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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Musical Memories

Slagle's Pasture was the site of a bluegrass festival for 34 years.
Slagle's Pasture was the site of a bluegrass festival for 34 years. "We had a lot of good times there," said Jesse McReynolds of legendary bluegrass duo Jim and Jesse. (Credit: Earl Neikirk | Bristol Herald Courier)
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Slagle's Pasture was the site of bluegrass festival for 34 years


ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. — Jimmy Martin kicked into gear with his guitar. The red cowboy hat-wearing king of bluegrass then leaned in to the microphone and lit a fire into "Sunny Side of the Mountain."

So it went for 34 years during the Slagle's Pasture Bluegrass Festival.

The late J.W. "Bill" Carrier attended many of those years. Inspired, he wanted to stage a fiddlers' convention. He died last year, but now his grandson, David Williams, has organized the Carrier's Pasture Fiddlers Convention in the memory of Carrier.

"He and my grandmother would go down there for every event at Slagle's Pasture with their RV and just camp," Williams said.

Clayton Slagle founded the festival in 1968.

"He stood up on the hill and said, "Baby, I think I'm going to start having some bluegrass shows in the field,'" said Slagle's daughter, Barbara Boone. "I thought my daddy was crazy. Look what it grew into."

Slagle fielded the event on his property until his death in May 2001, one month before the final festival. Through the years, Slagle left an enduring mark among bluegrass musicians and fans alike.

"We had a lot of good times there," said Jesse McReynolds of legendary bluegrass duo Jim and Jesse.

Jim and Jesse performed at most of the annual festivals at Slagle's Pasture. They also served as the host band during the late 1980s and early '90s during a period of several years when Tim White promoted the event.

"It was a nice festival," McReynolds said. "Down to earth, great country place to put on a show."

A who's who of bluegrass royalty performed at Slagle's Pasture. They include Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, the Osborne Brothers, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Jimmy Martin, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Grandpa Jones and so on.

But not since June 2001 has music resounded from Slagle's Pasture. Slagle's three kids live nearby including Boone.

"I live right here in the pasture," Boone said. "We miss it so bad. It was fun. Exciting. It was a lot of hard work, but it was so much fun. It was a nice, clean festival."

Then there was Hippie Hill.

"Have you ever heard of Hippie Hill?" Boone asked.

Slagle did not allow drinking near the stage. He also did not want it out in the open in the camping area so as to preserve a clean family atmosphere.

So there was Hippie Hill.

"It's what Daddy called it," Boone said, laughing. "It was in a back field. If you wanted to drink and stay up all night and party, well, you would go out there and camp."

Nowadays, Hippie Hill is quiet along with the entire grounds. Several Slagle family members have built homes on the property.

Yet the building that housed the festival's restaurant remains along with the long silent stage, atop which now faded paint proclaims "WELCOME TO SLAGLES PASTURE."

Brown can see the last remnants of her father's festival from her home. And you bet she misses it every second weekend in June. That's when for 34 years Slagle's Pasture fired anew with bluegrass in the mountains.

"Oh my goodness, every June," Brown said. "It makes me sad that we won't hear it again, never again."

A! ExtraTopics: Music

Jimmy Martin was one of the many musicians who played at the Slagle's Pasture Bluegrass Festival. (Credit: Tom Netherland | Special to the Herald Courier)