Musicians at the McClurg Jam have gathered weekly for more than 30 years to play. They're overseen by faces, found on the wall, of others who have joined in over the years. (Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell)

Remnants of McClurg — a former town identified more by musical tradition than as a place to live — are now under new ownership.

Thomas Peters, dean of Missouri State University Libraries, purchased most of the nearly nonexistent town where an old-time fiddle music party has drawn locals and national media outlets for decades.

Thomas Peters Credit: Photo Courtesy Missouri State University

“Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor of purchasing a home and the old general store down in McClurg, a small town in the northeast corner of Taney County in the Missouri Ozarks,” he wrote in a Facebook post sharing the news on Jan. 21. “There are only two homes in McClurg proper, so I reckon I bought half the town!”

The fate of the McClurg Jam — a decades-long, weekly music party held in the former store — has been up in the air for several months. The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the party, sending it outdoors for the last two years during summer months, and forcing it to pause during cold and dark parts of the year. Other traditional elements, such as an accompanying potluck dinner, were eliminated in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Those shifts were compounded by a decision of the property’s former owner, who lived out of state, to sell the store and adjacent home.

That’s when Peters stepped in.

“For years I have gone down there whenever I could get away to attend the Monday evening jam sessions of old-time Ozarks music, but I never imagined that one day I would own the store and continue to welcome musicians and lovers of old-time Ozarks music to these weekly jam sessions,” he wrote in the post.”Which will continue, once we all get through this current Omicron surge.”

Now that the property has officially changed hands, Peters shares that it’s his full intention to restore the Monday night traditions as soon as it’s safe. And while he will continue to live in Springfield, his ultimate plan is to relocate to the property (about 60 miles southeast of Springfield) after his retirement in a few years.

“Stay tuned for more information about when and how we will sustain the weekly jam sessions inside the charming old general store, with those wonderful potluck suppers, laughter and good fellowship,” he continued.

The McClurg store, still dressed in original signage, offers a unique place to play. (Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell)

The McClurg Jam has garnered attention far and wide throughout its decades of existence. Local and national news outlets have covered the weekly music party, which unlike many other jam sessions, focuses on old-time fiddle music.

While the party is open to visitors, many attendees are regulars and have attended for years or even decades. It represents the remnants of a fragile tradition: As musicians disappear due to age, the reality of the jam’s future — and that of old-time fiddle music — is precarious.

“The question of what the future of old-time fiddle music, I think, is part of a bigger question of what’s going to happen to our traditions in general,” said David Scrivner, an expert fiddler and longtime attendee of the jam, to Ozarks Alive in 2020. “So it’s sort of like the whole traditional Ozarks culture. I don’t know if I want to say it’s going away, but it’s changing, and I think everybody can see that. It’s a question of what are you gaining versus what are you losing, and who’s going to have the time to care?”

But for now, at least, the jam will go on.

“McClurg and the surrounding region is a very special place for me and many others,” says Peters. “Despite frequent attention and major media coverage over the past decades, McClurg remains the real deal, one of the many authentic, quietly profound, restorative experiences the Ozarks has to offer, and we all need. It is indeed a special place. Come on down and sit a spell.”

More information will be shared in the coming weeks when McClurg Jam sessions officially once again begin.

Read the original story, published on January 21, 2022, on Ozarks Alive.

Kaitlyn McConnell

Kaitlyn McConnell is the founder of Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project through which she has documented the region’s people, places and defining features since 2015. McConnell regularly shares her stories with readers of the Springfield Daily Citizen. Contact her at: More by Kaitlyn McConnell