Dancers onstage at "Bluegrass along the Harpeth, Franklin, Tennessee, 2006. Photo by Jed DeKalb, Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program.

The Tennessee Folklore Society was formed in 1934, when famed folksong scholar John Lomax pointed out to his friend J.A. Rickard that parts of Tennessee "were the richest in folklore of any portion of the United States." Rickard called a meeting of interested parties that resulted in the formation of the Tennessee Folklore Society. Dr. Charles Pendleton of George Peabody College in Nashville was chosen as the first President. The following year the first issue of the Society's journal, the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, was published. Now in its sixth decade of publication, the TFSB is the oldest continuously published regional folklore journal in the nation. Throughout the years such prominent figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, Estes Kefauver, Mrs. Cordell Hull, and Albert Gore, Sr. have been members of TFS.

In the 1970s TFS initiated a record series featuring some of the state's finest traditional musicians.  Items from the series were often recognized through inclusion on the annual selected list of "American Folk Music and Folklore Recordings" compiled by the Library of Congress. One of the early (and now unavailable) LPs, Tennessee Folk Heritage: The Mountains, was nominated for a Grammy award.  In 1980 the Society began to sponsor a series of television documentaries, including a show on Uncle Dave Macon that won a regional Emmy. Later in the decade the Society helped sponsor the production of Southbound, a series devoted to southern music that aired on PBS. In 1995 the organization released its first video, Banjo Meltdown, a documentary based on the popular Tennessee Banjo Institutes that were held in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Lao women dancers, part of the Royal Lao Music and Dance Ensemble, performing at the 25h anniversary of their resettlement to Tennessee, held in Smyrna. Photo by Robert Cogswell, Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program.

Today, with the large influx of Hispanic and Asian people to the state, Tennessee's traditional culture is changing rapidly. Mariachi bands and Mexican crochet artists are now as much a part of the cultural traditions of our state as are banjo players and white oak basket makers. The Tennessee Folklore Society is working to keep abreast of the ever-evolving picture of what constitutes "Tennessee folklore."    




Ninfa Rivera, Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee. Photo by Robert Cogswell, Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program.

Operations of the Tennessee Folklore Society are managed by Jubilee Community Arts in Knoxville.

The Society holds an annual meeting, which is open to all interested parties.

Willie McLaren, Moss, Clay County, Tennessee. Photo by Robert Cogswell, Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program.