Chattanooga’s Live Music Scene – Local Acts Show Em’ How To Do It At Tivoli

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - by Bob Payne

Saturday, March 29th – At approximately 7:55 p.m., the local band Remembering January kicked off the night with their first song, and by 7:56, the audience knew they were in for something special on that night. Remembering January was named 2012 Country Band Of The Year award winner and the crowd found out why in very short order. The band consists of Tyler Southern, Cody Bunch, Chris Deal, and Brandon Singleton. Tyler won the Guitar Player of the Year award, as well as Keyboard Player of the Year Award last year.

For 45 minutes, Remembering January had them hollering for more. Carle Vickers even came out to play sax on a couple of songs. I saw Carle backstage and he asked me if the band did a song about biscuits. I told him yes they have a song called “Biscuits & Gravy” and he said they wanted him to play on that song. You see, Carle is the consummate professional and has “sat in” with many bands, such as the Temptations, Ray Charles, and Solomon Burke. Despite not knowing the song, he killed it on stage and the crowd loved it. Remembering January made quite a few new fans last Saturday night.

Chattanooga Music Hall Of Famer Roger Alan Wade & his band Sparkle Motion were up next and the crowd was just settled down from the previous act and then it was Roger’s turn to get them fired up. Dr. Basketball, Gary Haskew, gave a heartwarming and sincere introduction to the group, and the crowd could feel the love Gary has for Roger in his heart.

I have heard Sparkle Motion 4 times – once at Riverbend, once at the Chattanooga Market, once at the County Fair, and now once at the Tivoli. They have gone from good to better, to really better, to just plain great. These young men have become seasoned and tight. I would give Roger credit for that but he only gives credit; he never takes any and I don’t want my friend mad at me. I will say this, however – working with a professional like Roger has rubbed off on these guys and it shows.

After a brief intermission, The River City Showcase took the stage and cranked it up with their version of Here Come The Mummies hit song Ra-Ra-Ra. Immediately, the crowd was back into the groove and got a first hand account of this incredible band. Ra-Ra-Ra proved to be a great starter, as it features the talents of the entire band. With great horn section breaks, as well as a “dueling percussion” break, the crowd was treated to as good a musical experience as the Tivoli may have had in years.

After the opening numbers, the crowd was introduced to one Janella Hayes. I knew it would be good, as I had noticed she kicked off her shoes during the opening number. That allowed the magic embedded in the nearly 100 year old stage to seep up from the seasoned wood and flow into the 5X winner of Best Female Vocalist in Chattanooga. She absolutely blew away the crowd. After singing the Susan Tedeschi version of the song “Hurt So Bad”, the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Jim Rhodes, himself a 4X Bass Player of the Year award winner, also proved he could sing with lead vocals on a couple of songs, including another Here Come The Mummies song – “Dirty Minds”.

The percussion for the night was fantastic. Chattanooga Music Hall of Fame member Tommy Lifesy brought 40+ years experience to match up with 3X Drummer of the Year winner Johnny Smith. It worked. It worked well! Jeff Hight’s group of sound technicians had the sound system dialed in and sounding like the Tivoli should sound. 

One of the best moments was during “Coming to America”, when John Cady, latest Guitar Player of the Year recipient, and Barry Wilde, 2012 winner of the Keyboard Player of the Year, jammed for a couple minutes during a wardrobe change. Incredible talent.

Needless to say, the night was a huge success and local music shined brightly before a great Tivoli crowd. Oh yes, I almost forgot - Jimmy Tawater was there, too.

Jimmy told me a few years ago that he had basically retired from playing music, after many decades of entertaining crowds with his high-energy show. Some newspaper guy wrote an article about the legend that is Jimmy Tawater and somehow convinced him that his time was not up, and people were still wanting some more of Jimmy Tawater. I am not sure his wife was happy about Jimmy coming out of his self-imposed retirement, but I am guessing she is really proud of him.

He dusted off that Johnny B. Goode guitar, found his signature hat, and put together a first class band of all stars. Saturday night, Jimmy entertained some of his old friends and he made a lot of new friends. He’s stuck now. There were plenty of young folks in the crowd Saturday night and now they are going to want to see Jimmy Tawater again and again.

They will get their chance, too. The Chattanooga All-Star Band, which features different players each year, is actually employing the talents of the River City Showcase – including Jimmy Tawater and Janella Hayes– to headline the show at Riverbend on the Unum Stage Thursday, June 12. Proceeds from the show go to Orange Grove Center. The Chattanooga All-Star Band has raised $3,000 for the center in the past three years, and is looking to make that total go to $4,000 this year. Country star Justin Moore is on the Coke Stage that night, so if you aren’t a country fan and are looking for a great show, this may be the one for you. 

Oh, and that newspaper guy that wrote the article – I think it was the best one I ever wrote. Sorry Barbara, but you can have him later. There is a big crowd of fans waiting for him to show them the difference between a musician and an entertainer. 

“His mother told him someday you will be a man,
And you would be the leader of a big old band.
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying Johnny B. Goode tonight.”   - Chuck Berry

Jimmy - Saturday night, I saw your name in the lights of the Tivoli marquis. People came from miles around. You are the leader of a big ol’ band. You are – Jimmy Tawater!

Bob Payne grew up in Chattanooga and graduated from Baylor School. He is the Entertainment Editor for the and assistant talent buyer for Friends Of The Festival.

Email Bob Payne at or catch him on Facebook at

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