Joe Shannon’s fascination with mountain life began at a young age. While living in Jacksonville, Florida, Joe recalled looking at a picture of a mountain cabin in his sister’s room. “I imagined myself in that picture,” Joe said. “And I decided then, even though I was in elementary school, that one day I would live in a place like that picture…that I would live in the mountains.” Joe fulfilled that dream in 1977, moving to Boone, North Carolina.
Music was a part of Joe’s life from an early age. He sang hymns in church and taught himself to play folk guitar. In college, his roommate played bluegrass fiddle, and Joe took up the banjo. “After I could play some basic tunes, we got some gigs playing in bars and restaurants around Tallahassee,” he said. “It was great fun, and I quickly got hooked on performing.”
When Joe moved to the mountains of North Carolina, he started looking for folks who shared his love for traditional music. Joe met Mary Greene and Cecil Gurganus, Steve Lewis, and David Johnson, traditional players who introduced him to local musicians. “I met so many incredible performers, but except for the one or two big fiddle festivals each year, there was no ongoing event or place where locals and visitors to the High Country could experience this talent,” Joe said.
In 1994, Joe used his musical contacts and started Mountain Home Music, a concert series dedicated to honoring the music and the musicians of the Appalachian region. Since it began, Mountain Home Music has provided a stage for three National Heritage Award winners, seven North Carolina Heritage Award winners, three members of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, and more than 1,000 local and regional performers. Organizing more than 15 years of concerts focused on traditional players of the area has helped make Joe very knowledgeable about regional music. Mountain Home Music became a non-profit organization in 2002, and it has become an institution in Watauga County that continues to support and showcase traditional music of the region.
In March, 2014, Shannon was the recipient of North Carolina’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine, conferred by the Governor to outstanding North Carolinians with a proven record of service to the State.
Joe Shannon passed away on May 13, 2014 at the age of 64.