Friday Nights At Rocky Branch Make 'School' Fun
Visit www.RockyBranchBluegrass.com and our associated Facebook page to see what it's like and then come pick with us at Rocky Branch Community Center in Walland, TN. If you don't play, just enjoy the show ... or get up and buck dance or clog.
Jam sessions are held EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT, 6 p.m. until "when." The picking takes place mostly in the classrooms of the former Rocky Branch Elementary School, which are filled with a combination of church pews, old theater seating and folding chairs.
While bluegrass gets top billing, it's not the only music you'll hear. There's a "Gospel Room" where old-time hymns are played and sung. There's another room that's "mountain music" featuring Ben and Janet Cooper's "Mountain Gap" band and anyone else who wants to join in (and some pickers are as young as 5 or as old as 80+). There's a "fiddle room" where fiddlers engage in all kinds of music from rags and reels and hoedowns to John Denver tunes. Another room draws younger pickers in their 20s, and yet another is hard-core bluegrass in the Earl & Lester and Bill Monroe vein. Of course, the hallway sometimes erupts in a spontaneous jam, and there's an old piano in the old gym-turned-cafeteria where there's been everything from blues to classical piano played. The stage in the gym has a sound system but is used only once a month (the 2nd Friday of the month) and bands perform in 30-minute time slots.
This picking session has been going on since 1997, a year after the old Rocky Branch Elementary was closed by the county. Today, the old school remains a viable part of the community it serves and frequently hosts benefit performances to individuals in need.
Because of this area's proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the resort towns of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge aren't far away, Rocky Branch is often filled with tourists -- many who plan their vacations around the pickin'. These visitors come from all over the U.S., and such far-flung locales as Scotland, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The pickin' sessions have also been the subject of documentary filmmakers from Sweden, England and most recently, Los Angeles. Filmmaker Kerry Candaele whose documentary on his mother's baseball career gave rise to the feature film "A League Of Their Own" filmed there Nov. 18, 2011 for a project that is tentatively titled "The Strength of Strings." For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rocky Branch Community Center is located at the intersection of Rocky Branch and Mt. Nebo Roads in Walland, about 7 miles from Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville. Just follow U.S. 321 towards Townsend (the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains). Turn right on Rocky Branch Road at the River Mill Antique Store (across from "Pure Pleasure") and the community center is about a 1/8 mile on left. Remember: Visit www.RockyBranchBluegrass.com today and make your plans to visit us in person. For more information, email email@example.com.