Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins, Kitty Wells, Homer and Jethro, Archie Campbell, Carl Butler, and many other legends of country music began their careers at WNOX-Radio, located on the 100 block of Gay Street in Knoxville. All of this talent made music described by singer Don Gibson as “That Knoxville Sound,” a sound rooted in traditional mountain melodies of the past.
Knoxville songwriter Arthur Q. Smith (James Arthur Pritchett) was the man behind the scenes, composing and selling off his hit songs to the cast and crew of WNOX. Setting up shop across the street from the station at the Three Feathers Sandwich Shop and Tavern, then located at 101 South Gay Street, Smith wrote hit after hit, often selling them off to pay his bar tab. Many received credit for Smith’s great work.
After decades of undeserved obscurity, the Bear Family Records label has produced a double CD set, including a 124-page biography on Smith written by Knoxville researchers Bradley Reeves and Wayne Bledsoe. Entitled Arthur Q. Smith: The Trouble With The Truth, the set features an introduction by honky-tonk man Marty Stuart and is packed with rare photos from Knoxville’s golden era of country music. The compact discs feature hit recordings of Smith’s songs by artists such as Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Ray Price, and many others. Disc two contains rare commercial recordings and lost acetate demo discs recorded by Arthur Q. Smith himself.
The new Arthur Q. Smith set will get an official United States release on Friday, December 9, and will be exclusively available in Knoxville from Raven Records and Rarities. Join us for a release party celebrating Knoxville’s rich contributions to country music, the history of Gay Street’s 100 block, and of course, the legacy of Arthur Q. Smith. It’s an evening of rare film, art, live musical performances, and…it’s all free!
Date: Friday, December 9, 2016
Time: 6:00 - 10:00
Location: The Emporium Center Black Box Theatre, 100 South Gay Street
Art Exhibit: Appalachian and Tennessee Music Makers: paintings of local music icons by WDVX-Radio host Amy Campbell
6:00 – 7:00
Rare Knoxville films from the vaults of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound presented by TAMIS archivist Eric Dawson
Roy Acuff’s Open House (1960)
Carl and Pearl Butler’s Personal Home Movies and appearance on Cas Walker show
Arthur Q. Smith: The Mystery man of Country Music
Chet Atkins and the WNOX Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round
7:00 – 9:00
- A Tribute to Chet Atkins: Performed by guitarist Larry Odham, and Jack Cate, former bassist for Don Gibson on WNOX-Radio
- Classic duets of Carl and Pearl Butler performed by Nancy Brennan Strange and Steve Horton featuring “If Teardrops Were Pennies” and “Don’t Let Me Cross Over”
- Highlights from the lost Jim and Jesse McReynolds Television Show, circa 1970. Recently-preserved and long-unseen footage includes performances of “Knoxville Girl,” “Air Mail Special,” and more. Restoration work by Larry Odham.
- Blue Highway’s Tim Stafford, along and musical partner Bobby Starnes perform acoustic favorites, including Arthur Q. Smith’s classic “I Wouldn't Change You If I Could”, along with original compositions of their own.
- Bluegrass legends Jim and Jesse McReynolds broadcast over WNOX during the 1950s and made many classic records through the years. McReynolds fondly recalls Arthur Q. Smith during his stint in Knoxville, and in fact, will be featured on the WDVX Blue Plate Special at 12:30 PM on December 9.
- A solo performance by Tim Stafford, award-winning member of the group Blue Highway, singing Arthur Q. Smith’s classic “I Wouldn't Change You If I Could” along with an original composition of his own
- The Tennessee Stifflegs performing their rendition of Arthur Q. Smith’s rare 1947 King label recording of “You Can’t Hide A Heartache With A Smile.”
- The Appalachian Hippie Poet: Knoxville Recitations
9:15 – 10:00
The Barstool Romeos show closer featuring a rowdy, fun, and unique mixture of Honky Tonk Rock; the Romeos carry on the great tradition of Knoxville’s music heritage.