Driving along Clinton Road outside Oak Ridge, Tennessee, (west of Knoxville) you can hardly miss it. There at the side of the road is a strange- looking group of old buildings. Built of homemade cement blocks and painted a patriotic red, white, and blue (complete with stars), it’s the Ciderville Music Store. But to call it just a store is to miss the whole point. It’s a unique experience with grassroots bluegrass and old-time music on the side. And 2008 marks its 50th anniversary.
David Earle West and his sister Faye run this combination music store, performance hall, and Cas (pronounced Cazz) Walker museum. For a number of years David played banjo on Cas Walker’s early morning television shows out of Knoxville and acquired most of Walker’s belongings after he died in 1998 at age 93. Cas Walker owned a chain of grocery stores in East Tennessee. He was also a local politician and his outlandish antics made him a general embarrassment to folks throughout the area. Nevertheless, his memory is preserved here. You can buy a copy of his self-published autobiography or a DVD of some of his television shows.
I dropped by Ciderville Music unannounced on a Thursday afternoon and was immediately invited to have some homemade vegetable soup with West and a few cronies in the kitchen/dining room at the back of the store. Having just eaten lunch, I passed on the soup, but had an ice tea. The soup is a weekly tradition of long standing and everyone who stops is welcome to eat and to stay for the jam session that gets underway after lunch.