The approval for downtown street music in Rocky Mount may strike a dissonant chord with some. However, the Rocky Mount Town Council’s unanimous vote to purchase a sound system featuring nine speakers capable of broadcasting a wide variety of music is another step toward knitting together a creative atmospheric signature for our downtown area.
Costing just under $20,000, the nine-speaker sound system will be used to fill the air with appropriate music at various seasons of the year as well as special occasions. The coverage area for this audio will be roughly between Floyd Avenue and West Church Street, reaching a broad swath of downtown.
The most obvious application for such a sound system would be during the Christmas shopping season, when holiday-themed music such as “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” would waft from the speakers into the ears of shoppers and pedestrians, setting a festive mood for the downtown area.
Holiday music is a no-brainer. However, allow us to indulge in some irreverent fun on this new atmospheric enhancer, and propose some other uses for Rocky Mount’s new sound system during other occasions or seasons of the year:
• Franklin County Moonshine Festival: This is not the time to be airing the theme from “Lassie Come Home” or “Mary Poppins.” Instead, the music lineup for this event needs to focus on the greatest hits with a moonshining connection. The number one tune on our list would be the theme song from that famous 1958 classic starring Robert Mitchum, “Thunder Road.” Other top candidates would include “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle, “White Lightnin’” by George Jones, “Tear My Stillhouse Down” by Gillian Welch, “Daddy’s Moonshine Still” by Dolly Parton, and the entire collection of songs on the “American Moonshine & Prohibition” album as played by the New Lost City Ramblers.
• Halloween: We’ll have to wait until next year for this playlist, but here’s a head start on compiling merry ditties for the spooky season, including “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band, “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Runnin’ With the Devil” by Van Halen, and the classic “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon.
• Franklin County Court Days: This June celebration is keyed to the old, bygone tradition of “court days,” in which the judge for circuit court showed up in town and nearly every soul around came to trade, socialize, listen to music and do business. So, appropriately, here are some old timey tunes to consider: “Mountain Dew” by Grandpa Jones, “Clinch Mountain Backstep” by the Stanley Brothers & the Clinch Mountain Boys, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys. There’s a terrific downhome selection to choose from, too, at the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum.
OK, you get the idea. There are a multitude of opportunities for use of this sound system to set the mood, whatever the occasion. Here’s hoping our town will get creative.