Appalshop launched the Seedtime on the Cumberland festival in 1987, taking the name from Harriette Simpson Arnow’s book of stories about earlier times in east Kentucky. The original aim of the festival was to portray the depth and richness of our traditional heritage and celebrate the process of passing it on to new generations. Performers included both the “old masters” and young artists who had learned from them. The festival was held in the theater until 1989, when Appalshop rented a big tent and made Seedtime a 4-day celebration of the organization’s 20th birthday.
A highlight of the early Seedtime years was Morgan Sexton, who heard of the festival from his nephew Lee Sexton (he had taught Lee to play banjo many years earlier). His appearance in 1988 was his first stage performance. Morgan went on to record a June Appal CD and was the subject of an Appalshop film. Before his death in 1992 he had won the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Morgan is one of 18 National Heritage winners who have performed at Seedtime over the years. For many years we sought out older artists whose work has defined our heritage. Sadly, many of these folks have passed, but we feel fortunate that we were able to present the likes of Ray Hicks, Etta Baker, Wade Mainer, and many more. Some Seedtime artists have been very well known; many more are known mostly in their own communities. We have chosen our performers based not on their commercial success but on their importance to our cultural past, present and future.
The work of Seedtime artists over the years has gone beyond their live appearances at the festival. Seedtime performances are broadcast on WMMT and streamed to the world online. The festival has provided material for three June Appal CDs and two national radio series. We are proud to continue this work with Seedtime 2012, and we are glad you’re here to take part.