Department of Tourism
Country Music Highway Driving Tour CDs to Feature Ricky Skaggs' Narration
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 6, 2005) – Eastern Kentucky’s U.S. Hwy. 23, the “Country Music Highway,” is the subject of a new heritage driving tour produced by the Kentucky Folklife Program, a program of the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Arts Council.
Set for release this fall, More Than Music: A Heritage Driving Tour of Kentucky’s Route 23, will be showcased at the Kentucky Folklife Festival in Frankfort Sept. 15-17. The driving tour includes three compact disks narrated by country star Ricky Skaggs, a native of Lawrence County, through which the Country Music Highway passes as it wends its way 150 miles through Kentucky from Portsmouth, Ohio at the northern end to Whitesburg, Ky. at the southern end on the Virginia border.
A fourth CD features songs performed by famous natives who grew up close to this National Scenic Byway. Among the country stars who hail from points along the picturesque route are Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gale of Johnson County, Billy Ray Cyrus of Greenup County, the Judds from Boyd County, Dwight Yoakam of Floyd County and Patty Loveless of Pike County.
More Than Music will be pre-sold at the Kentucky Folklife Festival for the special introductory price of $19.99.
In celebration of the release of the driving tour, Ricky Skaggs and his group Kentucky Thunder will headline a concert at the Folklife Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. on the lawn of the Old State Capitol in downtown Frankfort. Rebecca Lynn Howard and other traditional Hwy. 23 artists will be opening for the Saturday night concert.
Admission to the concert is included with purchase of a $4 Kentucky Folklife Festival collectible pin, good for all three days of activities, concerts and Kentucky Historical Society exhibits and sites. Pins will be available on site, or may be purchased in advance at the Kentucky Historical Society, 100 W. Broadway, or Poor Richard’s Books, 423 W. Broadway, both in Frankfort.
The Route 23 Heritage Tour starts at the junction of the Ohio and Big Sandy Rivers, following the Big Sandy upstream through rugged mountain terrain. The tour passes through cities and towns such as Ashland, Paintsville, Prestonsburg and Pikeville. As the scenery flows by, the narrative CDs tell the story of the Appalachian experience through interviews with some of the musicians and other community members along the way. Topics include the importance of regional culture, work, religion and family, as well as music. Samples of traditional Appalachian folk and gospel music are included.
The driving tour follows the route town by town and notes locations of musicians’ birthplaces and other points of interest. Scenic side trips are highlighted.
“The narrative encourages tour-takers to stop and talk with people along the way,” said Bob Gates, director of the Historical Society’s Kentucky Folklife Program, one of the driving tour coordinators. “We hope to help eliminate some of the stereotypes surrounding the region this way.”
A 60-page guidebook that accompanies the CD set contains maps, travel tips and information about accommodations and attractions. The price is $24.99.
Several venues along the route offer concerts by established stars, up-and-coming artists and traditional performers. The Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg and the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, a painstakingly restored art deco theater, frequently feature country music performances.
One of the most popular attractions is a short side trip to the childhood home place of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” Loretta Lynn and sister Crystal Gayle in Butcher Hollow, near Van Lear. You can visit with their brother, Herman Webb, who runs a general store nearby and for a small donation will take you for a tour of the home. A talented musician himself, Herman sometimes can be persuaded to play for visitors, the guidebook notes.
The U.S. Hwy. 23 tour is highly recommended for families and educators in search of something educational and entertaining to do, and it is a unique opportunity to experience cultural tourism in eastern Kentucky, Gates said. The guidebook contains a multitude of cultural information about the livelihoods, customs and characteristics of residents of the region.
Some of the costs of the driving tour were supported by funds from Kentucky’s coal severance tax, which returns revenues to coal-producing counties to provide for civic improvements based on tonnage of the valuable mineral taken from the region’s land.
For more information about the Country Music Highway CDs and the Folklife Festival, contact Bob Gates or Sarah Milligan at the Historical Society, 502-564-1792, or visit www.folklife.ky.gov.
The Kentucky Department of Tourism, an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, exists to promote The Commonwealth as a travel destination, generate revenue and create jobs for Kentucky’s economy.