Ballads and Barbeque
Monthly music series at Sweet P’s Barbeque and Soul House a tasty combination
Tim and Susan Lee have been an indelible part of the East Tennessee music community ever since they chose to relocate to Knoxville from their native Mississippi following short stints in Atlanta and North Carolina some 17 years ago. Once two-thirds of the namesake Tim Lee 3, they currently carry on as a duo by the name of Bark. In addition, they’ve added their contributions to the efforts of several other bands, both locally and nationally, giving them an enduring presence and one that’s recognized and respected.
To their credit, the Lees haven’t stopped there when it comes to expanding the live music options for our environs. They’ve also become entrepreneurs, presiding over shows at various venues in town. Shows they’ve booked have allowed for opportunities to see artists of national repute perform in the intimate environs of the Old City’s Pilot Light and Sweet P’s Barbeque and Soul House, located on the marina off of Old Maryville Pike. The latter has developed into a monthly series that’s featured such venerable performers as Webb Wilder, Malcolm Holcombe, Wreckless Eric, Tommy Womack, Don Dixon, Jim Mize, David Olney, Joey Kneiser and Kelly Smith among the many.
According to Tim, the criteria is simple. “I’ve got to like ’em, and that’s about it,” he says.
That basic formula has been followed ever since the series originated five years ago with its original founder, singer/songwriter Scott McMahon. “He did a great job, and I used to try to make it to as many of the shows as I could,” Tim recalls. “I was already a fan of Sweet P’s, so why wouldn’t I make the effort to go out and see the likes of Webb Wilder, Malcolm Holcombe and Randell Bramlett in a place where I could eat ribs at the same time? When Scott was on the verge of moving away in early 2015, he asked me about taking over. So I took the reigns in May of 2015 and have been doing it ever since.”
Happily, Sweet P’s remained open to the idea of continuing the concerts. Co-owner Chris Ford once sang with the band Gran Torino, giving him a natural appreciation of the need for live music. “He’s all about this stuff,” Tim insists. “He’s super supportive.”
Tim then approached Lost & Found Records for additional support. The Lees worked with the store on Record Store Day events and shared other opportunities, nurturing durable relationships with the owners and employees in the process.
As it turns out, selecting the artists is a fairly straight forward strategy as well. “I start by asking the people who I know and like and who I’d like other people to be able to see,” Tim explains. “Knoxville has no shortage of singer/songwriter related shows, so I try to think a bit outside of the box. I try to mix the more obvious Americana people with folks who are known for other things. For instance, I’m extremely happy to have booked Peter Holsapple for the July show. Peter was in the dB’s and has toured as a member of bands like R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish. He’s also an excellent solo artist. We’ve got Julie Christensen & Stone Cupid in June. Julie was in the SST Records band the Divine Horsemen in the 1980s, one of mine and Susan’s favorites. She toured also with Leonard Cohen’s band after that. She’s a world-class singer, and Stone Cupid is an amazing band.”
In addition, Jon Byrd is scheduled for September 13, Stephen Simmons on October 11 and Webb Wilder returns on November 8.
Tim is clearly committed to the cause, and his personal connection to the performers makes him even more so. Indeed, his enthusiasm is obvious. “These are the kinds of things that get me more excited than the more obvious stuff,” he suggests.
Suffice it to say that excitement is shared by others as well.