Chattanooga’s Live Music Scene – 2012 Chattanooga Music Awards Part 1

Part 1 of 2

Saturday, January 5, 2013 - by Bob Payne
Bob Payne, stressing over the awards
Bob Payne, stressing over the awards
- photo by ET

Ties are for Auburn coaches, but this year features more ties in the Chattanooga Music Awards that ever before. I will explain my reasoning behind each tie, since I am not a football coach and if I were, I would have gone for the win - unlike Pat Dye just 25 years ago in the Sugar Bowl that ended in the only tie in history.

The ground rules are simple- I tally the votes and print the winners. You would think it would be easy, since I am the only one that gets to vote. However, I really do put a lot of thought into each and every award.

In fact, I anguish over them every year. My biggest fear is that I will hurt somebody’s feelings, but those that are considered for an award should realize that I only vote for the ones I have heard in 2012, so there may well be better ones out there, but I haven’t heard them. Also, as I famously stated a few years ago, “Trying to find the best guitar player in town is a bit like finding the very best drop of water in a swimming pool.” Chattanooga is blessed with so much talent in almost every category; it is entirely possible that I got this whole thing wrong.

The purpose of this, the 5th annual Chattanooga Music Awards, is to simply recognize a few of the great artists that call the Chattanooga area home. If you didn’t win, fear not, for you only lost by one vote. I will add that for the past 4 years, many musicians have told me they agree with many of my choices. Perhaps the biggest compliment I have ever gotten (other than the one where I was told I am better looking than either Sean Connery or Sam Elliot) is having a few musicians thank me for “bettering their life” via the Chattanooga Music Awards. They said the publicity opened opportunities for them and allowed them to meet other quality players in the music field. So, without further ado, here we go.

We will shake things up a bit and start with the highest honor – the Chattanooga Music Hall of Fame. To be inducted, one must live in the Chattanooga area and have played music spanning three different decades. Previous inductees include Overland Express, Jimmy Tawater, Roger Alan Wade, Dennis Massingale, Bill Brewer, The Beaters, and Dixie Fuller. For 2012, the first inductee is Tim Starnes. Tim has played with the just about everyone in the Chattanooga area over the years. He is currently with the WTM Blues Band and Summer Hullender & the Embellishers. I would imagine that Tim has played with every one of the Hall of Fame members at one time or another. He is versatile on the harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, lap steel, and probably even a Kaisatsuko. Congrats to Tim Starnes and welcome to the most exclusive club of musicians in town. Another Hall of Famer will be announced in part 2.

 Best Venue (With Cover charge) – Here comes our first tie. They are distinctly different, as one holds 1000+ and one holds about 100+. They both offer great music and give music fans a chance to hear bands in town that might not get played here without these venues. The 2012 award goes to JJ’s Bohemia and Track 29. They join the only 4-time winner in history – Rhythm & Brews (2008-09-10-11)

Best Venue – (No Cover) – Bud’s Sportsbar has won the award three times, T-Bones once, and Sugar’s BBQ once. For consistently supporting live music 3-4 times per week, being respectful of music acts, and offering some of the best food of any restaurant in town, Bud’s Sportsbar is once again on top for the 4th time.

Best Guitar Player – This one has had 4 different winners in 4 years, and all are spectacular. Jon Wimpee, Kris Phillips, Eric Clarkson, and Johnny Campbell have all won in the past without any repeats. Well, there is no repeat again this year, as 22-year-old Tyler Southern, the young phenomenon from the Robby Hopkins Band and Remembering January comes in as 2012 winner. That’s some pretty good company Tyler, so make me proud. A special mention goes to guitar wizard Jimmy Dormire – If Jimmy lived in Chattanooga, he would have been named a winner long ago. He is incredible.

Best Drummer – I hate this award, because I like all the drummers in town. Maybe it’s because they have so much to load in and out at each gig. (I used to umpire baseball and always was buds with the catcher, too) Anyway, like the guitar players, we have some great talent here, but two have stood out in the crowd – Johnny Smith & Greg Rudder. Both have won it two times previously. They both keep great time. Greg has the fastest hands of anyone I have seen. Johnny is a perfectionist and both are in demand with bands in town. I could list all of the bands Johnny plays in, but I don’t have enough time or energy. Greg has played with Bud Lightning for years, but also Standing Room Only. Johnny is a student of the art – he makes a point of studying other drummers and equipment. They both win for 2012. Congratulations Johnny Smith & Greg Rudder for your third award each.

Best Horn/Woodwind Player – It isn’t fair to pick this guy, but he does live here and he does play here. Carle Vickers has toured & recorded with Sam & Dave, Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers, L.L.Cool J, The Impressions, The Stylistics, and The Temptations. He performed in the Tina Turner movie, and the Pepsi commercial with Ray Charles. He is also one of the nicest and smartest individuals you will ever meet. Congratulations, Carle Vickers from the Buckner Brothers Band on your first Chattanooga Music Award.

Best Male Singer – Previously, we have had Landis Batts and David Anthony named. Both could win any singing contest, but I have a new winner this year – Jeff Hight. From the Most Important Band In The World, Jeff can flat belt em’ out. I am not a big fan of his music, but I am a big fan of his voice.

In the next segment, look for another Hall of Fame inductee, more music awards, and the coveted Entertainer of the Year award.

For local music info, try or They both have great local music info and schedules. For local info on Country music, try Jim Boles’ site

Email Bob Payne at or catch him on Facebook at .

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