He led the Commodores, sang duets with Diana Ross and sold more than 100 million records, but when Lionel Richie came to the Scenic City in December, he wasn't singing the hits.
The pop, R&B and soul legend came to Chattanooga to film an episode of NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are," a program following celebrity searches for their familial past.
Richie found his great-grandfather buried at Pleasant Garden Cemetery near Highway 64, and with the help of LaFrederick Thirkill, who has been working to restore the cemetery for more than a decade, Richie got to visit the grave.
Thirkill, assistant principal at Apison Elementary School, said he sat down with Richie and revealed information about the relative when the show was filmed.
Show spokesman Akiva Griffith said the celebrities featured usually are excited about their experience.
"For most of them, they're kind of driven by a certain fact they know about their family," he said.
For example, Griffith said musician and actress Vanessa Williams started her search for her ancestral roots after her father died, and musician Tim McGraw started his when he got to know his estranged father, the late baseball great Tug McGraw.
The show, now entering its second season, airs Friday nights at 8. The episode featuring Chattanooga and Richie airs March 4.
For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.