Redneck Moonshine History

So since y’all can BYOM – Bring Your Own Moonshine – during your tour of Nashville on the Redneck Bus, we figured we’d help you folks out with a little historee on the beverage! After all, how can you be redneck certified if you don’t know anything about ole’ white lightening?

Now fer the basics. Moonshine is untaxed liquor that’s fermented, distilled, and condensed all in secret (or by the light of the moon). It’s basically corn whiskey. The thing about moonshine is that it’s strong – REALLY strong! We’re talkin’ about 100 proof liquor here. Now while some people say you can make moonshine out of just about anything, one of the most important ingredients you’re gonna be needin’ is cornmeal.

Of course, that made moonshinin’ a good idea for Tennessee farmers back in the day, whose main crop was corn. In fact, making and selling moonshine was a way of staying alive to many poor Appalachian farmers. That set them up for a struggle with the government, who wanted to collect taxes on alcohol, giving moonshiners all the motivation they needed to fight the government. And of course, there’s no one better at fightin’ than a redneck! The biggest enemy that the moonshiners had to look out for was the federal “revenuers”, who tried to collect taxes and catch people makin’ moonshine. Shootouts between revenuers and moonshiners were talked about so much that they became almost legendary!

One of the biggest things that happened fer moonshine was Proheebition in 1920, when the government decided they was going to get rid of all legal alcohol. Of course, this made the demand for moonshine go through the roof. Speakeasies – illegal bars – opened up in the cities, which the moonshiners would supply with alcohol. Getting the moonshine around though was a risk, and speshal blockade runners had to get it through the police to the customers. Ya see, corrupt police and bribes definitely helped, but the biggest thing was the newer, faster cars that were comin’ out. The runners would make modifeecashuns to the engines, and then drive like a bat outta hell! When these ole moonshiners had nothin’ better to do, they’d race each other in those speshal cars – and NASCAR was born! Yeehaw! But that’s a story fer another time.

Here in Tenneessee, Polk County and Cades Cove were two of our biggest areas for the producin’ of moonshine. Some of our prominent moonshiners included Josiah Gregory, Dana Gregory, and Mollie Miller. However, with Prohibition ended and alcohol available for cheap most places, moonshinin’ has died off over the years. In fact, now Tennessee has a lot of moonshine that’s got legal! But whether you bought yours down at the store or made it at home, just remember that yer enjoyin’ a long sip of history during the best dang Nashville bus tour ever!

Enjoy, y’all!