EDGE Growing music scene eyed as next big thing in Chattanooga

EDGE Growing music scene eyed as next big thing in Chattanooga

January 1st, 2017 by Mark Kennedy in EDGE

Ben Rector performs at Track 29. Photo by Amy Kenyon Photography

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Music growth in notes and numbers

* 34 - Number of musical venues

* 45 - Number of restaurants offering live music

* 16 - Regularly offer live music, 16 music-focused festivals, and 16 other festivals and events that have music as a secondary focus.

Hot Tickets

A sampling of upcoming concerts in Chattanooga:

01/14: Gregg Allman (Tivoli Theatre)

01/19: Missy Raines & the New Hip (Barking Legs Theater)

01/21: Lera Lynn: (The Camp House)

01/28: Tedeschi Trucks Band (Tivoli Theatre)

02/17: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ (Revelry Room)

03/04: Margo Price (Revelry Room)

03/11: Get the Led Out (Track 29)

03/16: Son Volt (Revelry Room)

05/07: Brian Wilson (Tivoli Theatre)

Here's a little-known fact: the Glenn Miller Orchestra's swing classic "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was America's first gold record, signifying sales of 1 million copies. Now, 75 years after the mega-hit became the most popular song in the land, Chattanooga is trying to strike musical gold once again.

The seeds have been planted for a citywide musical revolution which is expected to bear fruit in 2017.

Much of the city's next-level tourism push is based on a burgeoning music scene that, along with outdoor tourism, is helping transform the Scenic City into a multi-faceted entertainment hub. No longer just a family-vacation destination, the city has begun to attract music fans to an ever-growing list of venues and events.

"The state has planted a flag in the ground that Tennessee is a music center," says Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, who notes that Chattanooga is well-positioned to participate in music-based tourism. "Music plays a huge role in the history of this state."

From the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, to modern R&B star, Usher Raymond, the city has been the cradle for some important music celebrities in the land. Although Chattanooga will probably always live in the shadow of Nashville, home of country music and the self-titled Music City, the Scenic City has enough indigenous music and forward thinking music promoters to up its game, tourism leaders say.

A recent inventory of musical events and venues by the Chattanooga tourism bureau shows numbers to back that up. Chattanooga now has 34 musical venues, 45 restaurants that regularly offer live music, 16 music-focused festivals, and 16 other festivals and events that have music as a secondary focus.

Chattanooga compares favorably to both Memphis and Knoxville in its number of music venues and consistent musical programs, says Mary Howard Ade, the director of music marketing for the CVB.

From the clubs and dance venues proliferating on the city's Southside, to the emerging MLK Boulevard entertainment district, to the riverfront, the city's music scene is spreading out geographically.

Chattanooga's musical events calendar is growing, as well.

* For example, the city will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the "Chattanooga Choo Choo" reaching gold record status on Feb. 1, after already marking the diamond anniversary of its ascension to No. 1 on the record charts late last year with the Choo Choo Jubilee.

* Last June, the city joined a host of cities worldwide to mark the summer solstice with a citywide music festival, Music Day Chattanooga, that featured 70 performers and 16 separate events. Performers occupied downtown rooftops and parks, and spilled into the streets.

* A new "Noon Tunes" concert series livened up mid-town last year and Jazzanooga, a training and performance venue in the MLK Boulevard district, sponsors a music festival each April.

* Meanwhile, the Tivoli Theatre and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium are under private management now and have attracted big name performers for sold-out performances. Regional music Goliath, AC Entertainment, the Knoxville-based company which is responsible for the annual Bonnaroo Festival in Middle Tennessee, is doing the event booking for the two venues. Meanwhile, the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association (CSOA) carries on an 80-plus year tradition of offering classical and pop concerts at the Tivoli.

The Southside neighborhood, bisected by Main Street and anchored by emerging musc venues on the Choo Choo properties, has become a walkable music district in the mold of Beale Street in Memphis and Lower Broad in Nashville. Music venues that dot the district include Clydes on Main, the Flying Squirrel, the Foundry and Reagan's Place. Two popular Choo Choo venues Track 29 and the Revelry Room have been fortified by a multi-million dollar update to the hotel property.

Meanwhile a new guitar museum, SongBirds, is set to become a major tourist attraction at the Choo Choo. It features one of the largest collection of important guitars spanning generations from the 1930s to the present.

The MLK District, meanwhile, is bustling with University of Tennessee and Chattanooga Students, who frequent such clubs as JJ's Bohemia and the Camp House.