undisturbed from motor vehicles every day before 10 AM biking alongside the Cades Cove trail.


Waterfall - Great Smoky Mountain state park

Great Smokey Mountains National Park is home to countless beautiful waterfalls that runs all throughout the park, with the more popular waterfalls being • Laurel Falls • Rainbow Falls • Grotto Waterfall • Abrams Falls • Hen Wallow Falls You can access these waterfalls situated parkwide by nearly any means of transportation, whether it be hiking, biking, jogging, or even by car, there’s plenty of waterfalls to be seen. In the smokies, an estimated 85 inches of water falls per year, while in the wet years, up to 8 feet of rain can descended upon the park.