If you have been to Rabbit Hash then you have surely been to the General Store, the iconic symbol that represents Rabbit Hash itself: eclectic, rustic, and until recently much further off of the beaten paths to music and cultural scenes than other venues. It is packed with old-fashioned goodies in display cases and shelves, tucked among mugs, shirts, and other knickknacks bearing one kind of Rabbit Hash, KY related print or another. On many Fridays, the local barn across the way will host a dance with live music. When bands aren’t playing, locals often gather in the store to play songs together in a round. Small festivals showcasing old-time music pop up just outside in the summer, and people come from all around to take in the feeling of being thrown back to a simpler time. The most intimate of these moments happen on Sundays in the winter, when the Rabbit Hash General Store hosts “Music Behind the Stove”. It is the distillation of love for art, music, and togetherness. When you are gathered in the General Store for music behind the stove, together is surely what you will get.
Music in the Rabbit Hash General Store is different than any other kind of music venue. The band is literally staged behind a big wood burning stove, which will have soups and stews simmering on it for anyone to snack on while they listen. Listeners are within an arm’s reach of the band, often sitting on the floor right at their feet. The banter and camaraderie enjoyed by everyone in the room is quite an experience. This kind of closeness and connection is the kind of dream Terrie Markesbery and her late husband Richard had dreamed of; The dynamic that includes locals, the band, a woodstove, and communal food, brings patrons face to face with the musicians and their music. So relaxed, so personalized.
Terrie Markesbery is originally from the area, but she had met her husband Richard Young while living in Austin, Texas. They lived in different places together before moving back to Kentucky 20 years ago. At that time, Rabbit Hash was even more rural Kentucky than it is now. There was no ferry, and roads into the town weren’t built up as much as they are now. The peace and quiet felt like it could get to be a little much. Like many places, they started hosting music because their workplaces take up all of their time and attention. They wanted more than just entertainment and a little boost for Sunday afternoon business. They wanted the boost in culture, mood, and community. Richard used his connections with Texas music to bring bands to Rabbit Hash, but they quickly discovered that the local music scene is a deep, fresh well. Soon they had turned the general store into a local touchstone for folk music.
As Rabbit Hash grows and expands, the music at the general store continues to be original, rootsy, folksy, and local… but most of all, excellent. Just as Rabbit Hash has a communal, familial feel to it, Terrie maintains the hospitality Richard showed by always hosting bands as members of the family. Terrie sees the artist in the musician, and what it takes to craft such art. She shows gratitude for what art and music has contributed to her own life. Terrie says that their daughter Ruby has taken on many of Richard’s characteristics, drawn to singer/songwriters and soulful players of older music scenes. She says of Ruby’s exposure to local music, “Where else can you raise a kid in a store like this with such rich culture?”
Just as the General Store represents Rabbit Hash, there would be no store without the resilience of Terrie Markesbery. In recent years, the Rabbit Hash General Store has been leveled by fire and threatened by floodwaters. Richard passed away just 10 days after the 2016 fire, and it was a natural reaction for neighbors and friends of Rabbit Hash to rally around Terrie to help rebuild the General Store. I asked Terrie how she made it through. She said, “Rebuilding of the store was a rebuilding of soul. I never would have been able to survive the fire without the support everyone showed.”
Everything that Terrie ever knew for 20 years has been supplanted, and yet some things have been rejuvenated by the growing art community that surrounds her and the store. The version of the store that reminded her of Richard at every glance is no longer here, but knowing that the Rabbit Hash General Store is so important to everyone around her helped motivate Terrie to keep going. “I feel so wise now, but it is not a journey I would ever want to take again”, she says.
Terrie Markesbery’s impact on local music and music’s impact on Terrie has shaped her into the wonderful gift to humanity she is. Listening to the interview notes, I found that we spent most of the time interviewing each other. Unsurprisingly, Terrie was as interested in getting to know me as I was in getting to know her. We talked about bands, venues, people, and places we had in common. Long before the hour was up, we were friends and I already look forward to running into her again. As far as I am concerned, the trip to Rabbit Hash will always be worth the drive.