Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center, a non-profit off-the-grid sustainable community in Grainger County, had already planned one of its frequent music jams for this weekend when organizers got word of the death of Billy Joe Nicely. The center quickly adapted its original plans to pay tribute to Nicely, a local tree-cutter and musician who died in an accident last week; the music jam on Saturday, July 27, will now be a tribute to Nicely’s memory and a benefit for his family to offset medical and funeral bills.
“We at Narrow Ridge share in the sadness of folks from Grainger and Union counties and beyond over the loss of our dear friend, Billy Joe Nicely. Since his tragic death, we have repeatedly heard the words ‘one of a kind’ to describe Billy Joe. Indeed, there has never been and will never be another quite like him,” writes Narrow Ridge director Mitzi Wood-Von Mizener in an e-mail. “His stories and songs at our music gatherings and fall festival were always an attraction to locals and non-locals alike. Our music gathering this coming Saturday was already planned prior to Billy Joe’s tragic death. However, we are now dedicating this event to him because of our appreciation of the man he was and with hopes of possibly raising some funds to assist with the aforementioned expenses.”
Narrow Ridge occupies 500 acres and offers solar-powered rental facilities, classes, community gatherings, and the annual Hogskin History Day, a celebration of local culture and history. Nicely, a native of the area, had been associated with Narrow Ridge since its beginnings in the early 1970s, according to Wood-Von Mizener, and had served as an ambassador for the center to the local community, which didn’t immediately accept the group.
“His friendship and presence at our gatherings has led the way for others to view us as neighbors rather than outsiders,” she says.
Nicely was also a guitarist, singer, and songwriter, performing original songs and folk standards at Narrow Ridge gatherings.
Saturday’s music jam in Nicely’s memory will be held at the Narrow Ridge outdoor stage on Liberty Hill Road from 7-10 p.m. Everybody’s welcome to sing, play, or tell stories. Admission is free, but snacks are appreciated. Donations will be accepted for Nicely’s family. Visit earthliteracycenter.org for more information.