Music on a Random Wednesday 

Colin Cutler, Blue Plate Special, Knoxville Visitor Center, Knoxville, March 2023
Taylor Shuck, Blue Plate Special, Knoxville Visitor Center, Knoxville, March 2023

(Relative recent Knoxville resident Luke Frazier returns with a guest piece highlighting what many of us take for granted.)

One of the beautiful things is that it’s a decision that can be made right up to show time, seeing how the  stage is only about 1,000 feet from my apartment. The question is whether I should attend the WDVX  Blue Plate Special (BPS), the live music simulcast held at noon at the Visit Knoxville Center on Gay Street on any particular day. On a recent random Wednesday, my answer was go for it. 

This day there were 2 musical guests splitting the hour: Taylor Shuck and Colin Cutler. Cutler was part of  a trio, Shuck stood solo. Both delivered the goods as musicians and songwriters, professional and  inspired. There were about 20 of us in the audience, with WDVX’s Red Hickey hosting in her fine style. 

Having been to a bunch of Blue Plate Specials, I knew the format: a synching up with the live radio signal,  a warm welcome from Red, a cheer from the audience, and away it goes. After a couple of songs Red  asks the artist a few questions and invites the audience to hang around after to “shake & howdy.” Then, more songs and transition to the same for a second act if there is one that day. It’s a class operation all  around, sound and lighting are excellent, and it’s tinged with the excitement of live radio and aspiring  actions. Artists who dare, show up, pursue. 

Colin Cutler, Blue Plate Special, Knoxville Visitor Center, Knoxville, March 2023
Colin Cutler, Blue Plate Special, Knoxville Visitor Center, Knoxville, March 2023

At all the BPS I’ve attended the energy is high: every artist is up there putting it out there, making music  for the dream-track they are layering into their lives. Whatever direction it’s rolling.  

There’s Taylor Shuck, who studied classical guitar and composition, teaches at Louisville Folk School, and  is steeped in the Bluegrass tradition. He references genre-bending musical communications and his love  of drinking tea on his website. Does he dream of making it big as one of his professed influences John  Prine? I didn’t ask but have to believe it’s entered his mind and heart at some point. 

Colin Cutler Merch, Blue Plate Special, Knoxville Visitor Center, Knoxville, March 2023

And what about Colin Cutler? His vibe is all “here I am hope you like it” and his merchandise offerings  includes hot pepper jam of his own making (it’s good, I bought some). He’s an Airforce brat who has lived  around the world and once played at the Romanian National Museum of Literature. On this day he sang  a selection from his recording of songs based on Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, and another one  about getting drunk in Bristol. Does he hope to headline a stadium show one day? 

I sat reflecting, wondering on the nature of dreams and desire. Blue Plate Special has been around since  1997, with thousands and thousands of artists singing and playing, pitching their gigs and hawking their  wares over lunchtime. A burger for the body and maybe a little recognition for the soul. 

Some of these artists are more recognizable, some even go on to make fat cash and buy fast cars, but  what size dream fits all anyway? It’s the Taylor or the Colin for that day that matters. The BPS is a heapin’  helpin’ of imagination, served on a hot mic over the airwaves and digital realms. 

Blue Plate Special Stage, Knoxville Visitor Center, Knoxville, March 2023

The Blue Plate Special is a Knoxville treasure, and being in the BPS audience is, in a small way, an act of  affirmation. I am here, thanks for the tunes. I hope your dreams come true.

(Ed. Note: The Blue Plate Special can be heard live at noon every weekday on WDVX or live and in person at the Knoxville Visitor Center, 301 South Gay Street (M-Th) and at Barley’s Taproom, 200 East Jackson on Fridays.)