The dance of water over moss covered rocks, the rhythms of wind and rain through thickets of mountain laurel, the echoes of bird calls, and the steady thrust of the Blue Ridge Mountains must reach deep into that place in these mountain dwellers' hearts where the music begins. It beckons to you - come, pick up your feet and dance.
The music speaks of their homes and of their wild places. The treasured melodies and fiddle tunes are handed from family to family, preserving the past and enriching the future.
Once called the "Gateway to the Smokies," Haywood County is located just east of the Great Smoky Mountains in the Blue Ridge range. With its deep roots in Scots-Irish culture, the people of Haywood County are blessed with generations of traditional musicians. They have maintained a great many of the oral and music traditions over the two centuries of living in coves, small towns, and mountain communities. The county developed into a legendary hotbed of traditional music and dance. From the front porches to the church halls to the local barn dances, the music of the mountains became a staple of life, a means of bringing people together or just passing the time before the days of television and video games.
These performers included fiddlers, banjo pickers, guitar players, ballad and folk singers, and clogging and square dance teams. Their fame spread throughout the state and nation.
In the 1930s, the Soco Gap dance team from Haywood County, led by Sam Queen, performed at the White House in front of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt as well as the king and queen of England. Old-time Haywood musicians such as fiddler Carroll Best and banjo player Raymond Fairchild became famous for their unique style of playing. Canton's Quay Smathers, a legendary shaped-note singer and teacher, taught notable performers such as John McCutcheon and Grammy Award-winner David Holt.
Others such as Waynesville's Mack Snodderly, a master fiddler, have won dozens of prestigious contests over the years and performed at the World's Fair in Knoxville in 1980. Often seen as icons of community pride, these performers perpetuated mountain music throughout the state, region, and country, and oftentimes sacrificed the glory of TV fame and record deals to devote time to their families and work a regular day job.