Knoxville: Music City?

photo of painted string instruments hanging

This week we published an interview with Randy Holmes of the Open Chord on our YouTube channel. I’ve written about the community of music at Open Chord before, how it brings people together, how it inspires and provides a sense of commonality even when the actual musical tastes among folks is so vastly different.

Knoxville is no stranger to the phenomenon that is music. Indeed, Nashville may be known as the home of country music, but we’re the cradle. We have a long history of recording studios, musical venues and musical greats who cut their teeth (and some records) on music right here in Knoxville.

The Everly Brothers are an excellent example. They weren’t born here, and certainly didn’t live their whole lives here, but Don graduated from our own West High School in 1955. They were known for combining old-time music with rock-n-roll style. It was a risky move, but it won them world renown: even The Beatles were musically influenced by the Everly Brothers’ harmonies. (Seriously!)

As The Knoxville History Project puts it:

They lived in Knoxville just a couple of years, ca. 1953-1955. Although they made semi-regular appearances playing on WROL radio shows, they were rarely mentioned in the papers except as West High athletes. However, their Knoxville years marked a critical turning point in their career. It was in Knoxville that the brothers began performing as a duo. It was here that they discovered rock’n’roll, by way of new Bo Diddley records encountered at “Dougout Doug’s” record store, on Cumberland Avenue near 17th Street. And it was here that they met former Knoxvillian Chet Atkins, who encouraged them and guided their early career.

And Chet Atkins? Oh, boy. Born in Luttrell, Tennessee (just about a half hour outside Knoxville), Chet was influential and instrumental (see what I did, there?) on Knoxville’s own WNOX. His unique style of “galloping” guitar is still unmatched.

Knoxville’s musical scene is not all in the past; visitors today can sit in on the Blue Plate Special, a live music show hosted daily at lunchtime by WDVX. Acts range from big to little, from local to just passin’ through. You can catch shows at the Tennessee Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, any one of dozens of bars and coffee shops … you can even get an earful of busquers on Market Square or Gay Street in warmer weather.

And don’t forget Big Ears, the annual music festival in downtown Knoxville that’s gotten national attention! It’s coming up: March 21-March 24, 2019.

Music: just another reason Knoxville is a great small city to visit, to live in, to just know it’s around.

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