Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
Spend any time in Downtown Franklin on a Saturday evening and the rich sound of mountain music emanates through the streets, surrounding hills, and nearby neighborhoods. For nearly three decades, the Town of Franklin has hosted the free-to-the-public Pickin’ on the Square at the Gazebo on the Square, and it starts this Saturday and is offered until mid-October.
When the Irish, Scots, and English migrated to America and eventually settled in the Western North Carolina mountains, they brought with them a form of music about day-to-day life in the new land, about found and lost loves, and about tragedies and triumphs. Families passed on skills and songs and eventually the music became known as bluegrass, which is mostly created by such acoustic stringed instruments as the fiddle, five-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass (string bass); sometimes musicians playing these instruments are often joined by the resonator guitar (also referred to as a Dobro) and a harmonica or Jew’s harp. Original settlers could hand-make instruments using a variety of readily available materials: dried gourds covered in pig, goat, or cat skin might achieve a crude banjo, for example.
Of course, now most instruments are purchased. However, occasionally a band might add utilitarian items, such as a washboard, spoons, jug, or what is known as a washtub bass, to achieve specific bluegrass musical sounds. While bluegrass is the main musical focus at the free May through October Downtown Franklin Pickin’ on the Square, country, oldies, and gospel are featured as well.
Event organizer for 23 years, Donnie Clay, said, “It’s a good-will event for the people here and visitors. It’s a step-up event, not just a jam session. It’s something for everyone to look forward, and the best thing is it’s free.”
Clay, who regularly plays a variety of instruments and operates a recording studio, said he typically performs at some point during the Pickin’ season. He provides all the sound equipment for the event each Saturday, and at least one volunteer assists him.
Pickin’ on the Square begins at 7 p.m. each Saturday evening (weather permitting) and features live musical entertainment each week. Individuals can bring a lawn chair and enjoy food and refreshments sold by food vendors; or, several local restaurants offer dine-in or carry out.
Because this is a family-friendly event, no alcohol is sold at Pickin’ on the Square, pointed out Clay.
The 2019 Pickin’ on the Square schedule, which is subject to change, currently includes these dates and bands:
May 25 – Lisa & the Boys (Blues, Country, etc.)
June 01 – The J.W. Band (Great Classic Country)
June 08 – The Upbeats Band (Great R&B and Oldies)
June 15 – Taste of Scotland (Due to time constraints NO PICKIN’)
June 22 – Hurricane Creek (Fantastic Show Band)
June 29 – Darren Nicholson (A Real Pro! Thanks!)
July 06 – Remnants Band (A Crowd Favorite – Oldies)
July 13 – Frogtown (Great Bluegrass)
July 20 – Tugalo Holler (Variety of Super Bluegrass)
July 27 – Tom Floyd Band (70’s, Motown, Variety)
August 03 – Paradise 56 (Caribbean, Rock, Original)
August 10 – Andrew Chastain Band (Great Country)
August 17 – Elderly Brothers (Beach Music, Oldies)
August 24 – Caribbean Cowboys (Buffet Music, Oldies)
August 31 – Kasey Clark (From Nashville -New Artist)
September 07 – Hurricane Creek (Showband Encore)
September 14 – Cornbread Creek (Oldtime Music)
September 21 – Curtis Blackwell & The Dixie Bluegrass Boys
September 28 – TBA
October 05 – Blueride (Gospel)
October 12 – Intermission Band (Variety)
The Macon County News publishes a “Pickin’ page with updates on which band is playing that week. It generally appears on page 15.