Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
Tennessee State Quarter
Hi, y'all! I'm Goldie the Mint Fish, telling you about a really exciting quarter: Tennessee's! It was just released in January, but I had to get one for my collection by February. You see, February and Tennessee go together for me because that's the month and state where one of my all-time favorite performers was born: "Tennessee" Ernie Ford!
Ernest Jennings Ford was born in February 1919. The "Tennessee Pea-Picker" (as he called himself) was a singer, a country disc jockey, a radio announcer, a comedian, and a TV host. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, just a year before he passed away.
I'm sure one of the reasons why Tennessee's quarter highlights the state's musical heritage is Tennessee Ernie Ford, along with dozens of others who either came from Tennessee—like Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, and Tina Turner—or performed at Nashville's "Grand Ole Opry," the longest-running live radio show in the world.
Tennessee has three sections, each with its own geography and musical style: the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the east, the rolling plains in the middle, and the cotton plantation country of the Mississippi River in the West. Bluegrass music started in Bristol (east); blues was developed along Beale Street in Memphis (west); country-and-western music is popular in Nashville (central); and classical and opera music have been popular in Tennessee for many years.
And where did Tennessee get its name? It seems that a Cherokee town called Tanasi gave its name to a nearby river, then to its region, then to the whole state. (...and then to Ernie Ford!) Somewhere along the line, "Tanasi" became "Tennessee."