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Blank | Local
Matt Ward, Knox Comedy set to humor locals with inaugural event PDF Print E-mail
Written by Matt Rankin   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 20:50

Scruffy City Comedy Festival to take over downtown Nov. 6-8

Stand-up comedy witnessed a boom in the ‘80s, a collapse in the ‘90s and a resurgence with an alternative movement in the aughts.

This was true in major markets and in large population centers, at least; Knoxville has always been reluctant to embrace national trends, and modern residents of the city have been characteristically slow in adopting an appreciation for performance art, even in peak times of high national regard.

“The overall struggle here is getting Knoxville to accept that comedy happens locally,” says Matt Ward, founder of Knox Comedy Live, a collective of comedians and producers who perform and stage different kinds of shows at various locations throughout the city. “Comedy has never really been a viable option here….”

This localized apathy with regard to comedy is something Ward and his colleagues have been trying to eradicate in the nearly five years since Knox Comedy’s inception, and they are hoping that next month’s inaugural Scruffy City Comedy Festival will go a long way in rendering such indifference obsolete. Taking place Nov. 6-8 at five downtown venues (Scruffy City Hall, the Pilot Light, Latitude 35, the Jack Cellar and Star of Knoxville Riverboat), the event will feature more than 50 performances by some of the best local, regional and national talent working the circuit. Produced by Ward’s own Super Cat imprint, it also will showcase several different comedic styles, from traditional stand-up and improv to roasts and podcasts. It is an ambitious undertaking, but one at which Ward and many others have worked long and hard to see come to fruition.

Bobby Denton: The Voice of a Tradition PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ken Lay with testimonials from Rusty Odom   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 19:26

Football Time in Tennessee will never quite be the same.

On August 31st, The University of Tennessee’s football team played in front of a sell-out crowd for the first time in what seems like an eternity, but one man was noticeably absent. That man was legendary Neyland Stadium public address announcer and music industry titan Bobby Denton.

Denton, the former program director of WIVK radio, was the voice of Neyland Stadium for nearly five decades. He never missed a game after replacing John Ward, who went on to become one of the best college football and basketball broadcasters of all time.

Denton, the Knoxville radio legend, passed away last April after a bout with cancer.

The University of Tennessee has many football legends in its iconic gridiron history. Names like Manning, Holloway, Pickens, Shuler, Majors, Neyland and Fulmer sit atop the list. Phillip Fulmer and Johnny Majors both played and coached on Rocky Top. Robert Neyland built the Big Orange football program as fans now know it. And Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever wear pads.

But Denton was a star in his own right. If you didn’t know his name, you certainly knew his voice. His golden baritone echoed throughout Neyland Stadium for 47 years.

He is thought to be the longest-tenured PA voice in college football. He had a passion for the Big Orange and often kept fans in the games through some of the team’s lean years.

Like any other great craftsmen behind the microphone, Denton had his catch phrases such as his trademark “It’s Football Time in Tennessee,” and “Pay these prices and please, pay no more.”

But Tennessee football was only a part of Denton’s legacy. He cast a deep shadow in Knoxville radio at WIVK and beyond. The pipeline he created includes such personalities as Bob Kesling, now the voice of the Vols, Phil Williams, who has an afternoon talk show on WOKI, and Mickey Deerstone, now the program director at WNML where he has his own sports show during the morning drive. Deerstone is also the play-by-play announcer for Lady Vols basketball. Denton also mentored Jeff Jarnigan, another prominent Knoxville radio fixture and the man who now occupies the head chair in UT’s PA booth.

The list goes on, too.

An Interview with Shadowland director, Wesley Miller PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rusty Odom   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 20:10

“Civilization is at its end. America has been reduced to a land where only a few, strictly-governed communities still exist. All else is Shadowland, where there is no rule of law and where fear is the common denominator of all men. Gil Parsons is a wanderer in that place, wary of the strangers he encounters, as the circumstances of his existence call into question the inherent nature of mankind.”

This is the description you’ll find on the Shadowland page on the Knoxville Film Festival website. The film, which is directed by Knoxvillian Steven Wesley Miller, will be presented as part of the festival on Sunday, September 14th at 2:15PM at Regal Downtown West. We caught up with Miller just before the premier hometown screening of his film to ask him about how Shadowland came to be.


BLANK: When did you first develop a love for filmmaking? 

When I was 10 years old I watched Easy Rider. It became my favorite film. After, as a teenager I watched Reservoir Dogs and knew I wanted to make movies.


BLANK: When did you realize that you could actually turn your passion into a career?

When I got my first paid directing job. Honestly, I never wanted to call myself a director until I was paid to do it professionally. I've just always felt that way.


BLANK: Is this the biggest project you’ve taken on thus far?

Absolutely. We had a cast and crew of over fifteen people on set.

Take a Trip: The Birthplace of Country Music Museum PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rusty Odom   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 18:47

Whether from the rowdy NASCAR races or Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival, the intriguing little town of Bristol is familiar to many around.

While part of the tri-cities, Bristol is unique in its location of the Tennessee/Virginia state line. One minute you are in TN, then with a short stroll across the aptly named State Street… voila, you are in VA. What many fail to realize about Bristol is it actually carries the title of the “Birthplace of Country Music.” This year Bristol has an exciting new attraction dedicated to shining a light on the title they take such pride in.

The 1st of August marked the grand opening of The Birthplace of Country Music Museum conveniently located in the heart of downtown Bristol. The museum includes historical videos, interactive touch screens, and an exceptional display of musical instruments. The first ever recordings of then referred to “hillbilly” music, now recognized as “country” occurred in Bristol during the summer of 1927. The “Bristol Sessions” produced the first recordings of legends such as The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. As stated in an online description, “The goal of the museum is to tell the story of Bristol’s music heritage and support a region that continues to influence music around the world”.

While strolling along at your own pace is an option, I suggest beginning your tour by watching the video shown in the Orientation Theatre. You’ll hear a train’s ”choo-choo” as the doors open welcoming you into the room. This video, narrated by John Carter Cash, serves as a historical overview of how the 1927 Bristol Sessions came to take place. After the video, a timeline walks you along the building highlighting important events and artists that were not only part of the 1927 but 1928 Bristol sessions as well. The most significant occurrence documented here is the transition from acoustic recordings using a phonograph to the newest technology, electronic microphones. This advancement provided higher quality recording of string instruments and allowed for a more mobile recording system. Convenient touch screens along the way give you the chance to hear a variety of the music from that era.

Hugo PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rusty Odom   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 19:44

Anyone who has read this column in times past knows there’s usually a lot of nonsense going on in this space, much foul-mouthed ranting about drinking and sports and celebrities and other insignificant crap. But this week, we’re setting aside the bullshit. Because Real Life has reared her ugly head, and She can be a real bitch when She sets her mind to it.


If you patronize local music on a regular basis in Knoxville, you’ve probably heard of the Coveralls. Lifelong friends, the members of the band have been playing together in one configuration or another for 20 years, and as the Coveralls proper for 13. You could argue that they’re not the best-known and best-loved party rock outfit in town, but you would probably wouldn’t, because it sucks to be wrong.


The band’s longtime guitar player is a talented guy named Chris Canada; besides the Coveralls, he’s played in more local bands than he can easily remember, The Uptown Bogarts and Big Bad Jukebox and his current, eponymous project, the Chris Canada Jazz Trio, etc.. But better than all that, Chris is the proud father of Hugo Canada, an elfin little blonde guy with Anime-sized blue eyes.

Hugo celebrated his first year on the planet in June. The day after his first-ever birthday party, his parents noticed blood in his diaper. They took him to a local hospital for tests; for their diligence, they were rewarded with the kind of news that every parent prays they’ll never hear.

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