Every themed area at Dollywood has a story behind it. Dolly and our creative teams are very intentional when it comes to every piece of theming in the park. This year, one of our themed areas is celebrating a big anniversary–Jukebox Junction opened 25 years ago. While the area itself is turning a quarter of a century old, the real places the 50s-themed area is modeled after have a history going even further back.
Jukebox Junction is reminiscent of Dolly’s hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, back in the 1950s. As you enter the area, the walkway turns into a street with painted lines, and a variety of colorful storefronts welcome you to the iconic decade.
In Jukebox Junction, Pines Theater has been home to a number of 50s shows since 1995, starting with Let the Good Times Roll. Since then, guests have enjoyed Christmas Hometown Holidays, Buddy Baxter’s Bandstand USA, T’was the Night Before Christmas and Dreamland Drive-in.
The inspiration for this theater came from a Sevierville theater with the same name. The theater would play motion pictures and have live music performances–most often, country music performances. When Dolly was a child, she played her first show at Pines Theater. Today, the original Pines Theater building is BJ’s Flower Basket in downtown Sevierville.
Red’s Drive-In is a family-favorite food option in the park. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes are an easy and delicious meal for almost any family. The quick-service restaurant is decorated in classic 50s diner fashion and offers a climate controlled place for families to take a break and enjoy a meal.
The restaurant is a tribute to the former Red’s Café in downtown Sevierville. Lee Parton, Dolly’s dad, was a regular customer of the hamburger joint during Dolly’s childhood. According to Dolly, the first hamburger she ever had was at Red’s Café after a dentist appointment. Read more about Red’s history here.
Rockin’ Roadway lets guests take the wheel of a classic Thunderbird, Cadillac or Corvette. They cruise down a 50s-themed track as music from the decade plays through the car’s speakers.
If you look at the signs and décor on the building, you will see Watson Motor Co., which was a business in downtown Sevierville.
Cas Walker’s Store
Now just a storefront and sign, Cas Walker’s Store was a merchandise shop when Jukebox Junction first opened. The shop featured nostalgic goods, Coca-Cola memorabilia and unique gifts that captured the fun of the 50s.
The shop was named after Cas Walker, the entrepreneur who gave Dolly her first big break. At age 10, Dolly landed her first radio gig on Walker’s variety show “Farm and Home Hour.” Walker also owned several grocery stores in the Knoxville area, which is why a store in his honor was fitting.
Today, you will also find Cas Walker’s Blue Band Coffee Shop storefront in Jukebox Junction.
There are other original attractions in Jukebox Junction that may not have direct ties to 1950s Sevierville, but have become favorites over the last 25 years.
The Gem Tones
The Gem Tones is a doo-wop group that entertains guests who visit Jukebox Junction. In their poodle skirts and 50s outfits, the group sings classic 50s favorites. Tom Hacker performed with the original Gem Tones back in 1995. He says he remembers the opening day of Jukebox Junction like it was yesterday.
“It was exciting!” said Tom. “It was always fun to get to see Dolly when she came, but we also got to meet celebrities like Sandra Dee, Mac Davis, who was one of my favorite songwriters and entertainers, and Jim Nabors. We performed that day from the top of Cas Walker’s Store, which is now the entrance for the Lightning Rod rollercoaster. Our first performances were outside of Red’s Drive-In to huge crowds. It was a great start.”
Tom is still performing at Dollywood. He has starred in Christmas in the Smokies for 15 seasons. He also did vocal arrangements for The Gem Tones this season, which he says was a neat way to celebrate the 25th anniversary.
Jukebox Junction Today
But it isn’t just the attractions themselves that make Jukebox Junction so nostalgic. As guests walk through Jukebox Junction today, they may or may not notice the small details in the theming and decor of area.
The Easy 5 & 1 Cent Store, which actually houses a Safety and First Aid location, shows mannequins in 50s fashion and home décor.
Judy’s Luggage & Millinery Shop displays 50s luggage and hats. This shop’s name also is a nod to Dolly’s childhood best friend, Judy Ogle.
For the hosts who worked hard to bring Jukebox Junction to life, celebrating 25 years is a big milestone. Ronnie Darrow is a Construction Host who worked to help create Jukebox Junction. Ronnie did everything from building foundations, dirt work, framing, concrete and interior and exterior finishes. Ronnie says he is still proud of how authentic the project is to the 1950s.
“[I am proudest of] the way it made you feel like you stepped back in time,” said Ronnie. “You can really imagine how it was back then.”
Over the last 25 years, additions have been made to the area, including Lightning Rod which is themed after a 1950s hot rod. But one thing guests can count on when they visit Jukebox Junction, is an authentic and nostalgic 1950s street straight from Dolly’s memories and imagination.