COREY SMITH ONLINE
Singer/songwriter Corey Smith has written and recorded a song called "Chattanooga" in response to the alleged censoring of his show last Friday night at Track 29.
Smith said in an interview Tuesday that before his taking the stage Friday, venue managers had asked through his tour manager that the artist not play his anthem "F--- the Po Po" if "an official from the Chattanooga Beer Board and his men were present."
Smith said he has omitted the song from some shows in the past and played it at others without incident, but he felt that an 18-and-older crowd in a club is "appropriate. I set it up in a way where it is not really controversial."
Smith noted on his website on Saturday that he wrote the "Po Po" song in 2003, "when I was wrongfully arrested for disorderly conduct for voicing my displeasure with the way a road block near my house was being conducted by local law enforcement. Although the charges against me were later dropped, I felt compelled to write a song about my ordeal."
YouTube videos show that he introduced the song Friday night by saying he respects law officials, just not the ones he wrote about in the song.
Management at the 2-week-old venue on the Chattanooga Choo Choo property turned off Smith's microphone as he began to play the song, which occurred near the end of his sold-out show.
Track 29 managers said in a statement on the venue's Facebook page that they made the decision in the interest of safety.
The statement reads in part: "Unfortunately, the show ended while Corey was playing his last song. Our team made that decision with the intent of protecting our audience, our talent, and the long-term viability of Track 29 to bring great live entertainment to Chattanooga.
"Rest assured that we had no intention of limiting any artist's creative license or right to speak freely. All decisions were made for safety and safety alone. We will always keep the health and well-being of our patrons, talent and staff as our utmost concern."
The incident was the second at the venue since it opened to the public on Sept. 1. Two patrons at Track 29 were charged in connection with a Sept. 1 altercation after they allegedly became belligerent with security and then fought with police. One of the men was subdued with a stun gun.
In the lyrics to his new song "Chattanooga," Smith says that management was coerced into pulling the plug by a beer board official he calls "Officer John."
Beer and Wrecker Board Officer John Collins, who was in attendance in an official capacity at the concert, denies making any such demand.
In a statement issued through his attorney, Gerald Tidwell Jr., Collins said he and several police officers were at the club checking on tips that underage drinking was taking place.
"At no time did Officer John Collins order, suggest, ask or in any way try to get the management at Track 29 to cut Corey Smith and his performance," Tidwell said. "And, he does not know if anyone else did, or if they did, why they did."
When asked if he was asked to censor the song, Track 29 co-owner Josh McManus said the venue would not make further comments beyond what was in their Facebook statement.
Smith said Tuesday afternoon that he was going on what his tour manager told him.
"When I walked off before my encore, the crowd began chanting for 'Po Po,' which is a normal occurrence. My tour manager said that the venue demanded that I not play it and that a city official told them they would pull their license or threatened action against them if I was allowed to play the song.
"They [Track 29 management] said if I played the song, they would pull the plug and I would never play there again."
Smith claims in the song "Chattanooga" that John Collins held a grudge against Smith following an incident five years ago at Rhythm & Brews, a club on Market Street.
He says in the song that the officer blamed Smith and "the song he was singing on the stage" for a fan pouring a beer onto "Officer John" and that he told Smith then that he would never play in Chattanooga again.
Rhythm & Brews manager Mike Dougher said Tuesday he has heard the new song and remembers the night five years ago, though he did not see what happened. He said Collins came into the club with an official with the Tennessee Alcohol and Beverage Commission.
"I didn't see what happened and don't know who said what, but I do know they [Officer Collins and the ABC official] were not happy when they left," Dougher said. "I will say I've had a very good relationship with them since that night."
In reference to the Friday night incident, Smith alleges in the song that "Officer John" came in to Track 29 and recognized "Corey" and told the club management "you're going to have a problem if you don't pull the plug."
Smith later described pulling the plug as "censorship at its worst," and a violation of his First Amendment rights.
"I know that I was censored by the club either on their own or by the club under implicit pressure from the beer board or under explicit pressure from the beer board. Either way, it wasn't fair.
"I do know I'm not buying that it was done in the interest of safety and only safety."
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...