Cataloochee Guest Ranch — Enjoy an up-close musical experience

By Carol Viau | Apr 20, 2016
Photo by: Wayne Ebinger 'GENUINE MUSIC' — Pictured is the Claire Lynch Band in last year's performance at Cataloochee Guest Ranch. The aim is to book ‘genuine people, making music for other genuine people — exactly the way it’s always been,’ said Penny Redfern, the ranch's marketing manager.

Cataloochee Guest Ranch, high atop Maggie Valley, is known for its mile-high setting, rustic cabins, horseback riding and great food. What music lovers should know is that Cataloochee Ranch is a first-rate music venue, where concert-goers can enjoy some of the mountains’ finest musicians up-close and personal.

Musical entertainment is a big part of the ranch’s rustic experience. There is entertainment most evenings, including history talks by Alexander family member Judy Coker, square dancing, singing around the campfire and jam sessions with emerging mountain artists.

“The sound of the mountains has been part of the Ranch since its beginnings in 1933,” said Penny Redfern, Cataloochee’s marketing manager. “We sometimes think the music must have seeped into the seams of the main Ranch house.”

Special concert events are held in the ranch’s great room, either before or after a hearty dinner, which is often served outside in the mountain air. Concert attendance is capped at 100 so that everyone attending sits close to the artists. It’s an intimate, fireside concert experience not found in many commercial venues.

“In booking music at the Ranch, we look for contemporary acoustic performers who are keeping tradition alive,” Redfern said. “This year’s lineup includes Grammy winner Peter Rowan and two IBMA award winners, The Claire Lynch Band and The Gibson Brothers, as well as the Asheville-based Honeycutters, who now tour nationally to rave reviews. What they have in common, in addition to their musical talents, is a down-to-earth quality that draws audiences into the performances as friends, not just observers.”

Here’s a sampling of special music events for the 2016 season:

Peter Rowan — Tuesday, April 26. This is the legendary singer-songwriter’s sixth appearance at the ranch in the past six years, and the concert is expected to sell out. The $65 ticket price includes dinner at 6 p.m. with music beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The Honeycutters — Thursday, July 7. The Asheville-based Honeycutters wowed concert-goers in its sold-out Cataloochee Ranch debut in 2015. The band, with a sound “part country, part Appalachian folk, part honky-tonk and wholly original,” has developed a large following in Western North Carolina.

• Fiddlers Four — Sunday, Aug. 7. Mountain music lovers will be treated to this special event with master fiddlers Arvil Freeman and Roger Howell and Freeman’s students, Bryan McDowell and Emma McDowell Best. The Sunday event begins at 4 p.m.

• Dance Night at the Ranch — Monday, Sept. 5. Ben Nelson and friends will perform and teach various old-time dance steps to old-time music.

• The Gibson Brothers — Saturday, Sept. 17. The Gibson Brothers, a well-known brother duo, bring outstanding bluegrass to Cataloochee Ranch. The New York-based band, twice named IBMA Entertainers of the Year, has been compared to the Everly Brothers, the Louvin Brothers and other legendary vocal duos.

• Claire Lynch Band — Sunday, Oct. 2. Dolly Parton called Lynch “one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.” Get tickets early, because last year’s Claire Lynch Band concert at Cataloochee Ranch sold out weeks in advance.

Mark your calendars for the special concert events, but find the time to visit this special venue anytime.

Traditional Cataloochee Guest Ranch cookouts are scheduled Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday — weather permitting — usually followed by music, dancing or singing. Local songstress Jeanne Naber returns this year for the popular singing-around-the-campfire at 8 p.m. Wednesday nights.

Thursday evenings are usually reserved for local musicians, such as the Boys from Tuckaseegee, Kevin Scanlon, Grits and Soul, Larry Barnett with Jared “Blue” Smith and William Ritter and Sarah Ogletree.

“Tap your foot to some live mountain music — both feet, in fact, on nights when there’s square dancing or clogging,” said Mary Coker, manager of the ranch and Alexander family member. “Evenings here can be many, many things. But boring is never one of them.”

Cataloochee Guest Ranch is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner — seven days a week. For more information on Cataloochee Guest Ranch lodging, dining, events and ranch activities, visit or call (828) 926-1401. The ranch is at 119 Ranch Dr., in Maggie Valley .