Tennessee has a deeper and longer-running connection to country music than any other state in the Union. Sure, other states have produced artists who have shaped, changed, and influenced the genre. Heck, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Kentucky, and a few other states have developed unique styles of country music. However, the genre was born in Tennessee. More specifically, commercial country music was born in Bristol, Tennessee in the summer of 1927. This historical connection combined with the culture and natural beauty of Tennessee explains why there are so many country songs about the state.
Up on Old Rocky Top: Country Songs About Tennessee
In our new playlist Up on Old Rocky Top: Country Songs About Tennessee, you’ll find some of our favorite songs about the Volunteer State. Now, it’s important to note that these songs are about Tennessee in some way. So, songs that just happen to have the state’s name in the title didn’t make the cut. With that said, let’s get into the music.
“Tennessee Waltz” – Roy Acuff
First, I know I said that all of these country songs were about Tennessee. This is the one exception, though. But, it became the fourth State Song of Tennessee in 1965. If it’s good enough for the Tennessee legislature, it’s good enough for us.
Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King co-penned this timeless tune. King released it as a single in 1948. Since then, countless artists have covered it. For our list, I chose the version of the song released in 1949 by the King of Country Music and Tennessee native Roy Acuff.
“My Tennessee Mountain Home” – Dolly Parton
I don’t think you can legally make a list of country songs about Tennessee without including a few Dolly Parton cuts. The hard part was picking one to highlight here. However, I think the lead single and title track from Parton’s 1973 record My Tennessee Mountain Home fits like a glove.
This one is about the simple joys of life in rural Tennessee. The imagery that Dolly conjures here is enough to make you homesick for the Smoky Mountains even if you’ve never laid eyes on them.
“Sundown in Nashville” – Marty Stuart
When some people think of Tennessee, either Nashville or Memphis comes to mind almost immediately. As a result, several of the songs on this playlist center around one of those places.
Marty Stuart’s “Sundown in Nashville” takes a look at the darker side of Music City, USA. People from all across the world come to Nashville, Tennessee with a pocket full of songs hoping to make it in country music. However, most of them never do. That’s what this tune is about.
“Rocky Top” – Osborne Brothers
This is another one that could not be absent from a list of country songs about Tennessee. It became one of Tennessee’s State Songs in 1982. About a decade before that, it became a staple of the University of Tennessee’s Pride of the Southland Band. For this playlist, though, we went back to the original 1967 version of the song by the Osborne Brothers.
Sonically, this up-tempo bluegrass tune captures the feeling of the rolling hills and towering mountains of the Volunteer State. Lyrically, it’s about someone sitting in a crowded city pining for the clean air, open spaces, and simple joys they once knew in Tennessee.
For the Vol fans, here’s a video of The Pride of the Southland Band playing “Rocky Top” before the UT/Bama game back in 2012.
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