JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The Grammy Awards are coming up and there are a couple of folks right here in our region who are up for an award -- not so much for playing music, but for preserving it.
They're recordings made in 1939 by the people who were soon to be moved out of their way of life to make way for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The recordings are now an album called "Old Time Smoky Mountain Music."
"It's a slice of history right before bluegrass emerged. Bill Monroe helped to invent bluegrass in the early 40s and mid-40s, but this collection predated that," says Ted Olson, East Tennessee State University professor and Grammy nominee.
The recordings were made by Joseph Hall, a graduate student from California in 1939, before the people of the Smokies were moved out to make way for the national park. But they were made in 1939 and needed to be cleaned up.
That was a job for John Fleenor from ETSU's Archives of Appalachia. "The objective in my mind is to clear away all the noise and leave the true recording as much as possible and you're talking about 80-year-old recordings," Grammy nominee Fleenor said.
The result has been nominated for a Grammy for "Best Historical Album."
It took a lot of work just to find out about the people who made the recordings. "When we started the project we didn't know much at all, but research is research. We looked into things and found things and we put them into the liner notes of this CD. Hopefully they tell the missing story behind the record," Olson said.
But Joseph Hall recorded more that just music on his trips into the mountains. "Not only did he record the music, he also recorded stories and interviews of the people of the Smoky Mountains park. The people that were displaced," Fleenor said.
It's a culture that may have been lost without such a recording.