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GAINESBORO, Tenn. (WZTV) — Rural Tennessee is suffering. Drug abuse, poverty and a bad job market continue to plague many of the state's small towns. It's something one Grand Ole Opry star just can't stand.
Jamie Dailey, from the bluegrass group Dailey and Vincent, now has a second career - saving his hometown Gainesboro in Jackson County.
Dailey grew up in Gainesboro, nestled in Jackson County. You may know it for Cummins Falls. It put the county on the map. But, this county is all over the music of Dailey and Vincent.
"Oh it is my blood," said Dailey.
Dailey is building a home in Jackson County overlooking the Cumberland River, not far from his boyhood home where his parents still live.
"I wanted to be here because it's where my heart is, it's where my family is," Dailey said. "Once again, it's in my blood. I love it here. Sometimes when I get off the road, I can't get here fast enough."
But the blood is draining from this county, it faces low income and a 22 percent poverty rate. The historic square is charming, but also ragged pockmarked with failed business. And the one great restaurant, the Bull and Thistle? It closed last year.
"When this restaurant left, alarm bells went off for me," Dailey explained.
Dailey's more than a singer. He's a man of action. He has mobilized leaders all over Tennessee and is holding a rural leaders of America summit in his home county.
The Bull and Thistle is reopening, bolstered by two benefit concerts from Dailey and Vincent.
The state has put up a new musical pathways marker, celebrating Jamie Dailey in his hometown. For him, it's an honor and an obligation.
"What I am saying to the town of Gainesboro is we've got to fire on all engines and we've got to fire now because we are losing this little town, and this is not an option we are going to unite," Dailey said. "We are going to make something happen here."
This is difficult business, revitalizing small towns, but so is becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jamie Dailey is not afraid of a dream or the hard work that comes with it.