Annual Louie Bluie Fest is Saturday, September 29, 10am-6pm, at Cove Lake State Park

CARYVILLE, TN (SPECIAL TO WLAF) – Amidst Tennessee’s rich musical tapestry, where the twang of a guitar or the soulful cry of a harmonica can be heard echoing through its hills and valleys, one festival stands out as a celebration of not just music, but also community, history, and the indomitable spirit of a local legend—Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong. Welcome to the Louie Bluie Festival, a cultural beacon that lights up Campbell County every year.

This year’s festival will be held on September 30 at Cove Lake State Park from 10am-6pm, with headliners The Armstrong Legacy Trio (featuring a tribute to Aretha Franklin), and the East Tennessee Demijohns. Visit for more information.

A Man Called “Louie Bluie”

Born in 1909 in LaFollette, Howard Armstrong was a self-taught virtuoso who defied the barriers of racial segregation and economic hardship to make his mark as a pioneering musician.

“Armstrong’s life story isn’t just a tale of musical genius; it’s a masterclass in resilience and cultural fusion,” says Bradley Smiddy, President of the Campbell Culture Coalition, which hosts the Louie Bluie Music and Arts Festival.

Playing mandolin, violin, and guitar by ear, Armstrong not only blended the storytelling essence of blues with the rhythmic intricacies of jazz and the down-home vibes of country music; he also broke cultural barriers by incorporating Latin rhythms and Eastern European scales into his repertoire.

Beyond music, Armstrong was a renaissance man—a polyglot who spoke multiple languages and a visual artist who crafted captivating illustrations.

“The music is a celebration of the spirit of Howard,” continues Smiddy. “Underground, special, and yet contemporary. You know the talent on-stage is exceptional and has the potential of holding a Grammy in a couple years. Plus they musicians are there for a reason – Howard. It’s not just a concert – it’s a celebration of a special human being.”

A Festival Like No Other

Founded in 2007, the Louie Bluie Festival aims to do more than just celebrate Armstrong’s musical prowess.

“Howard persevered,” says Smiddy. “We at the Campbell Culture Coalition use the motto of: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. Those are all based around Howard and his life. He faced many obstacles and yet became world renowned. Truly a special story of perseverance but we should never forget many of the obstacles he faced were entirely unnecessary as a result of race and prejudice. It’s important Howard’s story is told not only as a reminder of the potential we all have and our ability to do good but also the potential to do harm – if we forget our past.”

An Artistic Extravaganza

Local artisans and craftsmen display their skills in quilting, woodcraft, and traditional Appalachian wares, in a segment of the festival that echoes Armstrong’s own passion for visual arts.

An ode to Armstrong’s love for linguistics and storytelling, the festival features sessions that delve deep into Tennessean folklore, history, and shared anecdotes. This year, the festival will include storytelling sessions with Kelle Jolley.

Children and family-based activities abound, from hands-on art and music workshops to storytelling circles and interactive games.

Indeed, it’s a sensory feast that engages not just the ears but also the eyes, taste buds, and the imagination. No festival is complete without food, and the Louie Bluie Festival offers a cornucopia of regional delicacies – including affordable baloney sandwiches! – providing festival-goers with a taste of Tennessee’s culinary diversity.

More Than Just a Festival

While the music of Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong sets the tone, it’s the festival’s deeper purpose that resonates most—celebrating diversity and nurturing community spirit.

“In a world divided by many things, this festival stands as a testament to unity and heritage,” says Jocelyn Woods, longtime festival volunteer and coordinator. “We’re not just keeping Armstrong’s legacy alive; we’re also sowing the seeds of community spirit for the next generation.”

For one day each year, the Louie Bluie Festival makes the tapestry of Tennessee brighter, offering a moment for people to come together and celebrate what makes them unique, yet connected.

So, if you find yourself in Campbell County during festival season, the Louie Bluie Festival is a cultural feast you won’t want to miss. Come for the music, stay for the community, and leave with a piece of Tennessee’s vibrant cultural mosaic. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 09/05/2023-6AM)

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