Chattanooga's '70s Bands - Blaze & Spring Creek (a/k/a 8TRK) Reunites At Riverbend

Sunday, June 22, 2014 - by Mark Herndon

The Riverbend Festival billing for Sunday, June 8, was huge - Buddy Guy on the Coke Stage to close the night, and 10 other stage performances.  So many to choose from, hard to see all of them due to the sliding time slots…..  I just missed Robert Randolph, when the AZ One Band caught my attention, then proceeding them was “Blaze & Friends” on the Volkswagen Stage.  It's great to see so many local singer/songwriters, artists, musicians get to a Riverbend stage….

If you ask the bands, most if all will say “Thanks to Bob Payne and “Dixie” Fuller.   So I am thinking who are these local artists and musicians of Blaze and Friends.

I know several of the musicians as I approached the stage from a couple of active local bands such as The Beaters, Bryan Adams Tribute Band, etc. and fronted by David Brown and Randy Johnston.  When I arrived to the Volkswagen Stage and greeted David and Randy, immediately I recognized a large number of local musicians I didn’t know preparing the stage for the start of the Blaze & Friends performance.  I asked Randy and David to review the stage floor to see where my access route to photograph due to all the equipment and power cords. I learned a long time ago, I was a guest on stage and respect the artists, sound & light engineers, stage layout and rules.  David and Randy explained you will have plenty of access, anywhere you want.  David said, "We are not all on stage at one time. He said, "You see we are all friends with parts of two bands not one.”  This event is a “reunion” of sort. The event was to fade back in time and remember the original lead vocalist for both original bands Blaze and Spring Creek (now 8TRK) .

Blaze and Spring Creek (8TRK) bands both shared a lead singer named Larry Hilburn who passed away in 2009. The Riverbend “Reunion” show was a tribute in remembrance of him. Spring Creek was together from 1976-77 rocking Chattanooga with 70s music when it was all new. Now, as 8TRK the band performs shows playing songs from that same era. Blaze came along from 1977-1983. After Spring Creek,  Larry Hilburn, vocals and Randy Johnston, lead guitarist, merged with some friends playing in a rival band and put together Blaze.

·         Many of us who were a part of the 70’s local music scene remember the favorite establishments… today we call them venues… Remember…the Sports Stadium, Yesterday's, Night Deposit, Olympia, Scruples, Sports Page, Sand Bar, Ziegfeld’s (later Governors’) . Spring Creek noted for Broad Street Drive In Concerts, rocking the Julia Belle Swain and several shows at Engel stadium.

It was unbelievable chemistry, Blaze was special. After reaching the limit in the Chattanooga area, a musician or bands know that moment.  Larry and Randy decided to take the road challenge.  A few years in the early 80’s the band most of the same members on stage at Riverbend was part of packing out venues all over the Southeastern US. Randy shared during our run we opened for many famous bands at festivals and at the Agora Ballroom in Atlanta.

After a brief break from the road Blaze went all original and recorded an LP. After six years we finally decided to pull off the road and park. These two bands had quite a run back to back and were the best around for a good 10 years. Randy told me, “it was an opportunity to put it all together in one big show for ourselves and for our brother in Heaven, Larry Hilburn, who was one of the greatest singers to ever share a stage with.”  Keep in mind that as Yesterday so as Today.. Jimmy Tawater, Roger Alan Wade, James Rogers, David Brown and Randy Johnston are still carry the music forward since the 70’s's been a long strange ride from Yesterday’s to Riverbend.

The band members performing with Blaze and 8TRK (formerly Spring Creek) are:

Randy Johnston - Guitar

Rick Byler - Guitar

Kenny Malone - Bass

Ralph Herman - Keys

Terry Holbrook - Drums.

Joseph Akins - Keytar.

Kenny Johnson – Vocals

David Brown - Vocals


8TRK (Spring Creek)

Kenny Johnson – Vocals

David Brown - Vocals

Randy Johnston - Guitar,

KC Campbell - Guitar,

Frank McGill - Bass,

Mark St. John – Drums


Comments welcome … share the story and photos on social media.

 Mark A Herndon, CPG (

Professional Photographer (affiliated)

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