After more than 20 years of putting on a live radio show, Bill McCallie has learned an important lesson about his audience. Honey may be irresistible to flies, and ducks might go gaga for junebugs, but fans of bluegrass and Western music are suckers for biscuits. Really big ones.
Since the first live show 21 years ago, McCallie, 68, has followed up the two-hour concert and broadcast with a reception featuring homemade pear preserves destined to be slathered on "cat's head" biscuits - so named because they are about the same size as Fluffy's head.
And guests can't resist them, he says.
"We've gone from one tray to 15 trays," he confides, laughing. "We've actually run out on occasion, so we have extra biscuits this year. We can handle a pretty good size crowd."
The annual live performance is a chance for McCallie to hobnob with the listeners of his weekly radio show "Cowboy Jubilee," which airs at 6 p.m. every Sunday on Southern Adventist University's WSMC-FM 90.5 as well as via an online stream.
Like last year, this year will feature performances by local bluegrass stalwarts The Dismembered Tennesseans and McCallie's own In Cahoots, as well as a pair of special guests.
When the show started, its audience filled about half the 225 seats in the university's Ackerman Auditorium. Last year, attendants had to pile chairs on the stage to fit everyone.
"It's just grown and grown," McCallie says. "It's a real good, packed-house kind of show. It adds to the ambiance to have that size of a crowd."
After so many years, the show usually gets pulled off without a hitch, but that seemingly effortless presentation is the result of a lot of work behind the scenes, he says.
"I'm pretty much exhausted at the end of the night," he says. "It makes you feel good when people say, 'Why can't we do this every week?' but they just don't realize how much preparation goes into it."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipCTFP.
* What: "Cowboy Jubilee" live show.
* When: 5:15-7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, with live radio broadcast 6-7 p.m. on WSMC 90.5 FM; reception follows.
* Where: Ackerman Auditorium, Southern Adventist University, 4881 Taylor Circle, Collegedale.
* Admission: Free. Donation buckets passed around during the show.
* Phone: 423-304-2173.
* Website: www.billmccallie.com.
5:15 p.m. Doors open at Ackerman Auditorium
5:30-6 p.m. Fletcher Bright and The Dismembered Tennesseans perform
6-6:30 p.m. Radio broadcast begins; Dismembered Tennesseans play second set
6:30-7 p.m. In Cahoots performs
7-7:30 p.m. Radio broadcast ends; In Cahoots performs second set
7:30 p.m. Post-concert reception, featuring cat's head biscuits and homemade pear preserves