March 22 will be sixty-four years since the passing of one of the most compelling entertainers of modern times, Uncle Dave Macon.
Around Middle Tennessee and across the land, he continues to be a folk hero. With the exception of the Carter family according to many folklorists Uncle Dave Macon preserved more valuable American folklore through his recordings than any other folk or country music performer.
With a career spanning more than thirty years, he was considered by many music historians as the “first superstar of the Grand Ole Opry, “the King of the Hillbillies”! Uncle Dave’s musical style symbolizes the spirit of the early Opry. As an established star of early vaudeville with his unpredictable humor and flamboyant performing style, it has been said that the Opry needed him more than he needed the Opry in those days.
Uncle Dave Macon was born in 1870 the eighth of eleven children and spent his childhood in Smartt Station, Tennessee near McMinnville. There he learned and was exposed to rural black folk music which he incorporated into his act.
After he married at nineteen, he began farming in the small rural community of Kittrell playing and entertaining for family and friends. He formed the Macon Midway Mule and Wagon Transportation Company hauling freight and produce between Murfreesboro and Woodbury. While hauling along the way, he would play his banjo and make up impromptu songs. Many of his friends including his sister, Annie, encouraged him to go professional. So he began making formal public appearances.
By the early 1920’s, the Macon Mule Transportation business had become a victim of technology. A truck line had started to create competition with the company. At the age of 50, with a family to support and many mouths to feed, Macon was thinking about a career change.
Although it was not his first performance, a defining event occurred in early 1921 when Uncle Dave played and sang publicly at a Methodist Church in Morrison, Tennessee. Macon had come back near his family home at Macon Manor. It was a defining moment to come home and entertain successfully. The church needed to
Presently, March 5, 2016, ninety-five years after his Morrison appearance with a gathering of Uncle Dave lover’s including author and historian, Dr. Michael Doubler, the great grandson of Uncle Dave found themselves back at the same Methodist Church. The door still remains affixed on this beautiful little church. One could not help be awestruck with sensory overload—a bright, blue sky on an early spring day with every living thing about to burst forth.
Once again, the door opens anew for the Uncle Dave story in 2016. With Mike’s as a consultant, a comprehensive story about the life of Uncle Dave Macon will be featured in a play, “Walking in the Sunlight!” produced by the Middle Tennessee State University Theatre and Drama Department. The play will be available to be seen by the public at Tucker Theater in the fall of 2016. Uncle Dave will be featured in an upcoming Ken Burns historical documentary about the history of the Grand Ole Opry for PBS. In addition, Mike Doubler is currently working on the most definitive historical documentary about his great grandfather. It will be published and available in 2017.
The door is opening for continued world-wide fame and appeal. Geroge D. Hay, founder of the Opry, once stated about Uncle Dave,” Here’s the one who wear’s no man’s collar but his own.” But Uncle Dave described himself as merely a “banjoist and songster”, liking religion and meetings, farming, and thanking God for all the bountiful gifts in this beautiful world he bestowed on us!”
With one last glance, the Uncle Dave motley group looked back to observe a beautiful scene complete with impressive billowing white clouds framing the tiny chapel. A sign appeared brilliantly lit in the foreground, “Little faith, little growth…great faith, great growth!” All we could say is, “It’s an amazing time!”
COME HOME TO THE 2016 UNCLE DAVE MACON DAYS!
At Cannonsburgh on Friday, July 8th, Uncle Dave Macon Days Music and Arts Festival officially begins and continues through Saturday evening, July 8th with the best in entertainment and National Competitions in Old Time Music and Dance. On July 8th at 7 pm will feature the 2016 Trail Blazer Award presentation and performance of “The Boxcars” and the following evening Saturday, July 9th with the presentation and performance of the 2016 Heritage Award winner, the legendary, beloved “Doyle Lawson and Quick Silver”.
Throughout the festival’s national competitions are the best in old-time music and dance with participants here locally, across the nation, and worldwide. There will be other performances highlighting Friday evening – Flatt Lonesome and the Grascals and Saturday evening will feature Church Sisters and Lonesome River Band.
For more information go to : uncledavemacondays.com