If any East Tennessee musical icon could give Dolly Parton a run for her money in terms of class, character, showmanship and musicality, it’s probably Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong.
The two local legends may be worlds apart in terms of background and cultural heritage, but both made an enormous impact on their respective genres, and both are remembered fondly by those in East Tennessee who knew them. Of course, Armstrong never attained the financial success of his Sevier County contemporary, and even though he’s been dead for almost 14 years, he has yet to become a household name in the sense that Dolly Parton is.
Members of The Carpetbag Theatre troupe, however, are doing their best to change that. The organization — founded in 1969 and charted in 1970 and now a resident artist company at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus — will present its long-running musical, “Between a Ballad and the Blues,” starting next Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Clayton Center, and the idea behind the musical is to make East Tennesseans more familiar with the life and musical legacy of a man whose name is synonymous with a little-known tradition of African-American stringband music. Read more here.