Known as the “Smoky Mountain Gypsy,” Harmon has toured Europe, Canada and the United States singing songs and telling the Jack Tales that were passed down in his family from his great-great-great-grandfather, Council Harmon, America’s original Jack Tale teller who brought the famous stories from England to the Appalachians in the early 1800s. You may have also heard of Ray Hicks, another legendary Jack Tales storyteller, who is Harmon’s cousin.
Perhaps the most famous of the Jack Tales is the story of “Jack in the Beanstalk,” but there are plenty of others that generations of Appalachian families have savored and passed along as oral tradition for centuries.
Harmon will be sharing some of these tales and mountain humor along with bluegrass and old-time Appalachian songs that he has written and played for decades. He found his interest in music early on at the age of 8 while hearing his uncle, Gene Harmon, play a banjo handmade from groundhog hide. From the first song he learned to play — “Cripple Creek” — Jerry started with a Sears Roebuck Truetone guitar and found hundreds of songs and styles that inspired him to pursue a career as a musician.
“Doc Watson has been a big inspiration,” Harmon said. But there are many others, ranging from Bill Monroe to Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry.
Over the last several years, his talents have caught the eye of Nashville recording artists and a California producer. He’s putting together an Appalachian storytelling CD called Smoky Mountain Memories as well as a book on Jack Tales. Also in the works is an album called Walking to Cleveland. His previous albums feature his own brand of music, which he calls “newgrass.” He credits his success to a mix of luck and hard work — “just being out there and being persistent” and meeting the right people at the right time.
Most of all, Harmon enjoys being able to talk to someone after a show, someone who says one of Harmon’s songs conjured up memories of a relative playing a similar song or a similar picking style. It’s a chance to turn strangers into friends with a simple song of familiarity, a blend of Harmon’s talent and his enduring appeal.
Tickets for the Jerry Harmon show are $12 or $15 for the premium front-row seats. Tickets can be purchased by calling 828.926.9658 or stopping by the Eaglenest box office Monday through Friday 9a.m. to 5 p.m. or on the day of the event starting at noon.