If you go
› What: Lefty Williams at Riverfront Nights.
› When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 16.
› Where: Ross’s Landing, 200 Riverfront Parkway.
› Admission: Free.
› Phone: 423-756-2211.
› Website: www.river frontnights.com.
Save the date
Still to come in the Riverfront Nights lineup:
› July 23: Muddy Magnolias
› July 30: Deacon Bluz & The Holy Smoke Band
› Aug. 6: Dead Phish Orchestra
› Aug. 13: Ripe
› Aug. 27: Jason D. Williams
› Note: The break on Aug. 20 is for the Southern Brewers Festival.
The Lefty Williams Band may set the bar for the headliners to follow in the 2016 edition of Riverfront Nights, but it will be the tribute to Chattanooga's Fallen Five that sets the tone for the first concert.
The series opener will carry the theme "Chattanooga Remembers," continuing a day of remembrance presented by the city of Chattanooga and Mayor Andy Berke.
The Riverfront Nights memorial ceremony will be in honor of the five servicemen who died on July 16, 2015. Before the headliner takes the stage at 7 p.m., Riverfront Nights will feature a manning of the rail (a Navy practice for rendering honors), presentation of colors and singing of the national anthem.
Local band Tim & Reece will follow the memorial presentation at 7:15 p.m. Williams' band will take the stage at 8 p.m., playing the Southern rock Williams has showcased on "Big Plans" in 2006, "Snake Oil" in 2008 and "All In" in 2014.
The free, six-week series at Ross's Landing is presented by Friends of the Festival, which produces Riverbend. In addition to live music, the series showcases organizations that promote healthy lifestyles, sustainable practices and outdoor adventure recreation.
The Pup Tent at The Dog Pound will feature a VIP area for dogs and their human companions. A Wild Trails Running and Paddling Fitness Challenge will include a 7-mile paddle trip from Chickamauga Dam to the Wild Trails corner at Ross's Landing (free shuttle to the dam leaves at 4:30 p.m.), a 2-mile paddle around Maclellan Island, a 5K road run at 5:30 p.m. and an 8-mile half-road/half-trail run on Stringer's Ridge at 5 p.m. Chattanooga Paddleboards will have rentals on-site.
Five fast facts about Lefty Williams
1. He was born without a hand on his right arm. He was christened Jason Williams, later earning his nickname from a classmate.
“I picked up the nickname Lefty from one of my smart-aleck friends in middle school,” he laughingly recounted to TheRockRag.com. “It’s not something that I mind talking about. I know that many people shy away from it but, hey, it’s who I am, you know?”
2. He started playing guitar at age 4. He learned from his father and grandfather, both performers, who encouraged his development by letting him find his own way. “I cannot ever remember him getting frustrated trying to teach me,” he says of his father in an online bio. “He always told me that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to doing. So far, he’s been right. Papa used to tell me that I could be a famous musician if I tried hard enough.”
3. He fashioned a custom pick at age 6. “My mother’s father (Pawpaw) helped me come up with the pick design,” he says. “I did most of it, and he made a few suggestions here and there. He probably had an idea for the whole thing but wanted to let me figure it out on my own.”
4. His guitar skills have drawn comparisons to Jimmy Page, Dickey Betts, Eric Johnson and fellow Georgians Robert Cray and Duane Allman. Blues stalwart Tinsley Ellis, who played on Williams’ 2008 album, “Snake Oil,” says, “I was knocked out by Lefty the first time I heard his music. I knew I had to seek him out and hear more of his stuff. He is a veritable triple threat on guitar, but also as a soulful vocalist and clever songwriter.”
5. He likes the pace of winning over fans one show at a time. “I do not aspire to sell out arenas or be on the cover of Rolling Stone,” he says in his bio. “I will be perfectly happy playing in theaters and touring all over the world. My biggest hope is to get out of the van and into a bus and be able to make a comfortable living playing my guitar. I want to take care of my family, my band members and the people on my team to the best of my abilities. And I want to connect with my audience on a deeply personal level that allows me to make life-long fans.”