Knoxville, Tennessee audio tour: Knoxville Legends: Exploring the City’s Country Music Heritage

Knoxville Legends: Exploring the City’s Country Music Heritage

Walking Tour

|
60 mins
|
1.2mi

About the Tour

Experience Knoxville, the "Cradle of Country Music", in a new way on a walking tour that looks at the city’s deep and dynamic heritage in the development of American country music.

Discover new stories about the talented musicians and songwriters who were born here or used the city as a springboard to fame, in Nashville and beyond. Some just came to play, while others left their mark in memorable ways. We’ll meet the truly famous, like Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, and Elvis Presley, but also the more obscure performers and songwriters such as Charlie Oaks and Arthur Q. Smith.

Along the way, I’ll show you the spots where:

• The little-known teenage singer Dolly Parton “fell in love with her audience”
• Hank Williams spent his final evening
• The RCA discovered a regional phenomenon known as Elvis Presley
• Arthur Q. Smith sold songs to pay for his bar bill
• The brand-new bluegrass duo Flatt & Scruggs recorded their first records

I’ll weave in interesting facts and tales from Knoxville’s history and culture along the way, too.

Whether you’re a visitor or a resident curious about local history, which often connects to national history, this tour is the perfect primer to Knoxville’s Country Music roots. Jack Neely, a longtime newspaper journalist and author of more than 10 books on Knoxville’s lesser-known history is your guide on this hour-long walk.

Downtown Knoxville is a bustling place filled with coffee shops, restaurants and bars along the route, so feel free to enjoy our stories of Country Music at your own pace. You’ll never think of Knoxville the same way again.

Tour Producer

avatar

Jack Neely

Writer and researcher Jack Neely is a longtime journalist whose award-winning column, “Secret History,” appeared in Metro Pulse for more than 20 years. He’s author of numerous books about Knoxville’s distinctive history, including, recently, The Tennessee Theatre: A Grand Entertainment Palace, Market Square: The History of the Most Democratic Place on Earth, and Knoxville, Tennessee: This Obscure Prismatic City. His work has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Tennessee Library Association, the American Institute of Architects, and the University of Tennessee’s History Department. Since 2014 he has served as the executive director of the Knoxville History Project. His latest books include, Historic Knoxville: The Curious Visitor’s Guide, Historic Bearden, and Knoxville’s Old City: A Short History.

Risen from the ashes of local journalism, the Knoxville History Project publishes books, tells stories, leads tours, mounts public art, organizes events, and maintains a website of narratives and illustrations that should answer most of your questions about your favorite city, and may keep you fascinated for weeks. KHP’s recent projects have connected Knoxville to its experiences in women’s suffrage, railroads, pandemics, sports, breweries, civil rights, heavy industry, immigration, and rock ’n’ roll. And proven how they’re all related. Jack Neely, award-winning journalist and author, has been executive director of KHP for its six-year history, and will outline the nonprofit’s mission and how it’s relevant to almost everything, especially Knoxville's present and future.

Major Landmarks

  • Southern Railroad Station

  • The Old City

  • Gay Street

  • Market Square

  • Tennessee Theatre

  • Bijou Theatre

  • Andrew Johnson Building.

Directions to Starting Point

319 N. Gay Street, Knoxville TN 37902

Show Directions
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Tips

Places to stop along the way

Knoxville has a lively downtown including numerous restaurants and bars, particularly along Gay Street and on Market Square. The Bistro by the Bijou is Knoxville's oldest restaurant within one of the city's oldest buildings, the Lamar House. If you are out at night try the Peter Kern library, an intimate limited-seating bar within the Oliver Hotel, Peter Kern's former Emporium. Also, the official Visitor Center at 301. S. Gay Street is located conveniently along the tour route at Gay Street at Summit Hill.

Best time of day

This tour can be taken anytime.

Precautions

We recommend charging your phone before starting out on the tour. The tour can be done in all weather but an umbrella and sunscreen are worth remembering depending on the time of year.

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Knoxville Legends: Exploring the City’s Country Music Heritage