The Tennessee town of Tullahoma used to be known for three things: baseball bats, the citrus soft drink known as Sun Drop, and George Dickel Tennessee whiskey. The Worth bat company has been acquired by a bigger company, so you can now replace that first spot with hometown hero and country music star Dustin Lynch. The young singer is still quite proud of his hometown, and he even named his latest album Tullahoma even though there isn’t a song with that name or even a lyric that specifically mentions the town.
“Naming an album is tough. Thank God my hometown wasn’t called Bucksnort!” he joked in a short talk before debuting the album in front of friends and family at a recent concert at Marathon Music Works in Nashville. “When it came time to come up with the name, I stepped back and just looked at all the songs I’d written over these past two years and why I was writing what I was writing and how I ended up recording them. I realized my hometown made me who I am; I think all our hometowns do. Tullahoma made me the man I am today. Most of my songwriting was inspired by growing up there and places there and people that are still there. For some reason it’s just a creative haven for me, and I go back whenever I write a song.”
Lynch played a special concert for his hometown for just $5 a ticket, the same incredibly low price he charged at his Nashville show. His Tullahoma show was a benefit concert. He explained, “We do a charity event there every year. It’s so much fun to do. Honestly, I get to have fun, and my town comes together. They make it happen!”
The reason Lynch put on such an inexpensive show in Music City was a little different. “This is all to celebrate, man!” he joked. “We were just here in October with Thomas Rhett, but doing an album show isn’t about making money. It’s to celebrate the album, and the benefits are going to the Cowboys & Angels Fund. I’m looking forward to growing that and giving back to children’s charities.”
Those other two members of the list of famous Tullahoma products are also important to Lynch, and they are often combined in a drink known colloquially as a “Dickel Drop.” Lynch explained how George Dickel has been part of his life since before he was old enough to drink it. “I grew up smellin’ that stuff! I grew up right on top of the hill above the distillery. I didn’t realize that my hometown smelled like Dickel until I moved up here for a few years and I went back home and said ‘what’s that smell?’ It was the corn mash stirring around down there in Cascade Hollow.”
The George Dickel Distillery has been making fine Tennessee whiskey since the late 19th century (except for a break during that pesky Prohibition), and now produces seven products ranging from un-aged Tennessee whiskey to Barrel Select to Rye whiskey to a novel Tabasco barrel-finished whiskey. Under the leadership of talented young distiller Nicole Austin, the venerable distillery continues to innovate in the spirits industry.
“We’ve had an absolute blast with the Dickel family over the years, and they’ve contributed to a lot of great decisions before and after our shows on the road.” Lynch joked. “It’s a unique thing to be playing country music and literally grow up on the hill above a distillery. That’s like the perfect scenario for a country song right there. And I will say that there’s something special about Cascade Hollow. One of my middle school teachers growing up was a big fan of bluegrass and a bluegrass picker. He had a little spot just past the distillery down there. There was something about that I was just so attracted to as a young kid; this guy that was picking bluegrass and George Dickel. It just kind of went hand-in-hand, and I fell in love with that kind of music. This was back before you could stream and discover, so you just listened to what people around you were listening to. He introduced me to some earlier bluegrass tunes and a completely different way to play guitar, and I fell in love with that!”
If you’d like to hear what Dustin Lynch learned and see him perform in person, he’ll be playing a show as part of an upcoming episode of the critically acclaimed PBS television music concert series Front and Center. The episode will film on Tuesday, February 18 at the Analog music venue attached to the Hutton Hotel in the Midtown neighborhood of Nashville. “We are excited to be filming a performer of Dustin’s caliber for our 10th anniversary season at such a fantastic venue like Analog,” stated Don Maggi, Executive Producer of Front and Center. “It is going to be a special performance in an exceptional setting.” Ticket and event information can be found here.
In what may be the simplest cocktail recipe we’ll ever publish here at Sounds Like Nashville, here’s Dustin’s take on the classic Tullahoma pairing. (And just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not great!)
- 1.5 oz. George Dickel No. 8 Whisky
- 3 oz. Sun Drop soda
Add No. 8 and soda in cracked-ice-filled glass and stir.