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Let me just say that this coronavirus situation is the most unprecedented, painful, confusing, frightening thing I've seen in my lifetime, which is not to diminish or compare it to anything others have gone through. But, watching friends, family, colleagues and strangers deal with this is brutally difficult.

That said, I thought I might divert things a little bit, and taking a cue from our sports editor Stephen Hargis, who wrote a highly entertaining piece on Sunday recounting his 30 years here at the paper, I thought I might share some of the more memorable moments of my almost 33 years.

These are just memories and not meant to be any kind of a ranking.

I wasn't around for the old Jet-Fli Spectaculars of the late '60s-early '70s, nor did I frequent Governors or the Rock and Country Club. So for me, the Chattanooga music scene started with seeing my brothers' band, Musical Moose, at Duck Soup Deli and then the Brass Register around 1978-1980.

It kicked into high gear a few years later when The Targets, later 37 Targetz and The Malemen, used to bring crowds large enough that people were dancing on the tables. Standing in a line stretching down Patten Parkway to see the White Animals at Yesterday's was pretty strong, too,

Arguably the most significant early show was the night Bend Sinister and Musical Moose rented the Knights of Columbus hall on Eighth Street and did an entire show of all original music.

Until then, Chattanooga was predominantly a cover-band town. So this show, while not the biggest, moved things along quite a bit. A side note here: I've heard people say that it was the club owners who refused to book any band that played original music that was the problem. While the effect might have been the same, it's not quite that sinister.

They didn't book them because patrons stayed away in droves, not because there was some evil plot to squash anyone's creativity. It was a business then and it is a business today. No money, no mission, but I digress.

Anyway, the show at the K0fC was a turning point for other bands to adopt a DIY attitude to create their own scene like what was happening in other cities. This week, I found in my files a press kit from John Kirby promoting a new cassette tape by his band, The Kreed.

In the packet is a flier for a New Year's Eve bash at the National Guard Armory featuring the return of 37 Targetz, Hank (which was managed by a guy named Jay Robinson, who has gone on to have a pretty good career in real estate, by the way), The Heartless Baboons, The Kreed and The Abstracts.

That was a good show. The White Animals and Prince's one-time guitarist Dez Dickerson also played some memorable shows there.

Soon after, a guy named Charles Locke opened The Nucleus on Market Street. Not only did we suddenly have a club showcasing local punk bands, he was bringing in new touring acts like Black Flag and the Red Hot Chili Peppers — and yes, I was one of the couple of dozen people who were there for both.

I also remember the night Locke booked James Brown at Memorial Auditorium and tried to forego paying him the agreed-upon amount because Brown didn't do any press to promote the show. Sales were not what either had hoped for, and while I didn't see the "discussion" backstage, I heard threats were made and a gun might have been brandished.

The show went on, and Brown and band were amazing. In 1997, Brown returned to town for Riverbend — and this time he did agree to talk to the media. Even more surprising, he agreed to do a press conference on the barge a couple of hours before his show.

I can count on one hand the number of artists who have done press conferences as part of Riverbend, so I rushed over to the site. Brown was putting the band through a sound check, so a few TV folks and I hung out on the lower deck.

When a TV reporter commented that Brown had better hurry up or they wouldn't have time to get him on the news, as if he needed the publicity, I wandered out front and watched as the Godfather of Soul kicked his drummer off his kit and showed him what he wanted.

I'll never forget that, nor the black hair dye streaming down his forehead as he answered a bunch of silly questions from reporters a few minutes later.

Alex Chilton at Michelangelo's in Miller Plaza was also a pretty seminal moment; though for me, what I will remember more than the show, which was pretty great, was realizing that about 75% of the people in attendance were there to be seen and talk to their friends. It was pretty disheartening, really.

I remember the night a new band called the Georgia Satellites blew out the power at Fantasy 2000 (I could be wrong about the club name) a week before their song "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" became a massive hit.

I started at the paper in 1987, and was fortunate to immediately start reviewing some of the bigger shows at the Tivoli, Memorial Auditorium and McKenzie Arena. At first it was terribly exciting to be seeing so many great shows.

Tina Turner was especially great, for example. But what I remember most about it was walking out and hearing men and women say, "That sax player with the long hair was sexy." He was.

It was at the arena where I learned that getting backstage isn't all that exciting. I was, and still am, a big Run-DMC fan, though as you will learn, maybe not as big as I thought, so I was determined to get a picture of me with the guys when they came to town.

I was actually a student at UTC and covering the show for The University Echo at the time. Shortly after showing my press pass and getting backstage, I saw a guy in all black with a floppy hat and Adidas sneakers to match. He very graciously posed with me, and I was pretty happy about it. I was even happier when Darryl McDaniels, the DMC in the group along with Joseph "DJ Run" Simmons, also posed with me.

It wasn't until just before Run DMC were to take the stage, when the guy who posed with me came out and started moving microphones around, that I realized I'd gotten a keepsake photo with a roadie.

I still have the photo of McDaniels and me, but I've never played fanboy backstage again.

Those shows started to all look and feel the same, however, and the industry was getting a little stale. I have to confess that the '90s, for me, were were pretty much "meh," musically speaking.

That's in part because I was having children, but mostly I never got the whole navel-gazing, nobody-understands-me thing. Then came Auto-tune, and I pretty much checked out for awhile. Not judging, it was just wasn't for me. Which is why Bonnaroo was such a game-changer. It made live music — with real music played by real people — fun and exciting again.

Coupled with streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, discovering new music is now the norm, and we are all better for it.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow, next week or next month, so maybe we'll do this memory walk again, but whenever possible, I hope you'll support local. It's important.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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Barry Courter mug / Photo by Robin Rudd

 

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