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Every great song starts with a story, and lots of great stories start in the Smoky Mountains! Over the years, countless artists have turned to the Smokies for inspiration. With its natural beauty and thriving Appalachian culture, East Tennessee is fertile ground for memorable music. When you take your next road trip to the area, be sure to add these songs about the Smoky Mountains to your playlist:
1. Rocky Top
We would be remiss if we didn’t start our list off with Rocky Top, and we might even get some angry messages from fans of of the Tennessee Volunteers! This song is near and dear to the hearts of anyone associated with the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, because Rocky Top is the school’s favorite anthem during football games.
The song’s origins can be traced to nearby Gatlinburg in 1967, when husband and wife Boudleaux and Felice Bryant wrote the tune in about ten minutes while staying at The Gatlinburg Inn. Inspired by the Rocky Top summit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the song laments “cramped up city life” and yearns for the simple serenity of the mountains. Rocky Top was originally recorded by the Osborne Brothers and has since been covered by dozens of artists. Due to its immense popularity, Rocky Top was made one of Tennessee’s ten official state songs.
2. My Tennessee Mountain Home
As Sevierville, Tennessee’s most famous native, Dolly Parton has written many songs about the Smoky Mountains. One of Dolly’s best tributes to her hometown is My Tennessee Mountain Home, a fan favorite released on her 1973 album of the same name. In this beautiful song, Dolly reminisces about her childhood in the Smokies; recounting summer afternoons spent on the front porch, chasing fireflies in the evenings, and walking home from church on Sundays. Despite living in a one room cabin with 11 siblings, Dolly looks back fondly on her peaceful upbringing in the Smokies.
3. Smoky Mountain Rain
Smoky Mountain Rain is one of the most popular songs performed by country singer Ronnie Milsap. Although Milsap is actually from the North Carolina side of the Smokies, the song takes place in Tennessee. Having just returned to Knoxville after some time in Los Angeles, the narrator of the song calls his sweetheart to tell her that he had “a change of dreams” and is back to stay. However, he finds that the woman he loves has left and is out there “somewhere in the Smoky Mountain rain”. Later in the song, the protagonist hails a ride to Gatlinburg to look for his love. Smoky Mountain Rain was a big crossover hit for Milsap and became one of Tennessee’s state songs in 2010.
4. Don’t Let Smokey Mountain Smoke Get In Your Eyes
In addition to Rocky Top, the Osborne Brothers recorded another one of our favorite songs about the Smoky Mountains. In the chorus of this extremely catchy song, the Brothers warn visitors:
Don’t let Smoky Mountain smoke get in your eyes
If you do, I’m telling you
You’ll want to live there the rest of your life
If Smoky Mountain smoke gets in your eyes
We think a lot of folks who vacation in the Smokies can relate to this sentiment!
5. A Boy Named Sue
A Boy Named Sue might not seem like an obvious choice for a Smoky Mountain playlist, but East Tennessee actually plays a big role in the song. The famous Johnny Cash tune penned by Shel Silverstein in 1969 tells the story of a young man’s quest to hunt down and kill his absent father who named him Sue. The dramatic (and hilarious) confrontation between the boy and his dad takes place at an old saloon in Gatlinburg in mid-July. It’s hard to imagine a raucous bar fight with “kicking and gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer” happening in Gatlinburg today!
Do all of these great songs about the Smoky Mountains make you want to hit the road? Start planning your trip by visiting our Smoky Mountain lodging page!