The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Well, it seems we're on a kind of binge here at the old Post. All those drinking songs yesterday. And today it's moonshine. But we are sober today. Definitely sober.

White lightning, mountain dew, hooch, Tennessee white whiskey.

Whatever it's called, I've never actually tasted the stuff myself. It's a good guess that the "moonshine" moniker came from the fact that makers of illegal whiskey frequently brewed their liquor at night, by the light of the moon. Wiki has lots of info, including this:
Moonshine is any distilled spirit made in an unlicensed still. As with all distilled spirits, yeast ferments a sugar source to produce alcohol; the alcohol is then extracted through the process of distillation....Because of its illegal nature, moonshine is rarely aged in barrels like proper whiskey, and it sometimes contains impurities and off flavors....The pot still is made of copper or stainless steel, and a water filled barrel with a copper tubing coil for a condenser, is the traditional type of still, being popular with early moonshine producers due to its simplicity and ease of construction.

There are many songs in country music that speak of moonshine, stills, etc. One I enjoy a lot is Flatt and Scruggs' "Drinkin' That Mash and Talkin' That Trash." The copper tubing coil mentioned above by Wiki is what's referred to as the "worm" near the end of this old talking blues tune. Note: the phrase that's kinda hard to hear is that the shotgun made "kraut out of Pa."

I've heard the following song several times on my car's Sirius Bluegrass station, although not by this artist. Stonewall Jackson recorded "Bluefield" back in the '60s I believe. It's a story song that's interesting because (a) there's a twist near the end when the owner of the still is revealed, (b) it doesn't have a chorus, and (c) the name of the town "Bluefield" is repeated nine times in the song.

The video of the song is interesting too because it begins with a shot of a confederate flag which might seem inappropriate historically since West Virginia was created by the union out of confederate Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War. But the eastern Appalachian region of West Virginia was much more sympathetic to the confederate cause than the strongly unionist northwestern part of the state. What's that got to do with the price of eggs? Those mountains were where moonshine would be made later in the state's history.

Stonewall Jackson: "Bluefield"

Two more moonshine songs follow. The first one is the Stanley Brothers with the famous "Mountain Dew" tune. Tie yourself down because there's some super fast flat pickin' in this one. When you brew your next batch of hooch, just remember, "if your liquor's too red it'll swell up your head."

And, since I'm writing this in Tennessee, I'd be breakin' a state law if I didn't include this famous song, "Rocky Top," which is one of Tennessee's seven state songs. Don't ask me what the others are. I only know one of them. If you really want to know look rightchere. 

Why do I see orange every time I hear this.

The Osborne Brothers: "Rocky Top" with some super high mountain tenor


  1. Dan, I just couldn't do it. I'd say, "Screw the law! I ain't postin' Rocky Top!!!"

    1. Andy, I wouldn't have done it, honest. Except today I felt a soft spot in my heart for old Peyton. You know the pore thang must be hurtin' today, what with havin' to leave the Colts and all. Bless his heart. I thought this would cheer him up some.

      Course he does got that two zillion in the bank from all those ads. I reckon he'll do all right. And if'n he ain't really hurt too bad to play, he might get another zillion to help Miami or somebody else out.

  2. In my younger days I did drink a little "shine!" Not enough o's in smooth to describe the taste of good shine. But, it will kick like a mule too!
    "Rocky Top" is a fitting song for our fair state. It is, what it is! Got a little too close to a still one time hunting, those 'ol boys shoot first and ask questions later. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

  3. Ed, Just wondering. Where was that hunting trip? North Georgia? Mississippi?

  4. Hey... I useta have a pair o' speakers JUST LIKE the ones F&S have!

    I also found the collection of CSA flags at the end o' "Bluefield" interesting, too.

    Finally: there ain't nuthin' wrong with "Rocky Top."

  5. Buck, you didn't have those speakers in the Green Hornet did you? :-)

    I like Rocky top, kinda sorta, especially done up bluegrass style. It's just that we hear it so much that it gets a little stale. And it's almost completely associated with UT football in people's minds.