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TNMLF Music Press Release

World Class Talent to be featured at this Year’s Tennessee Mountain Laurel Festival

Vicki Simpson - PIO

Wartburg, Tennessee – In addition to world class Mountain Laurel on display in the mountains throughout Morgan County, this year’s Tennessee Mountain Laurel Festival has exciting new world class entertainment in store for festival goers. The festival will be held May 19-20 on the Courthouse Square in Wartburg, Tennessee. Sponsored by the Morgan County Tourism Alliance, the Festival has a musical lineup for people of all ages and interests.

Entertainment starts at 09:30 am on the festival stage with offerings from participants from this year’s 2023 Tennessee Songwriters Week competition. Local artists who participated in the showcase back in February have been invited back to share their talents once again for a festival crowd. Morgan County was allowed to send four artists on to the regional competitions, however all contestants who participated were extremely talented and will entertain the crowd with their heartfelt songs.

At 11:00 am, local favorite Bill Shannon and Chill Factor will play their brand of “your Daddy’s Country,” with a band that features some incredible talent and resumes that read like a history of Nashville country music. Bill served in the Air Force and played with many gifted musicians who went on the play a big part of the Nashville scene. His current lead guitarist, Ken Bonham has played with many Nashville greats, to include Jimmy Dickens, Roger Miller, Carl Smith and Merle Haggard. Keyboardist Ed Wilson played for Loretta Lynn for eight years. Steel guitarist Donna Hamick played for Bill Anderson for ten years. Bassist David Howard has been a fixture in the East Tennessee music world for decades, playing with many up and coming artists in the bluegrass world, like Sierra Hull when she was a little girl. He has set up sound for hundreds of artists as well. Rounding out the band is drummer Norm Branson.

The afternoon’s line-up begins with bluegrass gospel group LakeSide based in Madisonville, Tennessee. LakeSide started playing in churches throughout East Tennessee in 1995 as a family group called “The Gospel Bluegrass Boys.” In 2007, due to some line-up changes, the band adopted the name LakeSide. Performing as a five-piece bluegrass band and showcasing their harmony vocals, the band performs and shares their personal testimonies and songs with the world. Performing in the band, is local Sunbright resident John Robert Freels, on banjo/guitar. The other members of the band are Greg Blankenship, Jackie Cummings, Walt Williamson, Jimmy Sims and Amanda Thomas. The band’s appearance is partially sponsored by First Baptist Church of Wartburg.

Headlining the festival is the Atlanta-based rockabilly band, Hot Rod Walt & the PsychoDevilles. The band has released ten CDs and has toured extensively across the nation as well as gigs in nine countries on four continents. Their latest release, Rumble Road, has also been released on vinyl. Hot Rod Walt shares the stage with three talented and loyal musicians Buford T. Ogletree on upright bass and Steve “Burnout” Barnett on drums as well as a recent addition, David Olsen on guitar. The band has been featured in several television shows and movies, including an appearance as “The Tennessee Three” in the Lifetime Johnny Cash biographic movie “Ring of Fire.” The band is known for its high energy performances and songs. The festival performance will be Hot Rod Walt’s second time performing in Morgan County as he played a solo gig at MoCo Brewing back in 2021. The band’s appearance is co-sponsored by Morgan County Today and WECO radio in Wartburg.

We invite you to come and experience this year’s Tennessee Mountain Laurel Festival. Go to for more information and we hope to see you here!

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