The Down Home: 40+ years of local, live music

Tri-Cities Original

These days, it’s not hard to find live music in the Tri-Cities, but that hasn’t always been the case.

That’s what led Joe Leach, aka “Tank”, to rally friends like fellow musician Ed Snodderly to open The Down Home in Johnson City.

“Early on it was the need to have a place that was specifically for music…and that’s how this place came about,” Snodderly told News Channel 11’s Josh Smith.

Leach said the building was barely ready when it opened in 1976.

“I begged the building inspector to let us open that first night,” Leach said. “I ran to city hall to get the business permit. And when I came back to the club there was a line of people waiting to get in.”

The Down Home was a hit.

“It was meant to be a listening room,” Lead said. The music would be the star of any show at The Down Home.

Snodderly event wrote a song about their new establishment. The lyrics spoke the reality of Johnson City 44 years ago.

“There’s a place in my town you can listen to music…there’s a place in my town you can get down to. And if this place wasn’t here it would be dead.

“Dead in the water. Dead,” Snodderly sang.

Before the building was even remodeled, they booked legendary group The Red Clay Ramblers and then got to work.

“People coming by the red light were like, ‘what are you doing?’ ‘We’re building a club. Want to come listen to music and enjoy it?’ And we got beer.”

Beer is important,” Snodderly said.

Leach came up with the name “Down Home”. Snodderly said it stuck because “it just fit.”

Since the club opened, a stream of musicians has walked onto the simple stage and stepped before the microphone.

“There’s a vibe here,” Snodderly said. “And the vibe is…and the vibe is good.”

Snodderly says he’s proud of the role The Down Home has played in supporting artists and art forms.

“We helped keep people alive performing music in a good place,” he said.

Some of those artists were famous…some would go on to become famous, like Allison Kraus, the Dixie Chicks, and ETSU-alum Kenny Chesney.

“There’s been so much good music here,” Snodderly said. “And so much good people here. And they’re all coming here because they go, ‘there aint’ no other place like this.'”

The Down Home is located at 300 West Main Street in Johnson City.

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Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Josh Smith has been a member of the WJHL team since 1999. His family roots go deep in the region, and he’s traveled through almost every part of it covering news on local TV since 1995. When he’s not on the job, he’s with his wife, two sons, and daughter.   “They’re the best part of me,” he said.   You may run into them biking on the Tweetsie Trail, hiking around Bays Mountain Lake, or browsing the shelves at the local public libraries.

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