John Shearer: David Carroll’s Chattanooga Book A Resource Treasure

Tuesday, January 18, 2022
- photo by Photo by WRCB

With his decades of work as an anchor with WRCB-TV Channel 3 and Channel 12 previously, David Carroll has become known for keeping local viewers up to date with what is happening in the present.


With his recent book, he has thoroughly chronicled the past, too. 


The book, “Hello, Chattanooga! Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley,” features nearly 700 pages of facts on noted musicians, actors, athletes, politicians and others who have made appearances in the immediate Chattanooga area.


While it is primarily a listing of appearances and dates, with a few stories, anecdotes and summaries sprinkled in, it is likely to be a historical resource of much note.

And that is true whether one is reading it casually for fun or researching to see if a certain famous person or favorite entertainer set foot in the area.


In my years as a journalist starting in 1984, I have enjoyed periodically writing about famous people with Chattanooga connections or those of significance who visited here. I even put many of the facts I learned into a small book called “Chattanooga Trivia” a little over 20 years ago. 


But I realized then and now that it is sometimes hard to track down specific dates or find detailed information. My sources have always been the Chattanooga Public Library, the newspaper files when I worked at the old Chattanooga Free Press in the 1980s and ’90s, or maybe even someone’s personal memories.


And in recent years, digital searches also help, although that is still an imperfect science.


But now I can quickly check Mr. Carroll’s book when I write a future story on some famous visit from the past, and my work will likely be much easier! Others looking at Mr. Carroll’s book just for pleasure or entertainment will simply be tickled to know the information, or it might bring back a personal memory of attending a show or appearance!


All will likely appreciate his effort, though, and obviously realize the mammoth book was not a small undertaking. 


In a phone interview, Mr. Carroll said the book took several years to complete. He had written a column on his website,, a few years ago about the UTC Arena, and someone asked about some dates of events at the UTC Arena, or even if he could get a complete lineup of shows there.


He sent an email to then-Arena director Ken Kapelinski, and quickly had a listing of all the shows, which he cut and pasted onto his website.


Soon, however, readers of his website wanted more information and had additional questions – from appearances at the Memorial Auditorium to Lake Winnespesaukah and points in between.


While he had once thought about doing a book just on Memorial Auditorium’s history, he decided to go through with a more expansive book on famous visitors and others to the area.


“If I’m going to do this, I better try to make it as thorough as I can,” he recalled thinking.


Unfortunately, the information was not always as readily available as the list of UTC Arena shows was, and much of the gathering work would be more time consuming than originally thought. That included having to go through the old Memorial Auditorium ledgers on site during his free time and filling in the missing years in other ways.


But his determination to find the information remained the same, and after several years of looking in countless places and interviewing different people, he got an amazingly detailed list. 


He also has a complete feeling in terms of satisfaction. 


“It has just been a blessing, even though it was more work than I expected,” he said. “It was something I loved doing because I love Chattanooga.”


He had several book signings at area Food City stores and other places before Christmas, and he said he is continuing to sell plenty of copies, even to numerous out of towners who used to live in Chattanooga. 


He encourages anyone interested in purchasing a signed copy to go to his website, Either hardback or paperback copies are available.


The book is divided into 14 chapters. They highlight some of the well-known places and events where noted musicians and others have appeared. Besides those mentioned, these include the Tivoli Theatre and Riverbend Festival and even places in North Georgia. The appearances by noted entertainers at such smaller places as the Governor’s Lounge and the Comedy Catch are also detailed. 


He also has chapters on military and political leaders, athletes and sports teams, and others of note who have appeared here. And he even features the movies and music videos filmed here, among other information. 


With the help of a detailed index, readers might enjoy seeing if a favorite entertainer or celebrity ever appeared in the area or if they can find the exact date of a memorable concert they attended.


I know that in looking at all the concerts, I regret not going to more events featuring favorite entertainers. I also enjoyed learning that someone I later grew to appreciate had earlier appeared in Chattanooga.


This book brings up the obvious that Chattanooga has been a big enough city that most every entertainer of note has played here, and most every politician of national significance has been here. Because of Chattanooga’s medium size, though, that seems to be of more significance here than in a place like Chicago or Atlanta, which has celebrity appearances almost daily.


Among the interesting facts that jumped out at me were that not only did current President Joe Biden speak at the memorial service for the fallen servicemen following the local terrorist acts in 2015 while vice president, but he also spoke at a Democratic gathering at the Downtown Sheraton way back in 1977. He was a U.S. senator from Delaware at the time.


For those who prefer the other side of the political aisle, President Donald Trump made a 2018 speech at the UTC Arena for then-senatorial candidate Marsha Blackburn and visited the area several times with then-girlfriend Marla Maples in the early 1990s.


Among the appearances by musicians, Mr. Carroll brings out a long-forgotten fact that Frank Sinatra appeared at Memorial Auditorium as a 24-year-old with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1940 along with a 22-year-old drummer named Buddy Rich.


Others stopping by Chattanooga early in their careers included Bruce Springsteen, who played before a not-full house at Memorial Auditorium in April 1976. He was apparently still on his way to becoming “the Boss” at the time. 


Also, Britney Spears was the less-heralded opening act for NSYNC in December 1998 at the auditorium, and Taylor Swift was the opener for Brad Paisley at the UTC Arena in April 2007. Ms. Swift was the headliner at the arena in October 2008, when she was just starting to become better known but before reaching the superstar status she would later enjoy.


Country star Kenny Chesney of the Knoxville area played at the Governor’s Lounge on Bonny Oaks Drive in November 1994 as he was just getting going with his career, while fellow star Blake Shelton, also of “The Voice” TV show fame, played there in July 2001. Mr. Shelton also played at Lake Winnepesaukah in August 2002 and May 2003 right after he had a couple of hits in “Austin” and “Ol’ Red” but had not reached bigtime status.


Among other entertainers, comedian Jerry Seinfeld appeared at the Comedy Catch at 3224 Brainerd Road for three nights in March 1987, more than two years before he would become very famous through the popular sitcom, “Seinfeld.” He later returned to Chattanooga for performances in front of bigger crowds at Memorial Auditorium and the Tivoli as a better-known star, according to Mr. Carroll’s research.


The book also points out that the Rev. Billy Graham spoke in Chattanooga in 1945, 1950 and 1991 in addition to his famous 1953 crusade, and that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke at Memorial Auditorium in December 1960 and May 1962.


Among those recently deceased, beloved actress Betty White appeared at the Senior Expo at the Chattanooga Convention and Trade Center in August 2010, while “Full House” actor and comedian Bob Saget appeared at the Comedy Catch in January 2000, after the TV show’s run.


One of the few stars who apparently never appeared here was Elvis Presley, even though he stopped in 1956 to eat breakfast at what is now the Chattanooga Choo-Choo terminal while traveling on train. He also visited the Read House and the WDXB studios there on at least one other occasion in probably the 1970s.


Mr. Carroll said his research revealed Elvis had appeared with a Hank Snow hillbilly tour before and after a tour stop in Chattanooga, but apparently not here.


Since the book came out, the longtime newscaster has been receiving at least a little of the attention of those he writes about, and that has pleased him. 


“Every day, somebody tells me something they are enjoying,” he said with satisfaction. “It’s so cool to have created something people like or want or are saying something nice about.”


Mr. Carroll, who has also written two other books, said he loves writing books or newspaper columns and getting to meet a deadline, do some creative and expressive writing, and experience a different facet of journalism from just TV news anchoring and reporting.


“There is something about writing that is so enjoyable,” he said. “The deadline and challenge. It’s a real rush.”


And as a lover of local history and avid reader of other Chattanooga history books, he also hopes this book has a permanence and lasting quality along with hopefully being entertaining and of immediate interest.


“I think it is a quality book and something that will endure,” he said. “I wanted it to be something that is a permanent part of the Chattanooga history collection.”


* * *

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