Ed Snodderly
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Ed Snodderly

Johnson City, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1970

Johnson City, Tennessee, United States
Established on Jan, 1970
Band Americana Folk

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"Ed Snodderly: With a Banjo on His Knee"

t’s possible that Ed Snodderly was put on Earth just to remind us how delightfully weird folk music can be.

The Tennessee native looks a bit like Doc from Back to the Future with shorter hair and Buddy Holly glasses. His voice is the sonic equivalent of an old denim shirt, creased and worn and reassuring. He makes clawhammer banjo and drums sound like the most obvious combination in the world.

In the 30-plus years since he first appeared onstage, Snodderly has made the music biz rounds. He left Tennessee in the early ‘70s to pursue a solo career, but returned in 1976 so he could found The Down Home Pickin’ Parlor in Johnson City. He has continued to run the now-venerable venue—a Concert Window partner—and also made time to record two albums as part of the bluegrass duo Brother Boys, record his own music, and make an appearance in the Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Snodderly’s most recent release, Little Egypt And Other Attractions, is a fitting distillation of the man’s abilities. While “folk” doesn’t quite capture Snodderly’s essence—he is more like a singer-songwriter steeped in country and bluegrass—he is nevertheless finely tuned to the eccentricities of traditional music. At times he sounds like a countryfied Tom Waits, and at others he reaches back through the ages to channel his ancestors, tobacco and cattle farmers of East Tennessee.Little Egypt And Other Attractions kicks off with the driving, slightly manic “Johnson City Rag,” an ode to the music-rich city where Snodderly makes his home. The album meanders through dive bars and overgrown railroad tracks, with the occasional stop for a bit of poetry: “You’re like the wind blowing through my mind/ You’re like a star shining in the night/ You’re like a knife I’ll never trade/ You’re the shine comin’ off the blade.” It ends with the jaunty “A Life Of My Own,” a wry celebration of life’s freeing randomness.

Whatever you want to call him—Alt-Country Singer? Old-Time Musician? Folkie?—Ed Snodderly is proof that Southern music, with all its old peculiarities, is alive and kicking. - Amelia Mason


"From shade trees to shoe strings, Ed Snodderly has an ear for a song"

It might seen an odd collection of themes, but Ed Snodderly finds himself circling back to them.

Shoe strings. Leather. Old wooden boxes. Trinkets. On they’re own, they’re random objects that may seem to merit no more attention than that paid to a nondescript bag sitting on the side of the interstate while cars zip by at 75 mph. But in Snodderly’s hands — and specifically, in his song lyrics — they become objects of wonder.
“The metaphor of shoes, the metaphor of trains, the metaphor of shade trees — I think there’s just a lot of metaphors I keep investigating,” Snodderly told The Daily Times this week. “I want my songs to have some depth. I’m always trying to make a better song than I have, and I’m also trying to make them for the purpose of making a good song. The challenge is to communicate, to make something that somebody might latch onto.

“There’s an obligation in some ways to try to put it into some kind of explanation that helps us stay connected. I think that’s an important thing that music is trying to do.”

Snodderly, who opens for Leon Russell on Saturday night at “The Shed” in Maryville, is one of those colorful characters of Appalachian music lore who occupies the same tier as Malcolm Holcombe, a similarly talented soul from the North Carolina side of the mountains. His roots to this area run deep — his grandfather was an Old Time fiddler, and his family’s band, featuring Snodderly’s father on guitar and his uncles on piano, fiddle and banjo, used to play square dances in the 1930s on alternating weekends with a young Roy Acuff.

“The earliest memory of music I have is being asked by my mother when I was 12 if I wanted to learn to play the guitar,” Snodderly said. “My grandfather and my uncles would play at family reunions, and I got interested in the guitar when I was 12. Once I got to playing it, I paid attention to it more. Actually, the earliest memory is of my dad sitting me down at the kitchen table and teaching me G, C and D and telling me to get the chords to where I could change them quick enough.

“There was just a whole culture of music, and a dynamic of my family and the making of the music. I come from the world culture of music — that pop kind of thing, and that other side of just making music under a shade tree. I like the dynamic of those two, and I think they’ve helped me to stay balanced in some ways.”

As his musical tastes grew more refined, he gravitated toward songwriters who traded in authenticity — the men and women whose original music indicated they were more than familiar with Bob Wills or the Carter Family or Jerry Lee Lewis, whose voice and lyrics told of deeper ties that bound them to an older world. Such territory is where Snodderly thrives, and it set him on a wandering path as a younger man.

In the 1970s, Snodderly signed with Philo Records, moved to Boston and then to the West Coast. In 1976, he returned home and helped a friend open a music room that’s become a Johnson City institution: The Down Home Pickin’ Parlor, which has provided a stage for some of the most talented roots and Americana artists from around the country over the years. In the 1990s, he formed the duo The Brother Boys with Eugene Wolf, and the two recorded three albums on the Sugar Hill label; around the same time, he began to get noticed as a songwriter and performer of certain affectations.

Other artists have recorded his songs — Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and John Cowan among them — and he even parlayed his interest in acting into a movie role as “The Village Idiot” in the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” film by the Coen brothers. He continues to perform, record and act, and he continues to seek out the things that speak to him in a way that others might not hear.

Like those shoe strings, or that old tree, or the things others discard and leave behind. What is their history, he wonders? What stories do those silent trinkets have to tell?

“There are a bunch of different ways you could write that and express what’s happening in the soul of that,” he said. “As you get more accomplished, you try to stay focused on what it is and try to find out what it is in yourself. That’s what seems to be important, just trying to keep it real, wherever you are. It’s a big old world now, but I feel more focused on who I am and what I do, and this is it. I feel very rooted in knowing that this is what I do and what I try to accomplish.” - Steve Wildsmith


"PEOPLE MAGAZINE"

"...like the songs were spiked with moonshine”. - Tony Sheridan


"Quote"

“Ed is carving himself a niche for his own genre of Appalachian music and prose.” - Jerry Douglas


"Quote"

“Ed trusts his words and his muse more than any other songwriter I know, setting a high bar for the rest of us and bringing a welcome freshness to a well-worn art form.” - Kelly Kessler


Discography

Sidewalk Shoes - 1977

Pearlie Mae

For The Drifter

Monterey Hotel

Two Dollar Whistle

Evening Prayer

Tom The One-Man-Band

Waiting For A Train

Kittens In The Barn

Blue Water Harbor

Buffalo Nickel

Morning Clinchfield


The Diamond Stream - 2003

Diamond Stream

Pearlie Mae

Majestic

Twist You Up

Monterey Hotel

Main St. Coffee

Kiss the Dream Girl

Morning Clinchfield

Small Southern Town

He Rides a Train

Goodbye



Brier Visions - 2004

Brier Visions

Basket of Singing Birds

Magnolia

Working in the New Mine

Mamas Done

Farther Than Your Eyes Can See

Crying Boy

Second Story

Could She Be

Dog Gone

Deep Down Here



Little Egypt & Other Attractions -2011

Johnson City Rag

Little Egypt

Black Crow

Somewhere Old and Of This World

Gone Walking

I'm Gone

Falling Bones Dance

Missing

On The Banks

Tell Me

Gibraltar

A Life Of My Own


Photos

Bio

Ed Snodderly is a well-respected musician, writer, actor and co/owner of one of the country’s longest running music venues, The Down Home located in Johnson City, Tennessee.  Ed’s low-key personal demeanor belies a wealth of accomplishment and talent that distinguishes Ed in the world of Southern music.

When Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled it’s new building in 2001, Ed was permanently honored when his song lyrics were literally inscribed into the wall. It is quite an honor to be recognized by an institution that could have picked any one of hundreds of legendary and renowned songwriters to distill the essence of what the Museum embodies. But it was the simple eloquence of Snodderly’s pen that gave his artistry an immortality, and Ed comes by that honestly.

Born in East Tennessee, Ed’s love of music and his ability to inspire others began with his own grandfather who was an old-time fiddler. Together with Ed’s father on guitar and his uncles playing fiddle, piano and banjo, his family’s band played for the same square dances back in the 1930’s that the then young Roy Acuff played on the alternate weekends. And the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Ed’s comes from a family of tobacco and dairy farmers, with music an inherent part of family life. Ed’s own down to earth outlook and artistry draws from his background where his rich musical heritage nurtured the artist within.

In the 70’s, Ed spread his wings to take advantage of a record deal with Philo Records while living in Boston, later migrating to the West Coast to record another album.  But it was Ed’s native Tennessee roots that called him home when in 1976 Ed and a friend (Joe ‘Tank’ Leach) decided that East Tennessee needed a quality listening room, and The Down Home Pickin’ Parlor was born. Surviving through numerous ups and downs of the music business, The Down Home continues to present the finest in Southern and national artists.

As Ed continued his various musical projects, it was in the 90’s that his musical brilliance was to be feted in a duo with Eugene Wolf known as “The Brother Boys.” Almost as a testimony to that all Ed absorbed in his early musical years, Ed & Eugene were acknowledged critically for a decade with their now three classic recordings on Sugar Hill. Continuing to perform in a variety of situations, Ed recently became a member of  a “writers in the round” group that  tours from time to time,  featuring some of the best artists the south has to offer – Tony Arata (noted for writing Garth Brook’s The Dance and many other hits), Malcolm Holcombe and Jelly Roll Johnson. Additionally Ed’s own songs have been recorded by artists such as Missy Raines, former New Grass Revival’s John Cowan and Sam Bush as well as Jerry Douglas.

However, alongside his musical endeavors, Ed has also been an actor/musician for throughout the years. brother1His most famous role occurred in the movie phenomenon Oh, Brother Where Art Thou  where Ed’s fiddling took center stage in the character as Village Idiot. Ed has worked as an actor in theater companies around the country notably, The Denver Center Theatre, Actors Theater of Louisville, Ky. and The Barter Theatre in Southwest Virginia. Most recently Ed has been a contributing actor and musician, playing guitar, mandolin, dobro and fiddle in Fire on the Mountain, a play honoring the stories of coal miners.

The name Ed Snodderly is just about synonymous with Southern music and culture, by just doing what comes natural, Ed has established himself as one of the South’s valued treasures.

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