“Mountain Dew” has roots in Lunsford’s life in WNC

A born musician must hear his pockets jingle. Such was the case with Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Mars Hill’s “singer of the Appalachians,” who pleaded for honey from bees and judges as he developed his historic role as the foremost organizer of traditional mountain music in the 20s.

Mars Hill College’s Lunsford Festival (editor’s note: the 2022 festival is scheduled for Oct. 8) honors the musician’s legacy by premiering a wide variety of traditional performers. The college is also the site of the Lunsford archive, which documents, among other things, how Lunsford went about collecting his pure cultural crop.

As a beekeeper, he bartered with people who let him use their property to build their hives. As a teacher, he came up with the idea of ​​holding competitions for students who present the best ballads. As a lawyer in Morganton in the late 1910s, he collected material for original songs, notably “Mountain Dew.”

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