Piedmont Blues

Piedmont Blues

Piedmont Blues is an early blues style of music that was founded in the Piedmont region of the east coast between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic coastal region. We are currently in the Piedmont Crescent of North Carolina. This is between Charlotte and Raleigh and includes Winston/Salem and Greensboro.

Piedmont is a Latin combination word that means foothills. In this case, the mont part of the word refers to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area is a very old eroded mountain chain that pre-dates the Appalachian Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hills of Piedmont are way older than the Appalachia. Raleigh marks the edge of Piedmont to the east. It is about two weeks’ travel time (at our pace). We could easily drive there and back tomorrow.

Crabtree Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Crabtree Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Piedmont Blues

Piedmont Blues are not as well known as the Mississippi Delta Blues. The overall sound of the music is somewhat slower than and a little more ragtime than the Delta Blues. The Appalachian Mountains and the Smoky Mountains have a bluegrass music tradition but as you move further east music changes. Sometimes the Piedmont Blues are called Country Blues or Southeast Blues.

Weather

My theory about the music in this region is that the change of music is related to the weather, especially the summer weather. We noticed a huge temperature shift as we moved south out of the Blue Ridge Mountains into the foothills. We were unprepared for the shift. Our stop in Wilkesboro was our last stop in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Last week we stayed in the north of Charlotte at the Lake Norman State Park squarely in the Piedmont region.

Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Off-Grid

Starting in Smoky Mountain National Park we have been doing lots of off-grid camping. This included our stay at Lake Norman. In the Smoky Mountains, we lived comfortably. Each night the temperature would drop to a very nice temperature and we didn’t need our air conditioning. Our stay at Lake Norman changed all this. The temperature was near 80 degrees at sunrise and gained during the day. Solar wasn’t an option because we were parked deep in the trees. I figure we burned about $55 in diesel for our generator during our eight days at Lake Norman.

Our campsite at Lake Norman State Park
Our campsite at Lake Norman State Park

After our first night at Lake Norman, we started looking around the area for a different campsite that would have electricity. We were getting stressed by the heat and wondered if we were going to survive the heatwave without full-time air conditioning. We didn’t move and decided to stay after our second successful night.

Hot and muggy

I know it isn’t that impressive in terms of temperature, and the west half of the nation is getting scorched. I am worried about the low ninety degrees every day. So the way we handled this was by waiting each day until we couldn’t tolerate the heat any longer and then run the air conditioner from the batteries. Or we would sneak out, get some lunch and do some shopping. We couldn’t stay out for long because in the afternoon we would turn the generator on (and run both air conditioners) while recharging the batteries until about 10 pm. The next morning we would repeat the process.

W. Kerr Scott Reservoir from Fort Hamby Park
W. Kerr Scott Reservoir from Fort Hamby Park

One problem is the generator noise and the second problem is that (for us) we are tied to the campsite when the generator is running. We don’t leave camp with the generator running.

At night

Since it was still about 90 degrees at 10 pm we also ran the air conditioner, from the batteries while we were sleeping. Lots of people commented that having such a big battery bank wasn’t necessary. For us in the Piedmont region, camping without external electricity, the big battery sure was nice.

During our entire stay in the Smokys and the Blue Ridge Mountains, we didn’t require air conditioning while we were sleeping.

Dead Starter Battery

While we were staying on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Linville Falls we had come down the mountain to replace our starter battery. This was just for one night.

Our campsite at Fort Hamby Park
Our campsite at Fort Hamby Park

I finally admitted that I couldn’t live without a new engine start battery. The story is part tragedy and part technical. In the article, there is lots of information pertaining to how to make your car batteries last a very long time. That article is full of information that can save you money. Here is a link to the article. Zombie Batteries

Flood

Not only did we have a battery problem but while we were dry camping at Linville Falls we had a momentary flood. Just after 10 pm one of our water lines on the back of the shower detached from the fitting. We had about half a minute of full force water flooding our RV until I could get the pump turned off.

Broken plumbing behind our shower.
Broken plumbing behind our shower.

If twelve years prior while the RV was being constructed had this fitting been properly installed, it would not have broken. I guess it just was time for this one to give up.

This required some re-plumbing and removing the water from the carpet under the bed where the water spread. There we were running a wet vacuum, air conditioner, and dehumidifier from our solar, batteries, and generator as we recovered from the flood.

Almost to Virginia

We went further north from Linville Falls and stayed next to Grandfather Mountain. Next to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then we went further east to another campsite at Fort Hamby on the north side of W. Kerr Scott Reservoir. Our campsite at Fort Hamby was well away from the lake but the area had some nice trails including one to a very pretty waterfall.

Bushwacker Falls at Fort Hamby Park
Bushwacker Falls at Fort Hamby Park

Mayberry

Mt. Airy is the claimed (by the folks in Mt. Airy) and acknowledged (by Andy Griffith) as the model town for the TV series the Andy Griffith show. Mt. Airy has a museum and show house dedicated to Andy Griffith and tries to keep the downtown area as a nostalgia stop. Overall I think that we have been to many places on our route through the south that isn’t trying to be like Mayberry but instead, they are like Mayberry without trying.

Bronze Statue of Andy and Opie in Mt Arie
Bronze Statue of Andy and Opie in Mt Arie

Alice’s Restaurant 

Perhaps the most famous song (that I know about) that uses the Piedmont Blues style was the 1960s hit by Arlo Guthrie called Alice’s Restaurant.

Doc Watson was an amazing guitar player who was a master at mixing Piedmont Blues with country, folk, and Bluegrass music was from Deep Gap North Carolina. Deep Gap is just to the west of Fort Hamby where we stayed.

Doc Watson wrote Deep River Blues in the Piedmont Blues style which typically an alternating thumb and first fingerpicking style. I think that the most well-produced Youtube video of Deep River Blues is by Tommy Emmanual. This will be the first time I have tried to drop a Youtube video into my blog.

5 thoughts on “Piedmont Blues”

  1. Sounds like summer may not be the ideal time to be in the south. Heat and humidity can make it miserable.

    $55.00 for diesel to run the generator is cheap compared to the cost of an RV site with electricity. But at the RV w/electric, you could leave with the AC running so it would be cool when you return.

    The flooring and dead engine battery make for bummer days.

    Hopefully, things will be smoother now.

    We are 10% humidity and looking at 104 deg. today

  2. We loved the music! I could easily get into that. It sounds as if you have run across the challenges of RVing eastward, but are doing well. At some point we will ask you for a good route. 🙂

  3. We feel your pain. We’re eastbound and becoming reacquainted with humidity and mosquitoes and thunderstorms and all of it. An electric hook up definitely makes life a lot easier in these conditions, but it’s a tough summer just about everywhere. We even know folks who got caught in crazy heat way up north in Montana and Idaho, places that should be pretty comfortable this time of year. And with the sun beating on you at those temps, even with 50 amps, you’re still gonna be hot. I think we’ll all be happy to see Fall when it shows up.

    Sorry about your flood, but how lucky were you to be there when it happened! Can you imagine if it happened while you were out for the day?? Or even sitting outside and unaware? Yikes. Scary stuff. Hope things turn around soon! Happy travels!

  4. Tommy Emmanuel is John’s favorite guitarist, and we’ve seen him in concert twice.

    What a drag about the shower connection. It sounds like you are overcoming a lot of challenges.

    But boy, you two sure find the waterfalls! I love your pictures of them.

    I was just listening to Mo Rocca’s Mobituaries and he talked about Mt. Airy. His focus was on Chang and Eng, the Siamese twins (their verbage, not mine) who settled and married there.

    See you on the road!

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