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What Is Tennessee Known for & Famous For?

Tennessee is one of the most famous and well-known states in America. Most people worldwide have heard of Nashville and Tennessee whiskey, but what is Tennessee most known and famous for?

Tennessee, the Volunteer State, is known for country and blues music. Famous musicians such as Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash started their music careers in Nashville or Memphis. Tennessee is where Jack Daniels whiskey is made and home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In this article, I will discuss why Tennessee is nicknamed the Volunteer State, and the rich history of country and blues music that surrounds the state. I’ll also tell you about the fantastic attractions found in the state, such as Cades Cove and The Lost Sea Adventure.

Nicknamed the Volunteer State

Tennessee has a rich history, and it is no exception when it comes to war. The state got its nickname, The Volunteer State, because of its enthusiastic participation in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and World War II.

Fifteen years after Tennessee became a state, 2000 soldiers, led by General Andrew Jackson, voluntarily got involved in the War of 1812. The final battle, known as the Battle of New Orleans, took place in 1815, and America was victorious.

Years later, in 1846, Tennessee was asked for their help with the Mexican-American War. 

The request was for Tennessee to send around 2,800 soldiers, but they sent more than 30,000. Tennessee wanted revenge for the death of one of their former congressmen, Davy Crocket, at the Alamo.

Tennessee soldiers also voluntarily took part in World War II. One of the Captains, Jacob Hartsell, wrote a poem titled The Brave Volunteer, documenting his experiences during the war.

Nashville

Nashville is a beautiful state with a vibrant music scene. The city is named after Francis Nash, a general in the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War.

Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, is located on the Cumberland River, and has a population of around 700,000 citizens. Known as Music City, Nashville is most famous for country music.

There are several universities in Nashville, such as Tennessee State University and Belmont University. Many tourists visit Nashville every year to enjoy its rich history and attractions like the Grand Ole Opry.

Discover more about what Nashville is known for here!

Country Music

If you hear the word Nashville, you automatically think of country music. 

You don’t have to be a fan to know that Nashville has the most significant country music scene globally and that many famous musicians started their careers there.

Country music includes genres such as: 

  • Country
  • Bluegrass
  • Blues Country
  • Honky Tonk
  • Country Rock

Some of Nashville’s most famous country musicians include Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton. These artists performed all over Nashville, gaining fame and engraving their names in the history of country music forever.

The Ryman Auditorium is a popular music venue in Nashville that used to host the Grand Ole Opry. The Country Music Hall of Fame is located in Nashville as well as the Bluebird Cafe, where Taylor Swift was first discovered.

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame includes galleries, archives, classrooms, shops, and music venues. You can learn about country music’s rich history and watch live performances.

It opened on 1 April 1967 and is home to one of the world’s most extensive music collections, which include: 

  • Photographs
  • Videos
  • Musical instruments
  • Costumes
  • Sheet music
  • Books
  • Vehicles

It soon outgrew its original premises and had to be moved to a bigger facility in May 2001.

One of the biggest honors a country musician can receive is to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Some of the amazing country music artists that have been inducted include:

  • Hank Williams
  • Johnny Cash
  • Loretta Lynn
  • Elvis Presley
  • Dolly Parton
  • Garth Brooks

Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Nashville. It has been running since 1925, having started as a radio show that evolved into a stage show.

Artists like Loretta Lynn, Trisha Yearwood, and Emmylou Harris performed at the Grand Ole Opry, which was situated at the Ryman Auditorium. In 1975 it moved to the Grand Ole Opry House but still performs at the Ryman Auditorium yearly.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon is a museum in Nashville that opened in 1931 and is the only exact replica of the Parthenon in Greece. 

It hosts exhibitions and galleries which teach visitors about the ancient Greeks.

The Parthenon in Nashville was initially built as a temporary structure and was not an exact replica of the Parthenon in Greece. The sculptures were made of plaster and quickly deteriorated and broke.

The Parthenon itself was extremely popular and drew a lot of tourists, so the plaster sculptures were torn down and replaced with permanent, exact replicas created from concrete.

Memphis

The Sam Phillips Sun studio is a National Landmark situated on Beale street. It is a music studio where many famous musicians recorded their albums, launching their careers. Musicians like Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Elvis Presley started their careers in Memphis.

Memphis was founded on 22 May 1819, and it’s located along the Mississippi River. It is famous for blues music and is host to celebrations such as the Beale Street music festival. 

It is also known for being the town where Elvis started his music career. Memphis hosts many festivals and events each year, including: 

  • Memphis in May
  • The Great river run
  • Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival
  • The Memphis International Film and Music Festival

Blues Music

Memphis Blues is a music genre that was created in the 1910s. It was predominantly performed on Beale street but grew in popularity over time and is still listened to today. Some famous blues musicians include Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Elvis Presley, and Pat Hare.

W. C. Handy self-published his song called Memphis Blues in 1912. You can listen to it on this YouTube video.

Graceland & Elvis

Elvis Presley is known worldwide, and years after he passed away, people are still listening to his music.

Elvis Presley, also known as the King of Rock and Roll, was born on January 8, 1935. He sold over 500 million records and has won numerous awards with his music, a mixture of country and blues. 

At the young age of 42, Elvis passed away.

Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi but moved to Memphis, Tennessee, at 13. Growing up, he was a shy child that was bullied at times. He didn’t sing in public often and failed music class in school. 

Elvis couldn’t read music and learned to play guitar by ear. Interestingly, he once entered a singing contest at a fair and placed fifth.

Elvis grew up loving music and started his singing career in 1954. Not everybody loved his music immediately, but he became immensely popular and recorded numerous hit songs, including: 

  • Can’t Help Falling in Love
  • Always on My Mind
  • Hound Dog
  • Love Me Tender 
  • Blue Suede Shoes
  • Jailhouse Rock

He also starred in a couple of movies, such as Love Me Tender and Follow That Dream.

Elvis bought Graceland in March 1957 and completed several renovations on it to create the 23-bedroom mansion that is now a museum and National Historic Landmark.

On May 1, 1967, Elvis married Priscilla, and she gave birth to his daughter Lisa Marie on February 1, 1968. 

Elvis and Priscilla’s marriage started falling apart, and before their divorce was finalized on October 9, 1973, he had overdosed twice on barbiturates. His health continued to deteriorate because of prescription drug abuse and bad eating habits. 

His final concert was in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977. Elvis passed away on August 16, 1977.

Beale Street Historic District

Beale Street Historic District is a popular tourist attraction that has a huge cultural presence and was named a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1966. There are numerous bars, churches, businesses, and music venues in the district that draw crowds of people. 

The Orpheum Theater and Hard Rock Cafe can be found here.

Knoxville

Knoxville is home to popular tourist attractions like the Bijou theater, the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, and the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Knoxville was the first capital of Tennessee and is famous for its bluegrass and country music scene. Some famous artists from Knoxville are Flatt & Scruggs, Homer & Jethro, and the Everly Brothers. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra started in 1935 and still exists today.

Knoxville hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, such as:

  • Christmas in the city
  • Brewfest
  • EarthFest
  • East Tennessee history fair
  • Knoxville biscuit festival

Whiskey

Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey is the most famous and popular whiskey globally. Tennessee whiskey has strict standards that distillers must adhere to and can only be manufactured in Tennessee. It has a rich flavor and a light and smooth texture.

It is made with corn and other grains such as barley, wheat, and rye, and is aged in charred oak barrels to achieve the smokey taste. It can be consumed straight, on the rocks, or mixed.

Dolly Parton

Born January 19, 1946, Dolly Parton grew up to be a country singer and songwriter. She is one of 12 children and grew up living next to the Great Smoky Mountains. She has been nominated for numerous awards and is famous for songs such as: 

  • I will always love you
  • Jolene
  • Coat of many colors
  • 9-to-5
  • Hard Candy Christmas

Dolly Parton has a unique and unforgettable voice that sets her apart from other musicians.

She started singing at a young age and moved to Nashville after graduating high school, and on May 30, 1966, she married Carl Thomas Dean, who prefers to stay out of the public eye.

They don’t have any kids but are still married and renewed their wedding vows for their 50th anniversary. 

Dolly is Miley Cyrus’s godmother, who is also a famous singer.

Dollywood

The original park, Rebel Railroad, opened in 1961. When Dolly saw the park, she wanted to get involved and decided to buy an interest in Silver Dollar City. In 1986 the park was renamed Dollywood. Dollywood is located in Knoxville, Tennessee, and has 11 different themed areas, including: 

  • Show street
  • Craftsman’s Valley
  • Timber Canyon
  • Jukebox Junction

The park offers the following: 

  • Thrill rides
  • Crafts
  • Concerts
  • A waterpark
  • The Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa
  • Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction

Aretha Franklin

The only woman ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Franklin is a legend in her own right.

Aretha Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. She is known as the “Queen of Soul” and is a talented singer, songwriter, and pianist. Aretha died on August 16, 2018, at the age of 76.

Some of Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits include:

  • I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You
  • Respect
  • You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman
  • I Say a Little Prayer

Aretha has four sons, becoming pregnant with her first son at the age of twelve. Her second son was born on August 31, 1957. 

Theodore White was Aretha’s first husband and father to her third son. Her fourth son with her road manager, Ken Cunningham. Her second husband was Glynn Turman, but the marriage ended in divorce.

Aretha battled with her weight and was a chain-smoker before she quit in 1992. She also struggled with alcoholism. Aretha passed away in 2018, and the cause of death was a malignant pancreatic tumor.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There are many National parks in America, but none as breathtaking as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to mountain ranges like Mount Le Conte, Clingmans Dome, and Mount Guyot, which are some of the highest mountain ranges in eastern North America.

The park is 522,419 acres (2114.15 sq km) and is home to around 1,500 bears and numerous species of birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Sightseeing is the park’s main attraction, but other activities, such as fishing, horseback riding, bicycling, and water tubing, can also be enjoyed.

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is located in a valley and surrounded by mountain ranges, making it the ideal place for wildlife viewing. You can hike, cycle, or drive to enjoy the views and relax at the campground.

Cades Cove is the most visited attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It features historic buildings, including churches, a working grist mill, log houses, and barns.

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is easily accessible as a road leads up the mountain and to a parking area from where you can hike up to the summit.

It is the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with an elevation of 6,643’ (2,025 m). There is a steep hiking trail up to the summit where you can take in breathtaking views.

Lookout Mountain

In 1863 Confederate troops observed the Union army from atop Lookout Mountain, resulting in its name. Later in the year, Union troops took over the mountain.

Lookout Mountain is a tourist attraction rich in history. At the top of the mountain, there is a visitors center where you can learn about the battles surrounding the mountain and view interesting exhibits, paintings, and monuments. 

Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls hosts the Ruby Falls Battle Below the Clouds BBQ cook-off every year. The falls are the deepest underground waterfall and are located in Lookout Mountain. After descending into the mountain in a glass elevator, you can explore the caves and enjoy some zip lining.

Tennessee Valley Railroad

The Tennessee Valley Railroad is a museum in Chattanooga. 

The museum was established in 1961 to preserve railroad equipment and has a fully functioning train repair workshop. It received a 4-acre (16,187.4 sq m) railway yard in 1969 and offers a 6-mile (9.7 km) ride and a day trip.

The Lost Sea Adventure

Within Craighead Caverns, there is an underground lake so big that not even experienced divers have been able to find the end.

The lost sea is the biggest underground lake in America. You start your adventure with a guided tour through the caverns, and when you reach the bottom of the cave, you can go on a boat ride on The Lost Sea, which is full of rainbow trout.

Once you are done with your underground adventure, you can enjoy a hike or stop at The Lost Sea village.

Here is a short YouTube video showing you the caves and underground lake.

“Southernism” (Southern Sayings)

Southerners have a unique way of talking that non-Southerners might find odd as they won’t always understand their sayings.

Here are some sayings, and their meaning, which Southerners often use.

  • Bless your heart: This is said when somebody says or does something that might be considered irritating or dumb.
  • Over Yonder: This is used when explaining direction. Usually, the person will point in the direction you have to go and say something like, “Over yonder, past the farm.”
  • She was madder than a wet hen: Used to describe somebody that was furious.
  • She’s as pretty as a peach: A compliment given to a pretty person.

Final Thought

Tennessee is an amazing town with a rich history. It is where country and blues music originated and home to many stars. Tennessee also has a lot of tourist attractions like The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and The Lost Sea Adventure. It is a beautiful place with something to do for everybody.

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