You are cordially invited to the first of our birthday soirees!
Fifteen years ago, The Daily Times launched a supplement to the daily newspaper with the goal of informing readers of entertainment-related happenings in Blount and surrounding counties.
That was 1998. At the time, I was working at a small paper in McMinnville, Tenn. Little did I know that our destinies, my own and that of this fine little publication you hold in your hands, would be intertwined only a few short years down the road.
I was the third editor of the Weekend edition, named to the post in the summer of 2001 after former editor Karen Pierce left to go to work for Franklin Graham, the Rev. Billy’s boy, over in North Carolina. Karen took over from the incredibly capable Paige Travis, who would go on to work for both Metro Pulse and AC Entertainment; today, Paige can be seen every Monday night as the co-host of WDVX-FM’s “Tennessee Shines” show, and she’s still active in the local entertainment scene.
In the early days, it took me a while to find my groove, so to speak. I was still dealing with my addiction, which I’ve documented in that other column I write every other Monday for the Life Times section of this paper, and it wasn’t until early 2002 that I realized what a blank slate I had with Weekend.
Over the years, we’ve made a few changes. The biggest, obviously, is that we publish on Thursdays now instead of Fridays; I was resistant to the idea at first, but when it comes to planning your weekend, I think having an extra day to peruse our calendar and stories to plan your activities is actually a good thing. We’ve gone through countless designs, and we’ve expanded our coverage to include many activities, concerts and more stuff in Knoxville, since we know so many of you drive there to play and be entertained.
One thing I’m particularly proud of: Our dedicated coverage of the local music scene. In 2012 alone, we wrote more than 100 stories just on East Tennessee bands. Many of these musicians will never sign a record deal with a major label or headline a show at the Civic Coliseum. If they play music for a living, most of them are barely getting by; if they do it for fun, they’re putting in 40 hours a week at a job and dedicating most of their weekends to entertaining patrons at places like Two Doors Down and Brackins.
They don’t play for money or fame; they do it because they love it, and when you — the readers and the music lovers, the party people and the patrons of the arts — show up and cheer and dance and throw up your fists when they play, that’s all the gratification they need.
Which is why we’re extremely pleased to be throwing a few birthday bashes around town over the next few months and introducing you to some of these amazing artists.
The first party will take place at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 — one week from Friday — at Two Doors Down in downtown Maryville. Two great acts are on the bill: Blount County-based Southern/country rockers Kudzu, and Knoxville-based swamp blues outfit Melungeons. Kudzu is a familiar band to those who get out and see live music on the weekend around there; Tim Flatford and his bandmates have been rocking places like Two Doors for years now. We’ve written about them a couple of times in the Weekend section, and last fall, the boys got a chance to show off what they do so well to a much bigger audience, when they performed on the big stage at the Foothills Fall Festival.
And the Melungeons ... well, I won’t spoil it for you, since those guys are on the Weekend cover next Thursday, but two things you should know: Front man Rus Harper is a genuine East Tennessee icon, a guy who came up in the 1980s punk scene and has developed a reputation as Knoxville’s answer to either Mick Jagger or Iggy Pop, depending on the night and the show. And the band’s guitarist is none other than Mr. Bill Irwin, who’s been playing off and on with Rus for the past three decades and is the son of the late, great Daily Times police reporter Anna Irwin, who covered crime and courts for this paper for decades herself.
It’s a free show, and we’ll be selling raffle tickets for some great prize packages. All proceeds will benefit the Blount County Drug Court Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the local Drug Court program meet its funding needs and goals, and as a recovering addict myself, I don’t need to tell you that this is a cause obviously near and dear to my own heart. Some of the big raffle prizes — a pair of passes to the 2013 Foothills Fall Festival, two season passes to the Clayton Center for the Arts’s 2013-14 season, passes to the 2013 Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival in Knoxville, passes to the summer Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Ky. — will be drawn after our last party, so that attendees attending any of them have a chance to purchase a winning ticket. A few smaller prizes — CDs and T-shirts from local bands, tickets to the upcoming Jan. 30 show at The Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville by jam band Umphrey’s McGee — will be drawn the night of the 18th.
So please, show up for the music. Show up for the cause. Show up because you want a chance to win some fabulous prizes. Show up to shake my hand (I’ll be there for the duration) and meet other members of The Daily Times staff who help make Weekend your go-to guide for what’s happening around town.
Just show up. It’s going to be a blast, and even if you’ve never heard of either band, you’ll come away a fan of both. Plus, there will be cake. After all, it’s a birthday party. We look forward to giving you all the best present we can find: Fun.
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.