Spotlight: Rye Cove Cyclone

Published:April 2, 2009 by Brendan Wolfe

We’re going to start using this space to regularly spotlight new Encyclopedia Virginia entries. Today, it’s the Rye Cove Cyclone, about a tornado that struck a Scott County school in 1929, inspiring a country music song.

After the disaster, a relief train took some of the injured to Clinchport for treatment. Others were taken by ambulance to Bristol and Kingsport, Tennessee. The road out of Rye Cove was narrow and twisting, and only partly paved, so getting survivors out and relief workers in was difficult. Among those who rushed to Rye Cove to help was Scott County native A. P. Carter, a member of the country music trio the Carter Family and a prolific songwriter. He was in the next valley on the day of the storm. Carter was touched by the horror of what he saw and soon composed a song, “The Cyclone of Rye Cove.” The Carter Family recorded the tune that same year for RCA Victor.

We do not, unfortunately, have the necessary rights to stream the Carter Family song. However, find the “External Links” section to the right of the entry and click on the “Blue Ridge Institute: Deathly Lyrics” link. You’ll be able to find the song there; you can even listen to it while you read the entry. The Blue Ridge Institute also has “The Wreck of the Old 97,” a song we do have rights to; you can read about it (and listen to it) here.