As we close out the year of 2019, we wanted to look back at some memorable moments when it comes to Kentucky Country Music website, as well as the performers. Here are some of highlights that immediately come to mind.
Visiting Hurricane Mills
In February, I was honored to be able to sit down and interview Tim Cobb and Tayla Lynn. Tim is Loretta Lynn’s personal assistant and creator of her beautiful dresses that are pure works of art. Tayla is Loretta’s granddaughter who has made it on her own with her musical career. We ended up sitting down and doing a two-hour Facebook live interview covering subjects such as Loretta’s outfits, the fans, and how they (Tim and Tayla) have overcome addictions while being in the music business. Below is that interview in case you missed it. This interview began a series of in-depth conversations about substance abuse and addictions while being someone who is in different areas of the music industry. I must also give thanks to David and Derrick with the Loretta Lynn Ranch for the wonderful hospitality and tours. I was able to take in a breath taking view of the ranch from the second floor of Loretta Lynn’s mansion. Everyone at the Ranch went above and beyond to make me feel welcome.
Remembering Chuck Dauphin and Casey Schaeffer
On the same day, I lost two people that I was honored to call as a friend and advocate. Chuck Dauphin was a long-time mentor of mine and a music journalist. He was always willing to lend an ear to listen to my crazy ideas, as well as support me over the years. I loved hearing his stories of meeting certain artists and some history notes. I miss getting the random message from him of a contact of his that I should talk to. The first time I met Chuck was via the Oak Ridge Boys and unfortunately, I heard of his passing through Joe Bonsall. Chuck was a cheerleader for everyone in the music industry.
I met Casey Schaeffer through a mutual friend of ours, Tammy Sexton, who was a radio dj. Casey was Miss Wheelchair Kentucky a few years ago and a huge advocate for accessibility improvements in our communities. She opened my eyes on real opportunities that cities should implement when it came to be making them more accessible for all abilities. To this day, I will always mention her impact and stories she told while talking to others.
Bell County Music Scene
I don’t know if anyone has noticed it or not, but Bell County in southeast Kentucky has made a boom in exploring musical events. The renovated Bell Theatre in Pineville has been used for a popular concert series that has brought in the likes of Ian Noe, Ward Davis, The Steel Woods, and many more. Then in Middlesboro, they have continued to mix a wide blend of genres with their Levitt Amp concert series. Several festivals have taken place as well, bringing together some of the most unique performers to that part of Kentucky. Major props to Jon Grace, Jacob Roan, as well as the cities of Middlesboro and Pineville for working together in putting on great events.
Music Festival Explosion
Speaking of music festivals, this year Kentucky saw the explosion of a lot of new ones across the state. Keeneland hosted their first Railbird Music Festival in August that proved to be successful with many unique acts, including some very local to Kentucky. Louisville hosted the Hometown Music Festival that catered to a younger crowd of country music fans. Several popular festivals grew, such as Master Musicians Festival, Kickin’ It on the Creek, Moonshiner’s Ball, and Manchester Music Fest. Keep the music flowing!
In July, I was selected to be part of the inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky, along with 50 others from the Appalachian region of Kentucky. Within the five sessions in five months, I gained new experiences and friendships. I was able to meet interesting individuals, all while promoting what I do with Kentucky country music, along with transportation planning. It was also eye opening to see what others are doing within their communities to help make Appalachia a better place to live, play, and work.
Exploring the Podcasts & Radio Shows
This year was unique in that I was asked to be a part of several podcasts throughout the year. I’m used to being the one conducting the interview, not the one being asked the questions. Many thanks to Overtones with Renee Collins, Kentucky Music Preview, and The Holler Creative for having me a part of their show and promoting Kentucky Country Music. NPR’s “All Things Considered” did an episode on the history of the Volkswagen and included an interview with me on how I met my husband thanks to his all electric VW Beetle years ago.
I also appreciate folks like WFKY Froggy out of Frankfort, Kentucky for allowing me to continue doing the Nashville News Roundup on Friday mornings. WFKY is one of my biggest cheerleaders of support to help me grow. I’m also honored to have been featured on WHAY out of Whitley City during the Ramblin’ Man radio show this year.
Listen to Kentucky Music Preview “Movers & Shakers” episode – Click here.
Listen to Overtones with Renee Collins “Music, Addiction, and Recovery” episode – Click Here.
Listen to The Holler Creative “Transportation and Tunes” episode – Click Here.
KET Television and Ken Burns
During the summer, PBS affiliate Kentucky Entertainment Television (KET) asked me about appearing on their show, Kentucky Life. I was to talk about the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum and importance of the music history in Kentucky. Then I was asked to be the guest speaker at the Ken Burns “Country Music” film documentary preview in Somerset. Overall, both were unique and fun experiences to be a part of. I was truly honored to have been asked for my input on the importance of Kentucky’s music history. Not only that, I was able to chat with Ken Burns about the 16 hour documentary on country music history that he created with a team for PBS.
Celebrating 10 Years and the Future
In August, Kentucky Country Music celebrated 10 years of being a website. I started this journey over 20 years ago as a student. My first interview was with Dr. Ralph Stanley just months after “O Brother Where Art Thou” was released and gained major popularity. I’ve been blessed to be able to do interviews, conduct research, and try to tell others about the music of Kentucky. I aim to explore the depths of our musical heritage and help preserve it.
As far as 2020 comes, I plan on continuing to do more interviews and conduct more research. I appreciate folks like Jon Grace, Alexis Faye, Joshua Trosper, and Renee Collins for helping me out this year with concert and review coverage. I plan on doing a lot more reading this year and spread more kindness to others each day. Most of all, I personally thank everyone for reading my stories, sharing stuff on social media, and telling others about Kentucky Country Music.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.