Leslie Jordan will be grand marshal of Chattanooga's 2022 Riverbend Festival

The star will introduce acts, tell stories and circulate with the crowd

Leslie Jordan / Photo contributed by Miller Mobley
Leslie Jordan / Photo contributed by Miller Mobley
photo Leslie Jordan / Photo contributed by Miller Mobley

Add grand marshal for the 2022 Riverbend Festival to the hit parade of accomplishments for Chattanooga native Leslie Jordan.

Jordan said by phone during a break from rehearsing the latest episode of "Call Me Kat" - his most recent sitcom gig, starring Mayim Bialik - that he is thrilled to be included in an event that also features several performers who recently joined him on stage either at the Grand Ole Opry in May or the Ryman Auditorium in December.

Acts like Tanya Tucker, the War and Treaty and Brothers Osborne are on this year's Riverbend lineup, and Jordan said he has a history with each.

"I've known the guys in Brothers Osborne for a long time and the same with Michael and Tanya [Trotter] from the War and Treaty. They are so sweet," he said. "It's incredible. It's like everybody that I did those shows with will be at Riverbend."

Riverbend, set for June 3-5, has never had a grand marshal in its 40-year history, and it is just one of many recent honors for the actor/comedian/author/singer who has had the kind of two-year run that some people could only dream of. Even he is amazed at the path his career has taken since graduating from Brainerd High School in 1973.

"I certainly didn't get off the bus in Atlanta back in the '70s and say, 'One day I'll record a gospel album,'" he said.

He did just that last year, however, recording "Company's Comin," a collection of duets with people like Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker, Chris Stapleton, Eddie Vedder and the queen of well, everything, Dolly Parton.

"Every person we asked to do it said 'Yes,'" he said. "Dolly. I went to Hawaii to sing with Eddie Vedder."

Earlier this month, Jordan won an Audie Award for humor for his audiobook "How Y'all Doing?"

(READ MORE: What locals are saying about this year's Riverbend lineup)

Jordan himself admits he could not have envisioned the things that have come his way in recent years.

"I've accomplished everything I could have ever imagined," he said.

The one thing he will confess to having on his dream list is hosting the Oscars. He came close, he thought, this year when he was asked to announce some of the nominees. Asked when he might host "Saturday Night Live," he said he'd "do it in a minute" but that the show is very New York-centric and "even my agent said I'd never crack that nut. I'm an L.A. guy, and 'SNL' is very insular."

While many will know Jordan "as the little guy on that show," he became a household name during the pandemic thanks to his short videos he posted on Instagram.

"Give me a pandemic and I will flourish," he said. "I was stuck at home with my mother and sisters [in Chattanooga]. I did them [the videos] twice a day for 80 days. I've run out of content. Now people know me by name, though. It's crazy."

As part of his grand marshal duties, Jordan will be doing short stand-up sets between acts and will be welcoming some of his favorite performers to the stage throughout the festival held June 3-5. He'll also be circulating among the crowd.

He said he plans to spend the entire summer here, but admits he says that almost every year. His mother and twin sisters are "all the family we have, so I want to be with them. I'm the quiet one when we are together. They live together, talk all the time and still find things to talk about. I might say, 'Oh, I've got a new movie coming out,' and my mother will say, 'That's nice. Did I tell you about so-and-so?'"

Riverbend Executive Director Mickey McCamish said having Jordan serve as grand marshal is another indication of the changes the festival is implementing.

"Riverbend is going to be jam-packed with great experiences this year," he said.

"The smaller venue and limited number of wristbands [15,000] means the festival will be more welcoming. We're excited about the vendors who will be in the marketplace, the experiences we're offering ... and of course, the music, which is a hallmark of Chattanooga's original music festival. Having Leslie Jordan with us will add to the fun and we can't wait to welcome him to our stage."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354. Follow him on Twitter @BarryJC.