Leadership in Retirement

Leadership in Retirement

Lifelong Learning at Lake Keowee includes trail blazing.

Putting Hard-Earned Skills to Work at Keowee Key 

Keowee Key isn’t your typical community—and it doesn’t attract typical folks.

Located on a gorgeous lake in the South Carolina foothills, 45-year-old Keowee Key has many of the amenities you’d associate with a master-planned community: boating, a George Cobb-designed championship golf course, walking trails, tennis, pickleball, a pool, parks, and beaches. But, instead of being operated by a development company, Keowee Key is member-owned and governed. It’s a nonprofit organization, a municipality with 3,500 residents and its own water and sewer system. A seven-person elected board of directors oversees the community, and residents vote on how they’d like to see Keowee Key change and grow.

With so many opportunities for involvement, it’s no surprise that Keowee Key is home to phenomenal leaders, whose skills have proven invaluable. From strategic planning to fiscal stewardship, fire mitigation to facility renovation, the residents at Keowee Key—many of whom are retirees—play a vital role in shaping their community.

Strategic Planning Takes Center Stage

Margaret Eldridge, Keowee Key’s board president, has lived in the community for 12 years. Before retiring 20 years ago, she had a robust banking career. “I spent time managing the bank’s investment portfolio as well as running the loan administration area. I was also chairman of a state agency that provided financing for low-income housing and economic development activities. A combination of those things helped me understand the most appropriate mechanisms for financing big projects,” says Eldridge, who was also president of consumer banking for a statewide holding company and chairman of a bank.

Keowee Key’s board is proactive when it comes to strategic planning. “Five years ago, we identified the current trends for communities like ours and determined that we needed to renovate our clubhouse, fitness center, and golf course, and add walking trails through the community. We also had to upgrade our IT systems and one of our community pool facilities. Once we put a pencil to it, we had 14 million dollars of investment we needed to do,” Eldridge says. “From a business perspective, we had to create the plan to get that done, a financing plan, the oversight structure to accomplish all of those things in a manner that met our members’ expectations and was concluded on time and on budget … One of my roles was to create the (funding) plan and obtain community support for it.”

 

Yoga at Keowee Key is a different kind of lifelong learning.

 

Members’ commitment to community improvement as well as their willingness to lead through volunteerism sets Keowee Key apart. “The kind of people who are attracted to being here are folks who have a heart for service. Our county administrator once said they’d have to have 40 more employees in the county to offset all of our volunteer efforts,” Eldridge says.

When she’s not engaged in board leadership, Eldridge is a volunteer instructor at Clemson in the Women’s Leadership Program. “I believe people need to have a purpose,” she says. “I really love my teaching because it gives me an opportunity to help young women and give them some information that gives them a leg up when they go to work.”

Sharing Safety Skills

Keowee Key resident Russ Landis also embraces leadership in retirement. He leads the community’s chapter of the National Fire Protection Association’s FIREWISE program, a U.S.-wide initiative in which community volunteers promote fire safety. An engineer by trade,

Landis worked for 40 years in the manufacturing industry, predominantly with heavy manufacturing, nuclear fuel, and power generation equipment. Eight years ago, Landis retired and moved with his wife from Pittsburgh to Keowee Key, located centrally to the homes of the couple’s four children. As a consultant, Landis spent most of his time on the road. He was looking forward to staying in one place long enough to give back.

Promoting fire safety in an urban woodland interface like Keowee Key is a vital job. “It’s very wooded, and we like to keep it that way. But the risks from wildfire are relatively high because of the density of the forest, so we have to work hard to keep it safe,” Landis says. “One of the ways we help reduce the risk of wildfire is to encourage homeowners to keep their property cleaned up by picking up dead branches and plants and recycling those through chipping activities. We run five of these chipping days a year. Residents who have a quarter-acre lot will gather up twigs, sticks, and vegetation and bring that up to the curb. On chipping day, we dispatch volunteers in pickup trucks to run around and pick stuff up.” The National Fire Protection Agency took note of Keowee Key’s large-scale risk reduction program and filmed the process, showcasing the community as a stellar example of FIREWISE.

Engineering renovation

Board director David Rosamond is the engineering project manager for the club and bistro remodel projects. An engineer whose career focused on project and construction management, Rosamond worked on the planning and development of projects all over the world until retiring in 2008 and moving to Keowee Key from Moscow.

When the community began considering major renovations and upgrading, it was only natural for Rosamond to get involved. “With my knowledge and background in engineering and construction, I was naturally assigned the responsibility for overseeing everything from contractors to architects. I used all of my skill set I had acquired after 40 years in the business; particularly in the initial phases, my wife said, ‘You spent more time on this project than the ones you used to get paid for.’ But, it was a labor of love.”

 

St James Plantation Banner

 

Fitness Project Renovation Team Chair Jon Goyert concurs. “I’m surprised sometimes about the number of people who volunteer. It’s very encouraging! I’ve got to think that goes back to people not wanting to sit around, continuing to want to contribute. There are all kinds of opportunities to do what they like to do.”

Along with his wife, Goyert, who has a PhD in Marine Science, worked for many years in the field of environmental analysis, running an office in Florida. While in Florida, the couple volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. They have continued their involvement with Habitat after their move to Keowee Key. Next year John Goyert will serve as president of the local affiliate, and his wife Karen will serve as secretary.

“The type of people we have (at Keowee), they’re all relatively young retirees. They came from a world of working. No one wants to just sit down and watch TV. We want to do stuff … It keeps you active and your mind sharp. I can’t imagine sitting around all day. I’d be bored to tears,” Jon Goyert says.

As Chair of the Fitness Project Renovation Team, Jon Goyert was in charge of the Fitness and Racquet Center renovation, including working with an architectural firm, gathering resident feedback, and seeing the project through. The opening ceremony was held in October 2018, and about 350 people attended. “We came in ahead of schedule and under budget. I think it turned out really well,” Goyert says.

A Walking Trail Partnership

Bill and Lenore Malin are committed to fitness through a different lens—establishing a roadside trails program at Keowee Key. The two ran a commercial building company together until 2005. “We did a lot of embassy work, a lot of restaurant work, just a very varied construction enterprise. Lenore handled the administrative piece and the office, I handled the rest of the ballgame. We worked as a team,” Bill says.

For almost five years, the Malins pushed to get the ROADS and Southside Walking Trail Project program off the ground. When financial support came to fruition, the two got to work as co-chairs, along with a supportive team.

“The community response to the walking trails has been really positive,” Bill says, adding that older residents in particular have benefited from the trails’ accessibility. “The use of the trail is far in excess of what we expected. There are a lot of dog walkers; it’s really crowded.”

In addition to their involvement with the roadside trails program, Bill and Lenore have hobbies of their own. “When I came down here, Bill bought lessons with a local potter for me as a Christmas gift. Now I have my own studio with a kiln and spray set-up for glazing. We do one or two sales a year within Keowee Key. I do the pottery, and Bill makes beautiful wooden trays,” Lenore says. “We love this community, and we’re very happy to be able to contribute something lasting to it. It raises our spirits and makes us smile every time we go out and see someone on the trail.”

 

Return to Featured Articles

Why Relocating is Good for You

Why Relocating is Good for You

Writing about the benefits of relocating for a magazine whose tagline is “Find Your Ideal… Destination, Life, Home” does seem a little suspicious and self-serving. But, seriously, have you heard the latest? Relocating is good for you!

But, having had five moves involving three different states, and knowing those moves were positive experiences for me, I wondered what the literature says about moving. Is (voluntary) relocation good for your health? I decided to take a look and share my findings. The bottom line is it can indeed be a very good thing, for a variety of reasons.

Sharper Brain. With each of my moves, I enthusiastically explored my surroundings, sampling new restaurants, shops, parks, museums, local theater, and volunteer options, and embraced the challenges of fresh career opportunities. I’m not saying every step was easy, but relocating forces you off auto-pilot and out of your comfort zone. Research shows that novel situations enhance memory, and may even trigger the growth of new brain cells.

Move Your Body More. Our environment shapes our behavior. A location with nicer weather invites us to be outside and be more active than a rainy or cold-weather environment. Having lived in Maryland, Ohio, and New Jersey, I find that now (in sunny Florida), I’m outside a LOT: the ocean, walking paths, tennis courts, and my bike make exercising easier and enjoyable year-round.

New surroundings, fresh start, new sense of community - what's not to love about relocating? Besides the moving part!Friends. Relocating can facilitate new friendships, introducing you to unexpected and fresh perspectives. Those who decide to age in place may have established a good network, but over time find their support group may move away: job transfers, friends, and neighbors who no longer want to live in a cold-weather climate, children who moved away because of career choices, divorce, death, etc. According to research, feeling lonely is equivalent to the risk of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. With social media (and cars and airplanes), it’s easy to stay in touch and visit with friends from former locations. Or, bring your “posse” with you! Two friends from my previous location live in my current community.

Adult Children/Grandchildren. Let’s acknowledge that, for many people, moving away from children/grandchildren can be difficult. I have three wonderful, independent, married, working children with fabulous spouses who live in three different cities in two different states, and three young grandchildren (the grandchildren were born after our last relocation). We visit our children/grandchildren several times a year (and they love coming to Florida for some R&R). We are delighted to stay with our grandchildren if the parents want to travel (escape?) as a couple, we get together for major holidays, and when we’re with our adult children, they can go out to dinner and have “couple” time. The family thing (should we stay or go) is a tough decision for many people, but it works well for us. We know, should there be an emergency, that they are only a flight away. However, if/when we are in our “third act” and are no longer independent, we may move closer to them (just for oversight, not to move in with them!).Benefits of sunlight. Voluntary migration patterns are often from cold weather states to those with warmer temperatures. Although the negative effects of too much sun is what we generally hear about (wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer), our planet’s almost perfect, glowing sphere of hot gas does remarkable things for our bodies. Here are some of them:

In a complex relay of nerve signals, sunlight stimulates our pineal gland (a pea-size gland within our brain) to make melatonin, which helps protect our skin and regulates our sleep-wake cycles. The precursor of melatonin in the pineal gland is serotonin, the “feel-good” brain chemical.

We’re familiar with Vitamin D, the “Sunshine Vitamin,” which can be made by the body through the action of sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D’s role in the body is impressive, including: bone and teeth health by promoting the absorption of calcium; increasing the body’s nitric oxide production which reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the brain and kidneys (by relaxing blood vessels); strengthening our immune system and heart: regulating insulin; and helping control inflammation in the body.

Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune thyroid diseases. And, SAD (season affective disorder) seems to be triggered by a combination of particular genes and shorter days with less sunlight.

The average American spends 22 hours a day indoors, but we think we spend only 16 hours a day inside, according to YouGov, an international research company. And, a study published in Nutritional Research found that the rate of Vitamin D deficiency in the United States was 41.6%. Perhaps we’ve been too successful touting the downside of sunlight and ignoring its many benefits. Go outside and play!

Forced decluttering. Ah…how good does it feel to go through a closet or a garage, and give away/get rid of all of that stuff you don’t want/need? Relocating is decluttering on steroids. You feel lighter and leaner as you throw off the yoke of all unnecessary belongings. I found that moving to a house without a basement was truly liberating – it forced me to get rid of my Organic Chemistry books from the 1980s, and give away piles of things I wouldn’t use/didn’t need any longer.

Save Money. Moving to a place with a lower cost of living or downsizing to a smaller house can save you money. And, if you can ditch your car because you can either walk or use public transportation, you may be able to save even more.

You call the shots. Relocate before you can no longer live in your home and are forced to move. Most newer homes are built with “universal design” principles so you can age in place. No more low toilets, bathtubs you have to climb into to use the shower, or door handles that are difficult to turn. Be proactive, not reactive. And, remember – if for some reason it doesn’t work out, nothing is permanent.

We’ve all heard the quote about being more disappointed by the things you DIDN’T do than by the ones you did do. Change is invigorating. Embrace it.

Visit communities at ideal-living.com

Jan Cullinane is an award-winning retirement author, speaker, and consultant. Her current book is The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (AARP/Wiley).

Footprints  | Use Solar Systems in 2019

Footprints  | Use Solar Systems in 2019

Solar is smarter in 2019.

 

SOLAR SYSTEMS 2019

How They Work and How Much They Cost

This is an especially good year to consider upgrading with a residential solar-power system for two reasons: the cost has never been lower and the 30% federal tax credit starts to disappear in 2020. Understanding how solar systems function will help you to determine the desirability of that investment.  

How Solar Works

Every rooftop solar system has four essential components and an optional fifth.

Solar panels have photovoltaic (PV) cells that turn radiant energy from the sun into direct-current (DC) electricity. Each standard-size panel is 65 by 39 inches (5.4 x 3.25 feet), weighs around 40 pounds, and is typically rated for output at 300 watts. To install an average-size residential system that produces six kilowatts (kW) of electricity, you’ll need 20 panels covering an area of 500 square feet and weighing about 1,000 pounds with mounting hardware. All-weather panels are durable for at least 25 years. Rain removes most grime, but annual inspections may include professional cleaning.

A mounting system secures that half-ton array to the rooftop. Most roofs can handle the weight, while older ones may need reinforcement, but this is definitely not a DIY job. Ideally, the roof has a pitch of around 30 degrees, is unobstructed by trees, and faces south because east-west orientations can be about 15% less productive.

An inverter converts that DC electricity into the standard alternating-current (AC) that powers electrical devices. A performance monitor tracks how much electricity is being produced and used. Data is displayed on a wall unit and can be transmitted to an off-site service accessible online or with an app.

 

Jasper Highlands Banner

 

The performance monitor also keeps tabs on excess electricity being fed back to your local utility because you’re not off the grid yet, nor do you really want to be. Instead, it’s a two-way street: you’re both a producer and consumer as part of a net-metering system. For every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity you generate but don’t immediately use (typically during the afternoon), you get a credit for sending it out on the wires for redistribution where it’s needed. Those credits are cashed in when you’re producing less than you’re using (morning/evening peaks, all night long and during inclement weather). There’s also an annual cycle of summer production versus winter usage. This ebb and flow results in either a credit surplus that can be carried forward according to utility policy or a deficit requiring a small power bill that’s far less than what you’re paying now on the one-way street of consumption only.

So why can’t you just keep all the power you create, use it as needed, and get entirely off the grid? With current technology, electricity is much cheaper to produce and distribute than it is to store. Hence, the optional component of your system: solar batteries. Until there are major breakthroughs in storage capacity, current batteries serve as little more than emergency back-ups and can add 50% to your total price.

HOW MUCH SOLAR COSTS

The good news is that the declining price of solar panels plus a growing number of competing installers have combined to make residential solar-power systems more affordable than ever. As an example using nationwide averages, the 20-panel/6-kW system described above has a gross cost today of around $20,000, including all equipment, permit, and installation charges. Deduct $2,000 for the rebates offered in many states, subtract the 30% federal tax credit from that subtotal and another $1,000 for state credits where applicable, and you’ve got a bottom-line cost of just $11,600.

OK, that’s a big chunk of change, but consider this: you’re paying $100 or more a month for electricity now, which is $1,200+ a year or more than $30,000 over 25 years. But, if your system hits the sweet spot of producing roughly the same amount of power that you consume annually in a net-metering system, your monthly bill will be $0—a total savings of about $18,400. And, several recent studies have shown that a residential solar system can raise a home’s market value by up to 4%; for a $300,000 property, that’s an increase of $12,000 on day one. If you can’t afford the entire up-front cost, there are financing options and even leasing plans. But, under current law, the 30% federal tax credit available in 2019 will decline by 4% each year in 2020 and 2021, expiring altogether for residential solar in 2022 unless the program is renewed, which is ironic because rooftop solar systems are renewable-power sources that enhance American energy independence, create skilled jobs, and may help to save the planet.

Return to Featured Articles

Retirement Done Right

Retirement Done Right

Ask the Right Questions

Retirement planning is pretty variable, so don’t expect right answers, just right questions.

In 1951, Dr. Albert Einstein was working as a physics professor at Princeton University. One day, he and his teacher’s assistant were walking across campus when the assistant asked the question, “Dr. Einstein, how do you think our advanced physics students did on their final exam?” Dr. Einstein replied, “Not very well.” The assistant looked surprised and shocked as he responded, “But Dr. Einstein, why wouldn’t our students have done well when we gave them the same test as we gave them last year?” Dr. Einstein replied, “The questions were the same, but the answers are different this time.” While this scenario applies to many situations, it definitely applies to retirement planning. 

In many ways, planning our retirement takes a similar path as 
Dr. Einstein’s advanced physics class. The questions are still the same, but the answers are different. Here are some of the more important questions:

  • Do I have enough to retire?
  • Will my money last as long as I live?
  • What kind of lifestyle can I afford?
  • How much risk should I take?
  • What to do?

Every individual should have a retirement plan regardless of his or her age. This means talking to an advisor about how much money is needed to retire using today’s assumptions regarding life span, health, income levels, inflation, and projected investment returns. As you near retirement, consider a few tactical steps to maximize your security and peace of mind.

Evaluate personal spending.

Instead of worrying about which stock to buy or sell daily, save more money and you’ll get accustomed to spending less now. The good news is that spending is typically highest in the early stages of retirement and declines as the years pass. Take an honest look at your pre-retirement lifestyle, expectations for future spending, and planned activities (such as hobbies and travel). Your conclusions in this thought process will shape your income requirements, and the level of risk in your portfolio.

Coordinate your planning.

Connect the dots between your financial plan and your estate and tax planning.  Work with a trusted fiduciary advisor who puts your interests first and can regularly meet face to face with you and your family. Empower your financial advisor to work directly with your estate lawyer and CPA to be sure you get the best results.  We do this for our clients and the results and follow through can make a big difference on tax day and when facing big life transitions.

Create a system and follow it.

Today, most individuals invest for growth. Balancing the risk/return and growth/income decision requires thoughtful portfolio design, periodic review, and rebalancing from year to year. And the personal discipline to stick with the plan! An individual is 20 times more likely to achieve desired results with a written plan. It should include details regarding risk, taxes, and portfolio design.

Manage your withdrawal rate.

Research shows that even in the most favorable market environments, taking more than 6% annually from a portfolio over a 30-year period can lead to premature depletion of assets. Determining a sustainable withdrawal rate is wise and allows retirees to maintain stable income throughout various market environments.

Plug the tax and expense drains.

The up and down movements in the stock market are out of your control, so try not to worry when they don’t move in your favor. Instead, plan for adverse markets and pay more attention to characteristics that are controllable. Evaluate the possible impact of taxes on your retirement income. How much should you withdraw from the portfolio to receive enough income after taxes? Should you first withdraw from taxable or tax deferred accounts, given your age, tax rate, asset composition, and other personal factors? What expenses are set in stone for you and which are optional?

Assume inflation.

Figure inflation into retirement spending projections and expected investment returns. Although inflation has averaged just over 3% on a long-term basis, many advisors say that a 4% assumption is more prudent. The difference between these two rates is substantial over a lengthy retirement. For instance, to maintain purchasing power throughout a 25-year retirement period, a $100,000 annual withdrawal must increase to more than $209,000, assuming 3% inflation, and $266,500 at 4% inflation. There is a big difference.

Make it count.

Many people spend more time planning their vacation or next automobile purchase than they spend thinking about retirement. Your golden years are one of the more important periods of your life – you will enjoy them better if you’re prepared. Take the time to investigate.

Keep it simple.

Invest in things you understand or that your professional advisor can explain in language that makes sense. Great results do not need to be complicated. The far more important concept is the eighth wonder of the world…time and compounding. If an investor will invest in the best businesses in the world, led by the smartest management, providing world-class goods and services to an increasing global consumer, the results tend to be good. And, in most cases, dividends that tend to increase each year helping income keep pace with inflation.

Great results are most often the product of great relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out qualified experts who can keep you on course as the answers change. Less worry and peace of mind is the goal. We are here to help support your success!

About the authors: Vinton Fountain III, Buck Beam, Brice Gibson and Christopher Riley CFP are members of Fountain Financial Associates, a registered Investment Advisory Firm in Wilmington, NC.  Their mission is to give clients and their families a better life. Learn more at www.fountainfinancial.net. Advisory Services offered through Fountain Financial Associates, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC. Fountain Financial Associates, Inc., and Cetera are not affiliated.

Tennessee Music Pathways | From Blues to Country to Rock n’ Roll

Tennessee Music Pathways | From Blues to Country to Rock n’ Roll

Memphis: Blues Clubs on historic Beale Street at twilight.

 

The Tennessee Music Scene Attracts Visitors of All Ages

Tennessee was made for music. The Tennessee Music Pathways program illustrates this best. 

Perhaps it’s the singular geographical breadth of Tennessee – a 500-mile span that sees the Volunteer State remarkably sharing a border with eight brethren (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina) – that literally make it a crossroads, a geographical confluence of culture, cuisine, dialect, and maybe most importantly, an enduring and profound crossroads for American music.

For it is in Tennessee where seven genres of music – country, gospel, bluegrass, soul, blues, rockabilly, and rock – found a home, were nurtured and have flourished, from Memphis and Nashville to Chattanooga and Bristol. And, all of that enriched musical history can be explored through a new program from the State’s tourism folks called Tennessee Music Pathways (www.tnvacation.com/tennessee-music-pathways).

Tennessee Music Pathways

Tennessee Music Pathways is a state-wide driving tour program that identifies, interprets, and preserves a broad perspective of Tennessee music events, locations, and stories, some great and well known, and some less so, yet equally intriguing. Working with the state historian and through internal research at the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, more than 500 locations, including birthplaces, resting places, hometowns, high schools, churches, and locations of first-known recordings or performances of the musical pioneers and legends, are being incorporated into the driving tour.

“Tennessee Music Pathways connects fans to the people, places, and genres that make Tennessee the Soundtrack of America,” says Tourist Development Commissioner, Kevin Triplett. “From the largest cities to the smallest communities, this state-wide program identifies, explains, and preserves the legacy of music in Tennessee.”

In addition to the seven genres that have found a home in Tennessee, the state has more musicians per capita than anywhere in the world and is home to world-renowned music attractions such as Beale Street, Bluebird Cafe, Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Dollywood, Graceland, Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and the historic Tennessee Theatre.

The State also has partnered with Rolling Stone to offer a program called Six Degrees, a custom online search tool that allows users to enter an artist’s name to see their ‘pathway’ to Tennessee in six degrees or less.

For instance, enter the name Frank Sinatra and you’ll discover that he was inspired by the rhythmic swing of Billy Holiday, who considered legendary Chattanooga native and Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, as her mentor for musical phrasing. Look up U2, and you’ll see that the band from Dublin recorded the hit song “When Love Comes to Town,” featuring legendary blues performer B.B. King, at historic Sun Studio in Memphis.

 

Nobles Pond Banner

 

Retire Tennessee

Additionally, for those looking to relocate or retire, the state has designated 22 rural and urban locations as Retire Tennessee Communities, all of which either include or frame some of the iconic landmarks of the Tennessee Music Pathways, and all provide the resources and amenities needed to be a viable retirement community. You can discover these communities online at www.tnvacation.com/retire-tennessee/communities.

So, how did Tennessee come to be the home of seven distinct, yet intricately related musical expressions? For the country and bluegrass genres, we can look to the thousands of Scotts-Irish immigrants who moved to the southern Appalachian Mountains in the 18th and 19th centuries, bringing their fiddles and folk music with them. Over the decades their lyrical immigrant music evolved, often in isolation, hidden on mountain cabin front porches or in humble churches across North Carolina, Virginia, and east Tennessee.

Nashville, United States - September 23, 2016: View of country western neon signs on Lower Broadway in Nashville, TN. The district is famous for its country music entertainment and bars.

That is until 1927 when Ralph Peer, a record executive in New York City for the Victor Talking Machine Company, was scouting for recording talent in the southern states. Peer set up a makeshift recording studio in Bristol, in the very northeast corner of Tennessee, and put the word out he would pay $50, a fortune in those days, for individuals or groups to record their music. Peer’s groundbreaking efforts there are reverently known in the music world as the Bristol Sessions.

The Birthplace of Country Music

Roughly 30 miles away, in the shadow of Clinch Mountain in Virginia, A.P. Carter got the word, and he, his wife Sara, and her sister Maybelle drove to Bristol to make a record. You could do a Ken Burns documentary on the colossal impact of the Carter family on American music, but on the afternoon of August 2, 1927, the three sang “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow,” with Maybelle on scratch guitar and Sara on autoharp. That afternoon marked the birth of commercial country music in the United States. Fittingly, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is located in Bristol, with Mother Maybelle Carter as its matriarch. Bristol is a Retire Tennessee Community.

The popularity of country music was growing in pockets around America in the 20s, largely through the local radio broadcasts of Saturday night barn dances: staged performances of music, square dancing, and other entertainment. Even Chicago had the WLS National Barn Dance radio show.

But, the granddaddy emerged in 1925 when the WSM Barn Dance in Nashville – renamed the Grand Ole Opry in 1927 – became a sheer gravitational force for country, gospel, and bluegrass talent in 1932. That year, the station boosted its signal to 50,000 Clear Channel watts, allowing most of the eastern and central United States to tune in to the Opry. So important is WSM that in 2001 the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville incorporated the unique diamond shape of the WSM radio tower into its logo.

It’s a bit harder to pinpoint the genesis of gospel music in Tennessee, as the genre covered the southern states like dew, born largely from the music emanating from evangelical revivals. We can, however, look to 1871 when an African-American a capella choir from Fisk University in Nashville first began touring and performing Negro spirituals and gospel music…and they still do today. The Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum is located at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, just down the road from Ms. Parton’s home town of Sevierville.

People gather with their camping and other outdoor chairs in front of the courthouse in historic Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest town (founded in 1979). They are here for "Music on the Square", an event featuring live music and other performances held every Friday evening in the summer.

Musical Offspring

As Nashville was emerging as the country music capital, Memphis, tucked on the banks of the Mississippi River in far west Tennessee, was doing the same as a home to the blues. Its gravitational force was Beale Street, where blues clubs and juke joints sprouted like wildflowers in the early 1900s. B.B. King moved from Arkansas to Memphis in 1948 and became the acknowledged crowned head of the city and undeniable international ambassador for the blues. The original B.B. King’s Blues Club is located in the heart of vibrant Beale Street. King is also acknowledged as one of the founders of the R&B and soul genres.
From the Tennessee Music Pathways website, “They say Country and Blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll. Stand in the delivery room at Sun Studio and watch it grow throughout Tennessee.”

Indeed, The King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley’s first hit recording had the African-American blues song “That’s All Right Mama” on the A-side and the classic Bill Monroe bluegrass song “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the other. But, the tempo and virility of each song was vastly increased from the original, and therein, Elvis took a giant step in blurring genre lines on his way, along with others, to create a brand new one.

We’ve only scratched the surface here of the vast depth of Tennessee’s musical legacy, iconic landmarks, songwriter inspirations, countless performing arts sites, and renowned music festivals. The 500-mile breadth of Tennessee awaits to share with you and your family the Soundtrack of America.

Return to Destinations