Bluegrass Underground… Season VII Airing 9/6/2017

On Wednesday, September 6, 2017, PBS will begin airing Season VII of the famed Bluegrass Underground, a 13-time EMMY award-winning PBS music series. Presenting station, WCTE in Cookeville, TN will be airing the series Monday nights at 7:30pm CST and in Nashville on WNPT, Saturdays at 10pm CST.

Access to the PBS taping session was provided by the Bluegrass Underground.


In 2008, a promoter by the name of Todd Mayo took his family to Cumberland Caverns. This trip inspired the idea of partnering with the cave to create a unique musical experience. The Bluegrass Underground started as a radio program for its first 2 years, but in 2010, partnered with Todd Jarrell to bring the show to PBS. On August 18th, 2017 a surprise announcement was made that it would be moving to a permanent home called “The Caverns”, known as Big Mouth Cave located within the base of Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee’s beautiful Cumberland Plateau.

According to Bluegrass Underground, The Caverns will add infrastructure with permanent power, professional audio, and lighting with enhanced food and beverage concessions that were never before possible (cold beer!). Most importantly, adding the permanent infrastructure will provide more flexibility to match calendars with some of the world’s greatest performers, enticing them with the more fluid taping schedule. Producers intend to utilize The Cavern to enhance its partnership with WCTE Upper Cumberland PBS and the 300+ stations of the national PBS system.

In regards to location, The Caverns, being in Grundy County near Pelham, TN will be 10 minutes off of Interstate 24’s Exit 127 and 30 minutes closer to two of its major markets, Nashville and Chattanooga (75 minutes from Nashville and 45 from Chattanooga).

According to the press release, Todd Mayo projects as many as 50 performances for 2018 and an expansion of musical genres including symphonic music, comedy shows, along with a few surprises.

Of concern to cavers and naturalists… is that Big Mouth Cave is known to contain several rare species including Gyrinophilus palleucus (Big Mouth Cave Salamander). According to their press release the Bluegrass Underground intends to sustainably develop The Caverns and has plans to keep most of the cave systems on the property “accessible to qualified cavers so they can be shared for both educational and recreational purposes”. According to staff at the Bluegrass Underground, additional press releases will be forthcoming.


83 miles south of Nashville, 333 feet below the surface lies the Bluegrass Underground, which until the end of 2017 will utilize the Volcano Room of Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, TN.

Cumberland Caverns lies on the south slope of Cardwell Mountain. It is undoubtedly one of the most extensive cave systems in Tennessee with more than 32 miles of passages trending beneath the Cypress sandstone benches and slopes of the mountain, an outlier of the Cumberland Plateau.
The actual PBS taping of Bluegrass Underground occured from March 24-26, 2017) and included: Blues Traveler, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, and Don Bryant & the Bo-Keys!

On approach of Cumberland Caverns I found it to be an extremely popular event with the entire parking lot being full of cars and tour buses. Overflow parking was in a field further down the hill, but there was shuttle service to and from. After checking in at the main office I headed down the path towards the cave where signs were clearly posted indicating that this was the Season 7th taping and that by entering you were providing consent to be filmed.

Rhonda Vincent’s Tour Bus

Entering the cave

The Volcano Room  at Cumberland Caverns was formed by 3 1/2 million years of river water… one flowing north-south, and another east-west creating a whirlpool that carved out the space over the ages. It provides an amazing acoustics experience!

First up was Don Bryant & the Bo-Keys

Followed up by the Queen of Bluegrass Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

And then Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives!

And last, but certainly not least, Blues Traveler!

Please note that caving can be a dangerous activity for the inexperienced. If you have an interest in exploring caves, check out a local grotto from the National Speleological Society website so you can connect with experienced cavers in your area who will show you the ropes. Also, remember that caves can be on either private property or government land so please always ensure that you either have permission from the landowner or the proper permits obtained before visiting a cave. While there, remember to…

Take nothing but pictures.

Leave nothing but footprints.

Kill nothing but time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *