In the midst of the flurry that is Christmas season, there was a small musical gem that needs not get overlooked. It’s a season filled with music, of course, from the choral and symphonic presentations to a number of good shows stopping by on national tours. This one was decidedly local in flavor, but stands with any of the others I heard in the month of December.
The triple bill at Scruffy City Hall was to celebrate the 80th birthday of Knoxville musical icon John Myers. As always, Wayne Bledsoe did an excellent preview of the show and an overview of John’s career. John, born in Knoxville in 1935, began singing as a teenager, eventually landing in a vocal group with Clifford Curry. The group underwent numerous personnel and label changes, as well as name changes as they evolved from the Echoes, to the Five Pennies, the Four Pennies and, ultimately they recorded an album on Motown as Hearts of Stone.
While focusing on doo wop early in his musical career, John now plays a blend that always packs a lot of soul, but includes country, gospel and rhythm and blues. It’s a happy, spirited blend incorporating good songwriting – sometimes his own and sometimes others – and excellent musicianship, but always with Myer’s solid vocals and smiling stage-presence front-and-center. I first heard him at last year’s Waynestock Festival (which will be here again, soon!)
Backed by Maria Williams and Sean McCollough of the Lonetones, Kevin Abernathy, Chris Durman, Steve White and Steve Corrigan, the band is the same he used when he resumed performing in Knoxville in 2007 at the Time Warp Tea Room. At that time he was only 72-years-old and is now more seasoned. He released an album in 2010 titled, “I Ain’t Going Nowhere,” and if you’ve not heard it, I’d encourage you to sample it on itunes and buy it. I’m listening to it as I write this article and I’ve enjoyed it many times. I’ll include a sample of John performing below, just to get you started.
I missed opening act Exit 65 and can only submit as a defense that Florida was in the SEC championship game (momentarily) as an excuse. I was able to stay for most of the Lonetones’ set which followed John’s and enjoyed them, as always. (I’m ready for another album, guys!) It was particularly good to see Cecilia back in town, among Knoxville friends and playing with the band.
As always, a fun night with musical friends in every direction. Check out these artists and, if you haven’t already enjoyed a show (or several dozen) at Scruffy City Hall, please do so. It’s a very cool spot, the sound is excellent and it’s simply beautiful, as you can see. Of course, these aren’t all the photographs, so I’ll try to post the whole batch later on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page.