Tommy Keenum

 

Park Chisolm, Tom Eizonas, James Haggerty, Chuck Beard, Martha Nelson, Tommy Keenum

Park Chisolm, Tom Eizonas, James “Hags” Haggerty, Chuck Beard, Martha Nelson, Tommy Keenum

Once again, our no rain dance prayers were answered.  Looking back, it was the calm before the flood of ’13.  Looking ahead before the evening of August 6th, 2013, I was doing more than one little no rain jig in the bookstore, hoping that the scattered showers by morning and afternoon would get rid of the showers and just scatter to the North as usual.  As usual, the clouds opened up and cleared a beautiful setting for another round of East Side Storytellin’ at Fat Bottom Brewing Co.

This marked a special occasion of a few sorts, some that I will get to and others I may leave out.  This was going to be the first show we’ve done without WAMB Radio to promote or replay another day afterwards.  It was a touch decision to cut the line with them for now, but it was necessary.  Even without the original radio support, the show must go on!  We do what we can and make sure that original, innovative ideas and events keep on inspiring us.

And speaking of innovative ideas and events, East Side Storytellin’ 19 on August, 6th, fit the bill like a glove.  Both the author the musician spoke to one another with their own forms of art and actual words in the end.  It was something special to me and everyone present.

The featured author for the show moved to the greater Nashville area from the North.  Born and raised in a New York state of mind, she carried around and brought stories she had crafted and saved in her head for over 60 years with her to Nashville.  A graduate of Syracuse University and Lipscomb University, she is a retired non-profit executive, educator, award-winning journalist, and chef.  She plays the piano, harp, and the flute (although she didn’t on this night or altogether at the same time).  And she brought a few friends and a copy of her first novel, Black Chokeberry, to read from for the show.  The author was Martha Nelson.

Martha Nelson taking all of the light off of herself and illuminating her words from and on the pages.

Martha Nelson taking all of the light off of herself and illuminating her words from and on the pages.

Although you can’t see her face in the picture I took from beside her, you can tell instantly from the recording that she knows exactly what she is doing when it comes to writing fiction and reading it to others.  It was such an honor and pleasure to take in her story up close and see how she worked the crowd and her words to perfection.  She used several accents, tempos, and repetitions to highlight every syllable and emotion she wrote about.  I really wished that I had a copy of her reading the entire book the way she did for me and others later to enjoy the story the way she sees it.  That said, everyone was happy to have her read a superb chapter out loud for the time we had to feature her work on the radio.  Also said, there are plenty of copies at the East Side Story bookstore (1108 Woodland Street, Unit B – www.eastsidestorytn.com) for you to purchase this next month and be a part of the monthly book club.  Martha Nelson’s Black Chokeberry will be the featured book for the month of September, and she will be at the meeting at the end of the month at the bookstore to discuss the book and writing process with the lucky 20 first people who come in, buy the book from the store, and sign up!  Talk about a treat not to be missed!

And to think that this show had another spectacular musical talent and extraordinary person to be featured as the musical guest.  The featured musician of this particular show is about as Nashville and East Nashville as you can be.  He moved  in and settled in 5 Points before there was even 2 valid points to move to the area.  Basically, this guy moved to East Nashville before it was cool and then the area started to be cool … true story and fact.  He is an accomplished visual artist, designer of everything from exquisite houses to burlesque costumes, and has spent the majority of the last decade bringing his distinctive style and warm personality to local song writing and performing.  He’s a sough after side-man, lending vocals, sax, and percussion to a wide variety of rock and pop acts (including David Mead, Bobby Bare Jr., Sara Beck – who was in the crowd at this show – , and the hands down single greatest 80’s cover band of all time in that of “Guilty Pleasures.”  This evening he took the lead, accompanied by two very established and multi-talented musicians in that of James Haggerty (“Hags) and Park Chisolm.  The featured musician was none other than Tommy Keenum, and he lit up the stage and crowd on the spot.

Tommy Keenum, James "Hags" Haggerty, and Park Chisolm

Tommy Keenum, James “Hags” Haggerty, and Park Chisolm

With a voice as sultry as Sinatra and words as honest as Abe Lincoln, Tommy stepped up to the microphone with new material that had never seen the public light of day.  With his friends and confidence in tow, wouldn’t you know that Tommy rocked the night away.  Each song told a story beyond the music, and Tommy actually told the story behind every song he sung.  The only thing brighter than the ambiance was the coolness of Park’s yellow shoes (see below).  And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than the new songs and talent behind the musical accompaniment, Tommy pulled out his recorder and played one final original family lullaby that closed the set perfectly.  Yes, it was quite a treat.

Park's shoes = brilliant!

Park’s shoes = brilliant!

Before we took off and I got to show everyone the beautiful artwork that my good friend Alex Smith made for just the occasion, I was able to ask a few questions to all of the featured guests of the evening.  Usually writing and singing and performing, they all took the questions in stride and answered from the heart with complete & candid honesty.  Overall, I can’t write or say anything more about this particular show besides the fact that it was such a pleasure all around.  We had everything from good people, to dogs and babies in the crowd.  There was no rain, and we didn’t have to make any edits for curse words (not that I don’t use cuss words, but it helps for airwaves purposes not to sling them around).  Yes sir (or ma’am, depending on who is reading this now, excuse my manners), it was a night like no other.

Every song with the recorder is amazing.  See how it made Hags smile too!

Every song with a recorder is amazing. See how it made Hags smile too!

Here is the picture that prompted the creativity before the show even got started … and captured its essence too.

Art by Alex Smith

Art by Alex Smith

And here is the recording of the show that was edited down to a hour format for you to listen to, enjoy over and over, and share with everyone you know.  Please share with everyone if you LIKE it.  I know I LOVE it!  Thanks for listening and giving up some of your busy schedule to take this whole thing in.  We are making a positive impact and difference in the world.  We hope you are too.

 

https://soundcloud.com/eastsidestorytn/sets/east-side-storytellin-19-8-6

 

And speaking of THANKS … here are specific set of THANK YOU shout outs to the wonderful and loving and tremendously talented folks that helped put this show, East Side Storytellin’ 19, together:

-My wife, Emily Frances Harper Beard (www.efharper.com),  I truly can’t say in words how I feel about you.  You are the best thing in my life and I am a better version of who I’m supposed to be just by being around you.  So thanks for letting me be around you so much!  I loves YOU!

Tom Eizonas, you do everything on the fly to make this guy sound as professional as the guests.  Without your help, nobody would listen to the show after the event.  THANK YOU!

Alex Smith, your art impresses everyone that sees it.  You are a creative force like few out there anywhere right now.  I’m honored to call you friend.  You are amazing.

Fat Bottom Brewing Co., you provide such a pleasant home for heartwarming performances to happen in your backyard.  I am very grateful we have crossed paths and look forward to the shows to come.

James Haggerty (http://fandalism.com/flatwounds) & Park Chisolm (https://myspace.com/parkchisolm) – You two are so talented.  Hags, every time my wife and I see you perform at wherever you are playing on every night of the week, you make every performance and evening better than the one before.  Park, it was a pleasure to finally meet you in person and fully appreciate your musicianship.  Both of you guys are not only solid, great musicians, but you also inspire others without even knowing it by just being your cool selves.  Thanks.

Martha Nelson (http://www.blackchokeberrythebook.com/) – The way that you write is heartfelt, and the way that you read your work is equally felt in the heart and soul.  You have quite a way of introducing and communicating characters, stories, and lines that truly make a difference to anyone taking the time to hear them for what they are worth.  I’m so glad that it worked out to have you be a part of the show AND to be a featured author in the month of September for East Side Story.  You from New York, that is true, but you are the best of what Southern Hospitality and personality brings to the table as well.  Thanks for sharing your time, your stories, and being a part of this East Side Storytellin’ journey.

Tommy Keenum (http://tommykeenum.com/) –I’ve already said plenty about you above, but you are such an inspiration to the community and all of the people that you call friends.  Your voice is great, but you are an even better person (and that says a lot if not everything).  I am not alone in saying everything good about you above and beyond, but I can at the very least say THANK YOU one more time for all that you do.  Keep doing it all.  Thank YOU!

But we aren’t finished quite yet!  We’re just getting started.

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ event will be …

Date- Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Time- 7 pm sharp (Central)

Location- Fat Bottom Brewing Co. (900 Main Street)- www.fatbottombrewing.com

Need information or details about Fat Bottom Brewing Co., call 615-678-5895.  Otherwise it is first come, first available seats.

Who will be featured- Mike Pentecost (author of Bus Peoplehttp://mikepentecost.blogspot.com/) and music by Dave Coleman and Dave Ray from their band The Coal Men (http://thecoalmen.com/).

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Tom Eizonas, John Minichillo, Chuck Beard, Monica Campo, and Tommy Womack

Tom Eizonas, John Minichillo, Chuck Beard, Monica Campo, and Tommy Womack

 

On Tuesday, July 16th, I was close to going crazy.  I’m not talking about putting me in an all-white jumpsuit without finger access, tied up in knots, toss me in a padded room and throw the key away kind of crazy.  But, with the 6th week of a 6 week Masters program semester at Sewanee, with final papers and presentations on the near horizon, AND with an epic surprise mission/adventure under wraps in my head for my wife two days after this particular show, it’s not surprise to me now that I can’t find my notes from the show after the fact.  The show, unlike my notes, was truly unforgettable.  It was original as all get out, and the people that weathered the humidity really got a treat of an evening with two Nashville originals.

The show began with me introducing it and our first guest.  The featured author of the night was one of the very first people that everyone kept on telling me that I should have in my bookstore (East Side Story) when it first opened last August.  He was the recipient of a fiscal 2012 Tennessee Artists Grant.  His short fiction has appeared widely in literary magazines all over the internet.  He has taught at Middle Tennessee State University in the past and currently is teaching at Tennessee Tech.  He lives in Nashville with the writer, Katrina Gray, and their son (both who had big smiles in the crowd for the show).  His name is John Minichillo (pronounced Mini-Kello for those who of you like-minded spanish-speaking people who have yet to meet John in person and be blown away by his prose and thoughts on writing in general) and he was on hand to talk about and read from his first novel, The Snow Whale.

John took to the stage, appropriately checked my introductory facts, and hit the ground running with his stories.  He read a few parts of the book; a modernized twist of Moby Dick.  As Atticus Books put it, it is a book that re-examines identity, race, and our connection to nature, all while poking fun at our contentment with heated socks in an era defined by global warming.  The event had a relaxed, appreciative to something original and refreshing atmosphere, and I think it was mainly because of John’s tone, story, and relatability with the crowd that was present and ever so attentive to every single word that he shared.  It was just a swell time and story to listen to on an easy night.  I wasn’t alone in being excited to jump into the book after the night was over.

But the night wasn’t over after John, the featured musician was on hand and was also a man of prose himself.  An extraordinarily talented character like no other in Music City, our featured musician for the night was none other than Tommy Womack.  He was first known around town as the lead for the post-punk band Government Cheese back in the day.  After they disbanded, this guy went on to make a great record for John Prine’s Oh Boy! Label and brought together this guy with the local great Will Kimbrough.  Then, he immortalized Government Cheese’s story in the cult classic rock bio Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band You’ve Never Heard of. After the book was released, a compilation of their hits was made and a reunion tour was put into effect.  It put a stamp on the important songs and influence that Government Cheese had over the creative community of our region.  Since he put that chapter and book to rest (soon it will rest on East Side Story’s book shelves mind you), Tommy has been touring as he pleases, here, near, and everywhere really, and churning out hits with Kimbrough and everyone else you can think of around town.  We were lucky to have him in between international gigs actually.  About the only other time you can catch him on the go is either in his monthly contribution to The East Nashvillian magazine or his weekly video blog on his website titled Monday Morning Cup of Coffee.

 

With all that said and written, Tommy’s music was, like John’s prose, a breath of fresh air for myself and those who witnessed it.  Sure, we had to edit a few choice words in the first couple of songs, but that didn’t deter from the fact that it was brilliant.  I was blown away by the poetic intro song and the other punk-infused folk music that I’ve never really heard anything like before.  Before he was finished with us (don’t worry, he didn’t smash any equipment), he brought all of his personal stories, guitar skills, vocal ability, and masterful storytelling together for a powerhouse of a family ballad that really hit close to home and the heart for many in the crowd.  It was just perfect.

After a great conversation with John and Tommy, we had to call it an evening.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to get a lot out of people when conversing about art and creativity.  With these two guests, I felt like I could have talked for hours and never felt like I was trying.  You can hear about it all below in the soundcloud, edited version of the show, but I must say that it was the perfect calm before the adventurous final school and mission to Chicago storm that was weighing on my heart, mind, and time at that moment and night.

 

One thing I truly love above anything else with these shows is the fact that there is always some kind of great connection between the guests even though they seldom know each other before hand (and to which I don’t plan for when pairing them together).  This night, of all nights, they both mentioned the Dalai Lama in their sets.  You might have to listen closely for the good stuff like that, but I thought that connection set the tone for just what I and others were needing (whether we thought we needed it or not).  Anyways, I thought I should share that tidbit while I have your attention.

Now, before I forget and for your own listening enjoyment (over and over again), here is the link of the East Side Storytellin’ 18 edited radio show that aired on WAMB radio (1200 am and 99.3 fm) on Saturday, July 20th, 2013 at 2pm.  Please enjoy and share with everyone you think will enjoy as well:

https://soundcloud.com/eastsidestorytn/sets/east-side-storytellin-18-7-16

 

Before I go here for now, I’d like to thank a few people for making East Side Storytellin’ 18 possible.

-My wife, Emily Frances Harper Beard (www.efharper.com), for everything.  You are my everything.

Tom Eizonas, you do everything on the fly to make this guy sound as professional as the guests.  Without your help, nobody would listen to the show after the event.  THANK YOU!

Fat Bottom Brewing Co., you provide such a pleasant home for heartwarming performances to happen in your backyard.  I am very grateful we have crossed paths and look forward to the shows to come.

John Minichillo (http://thesnowwhale.com) – Thank YOU for bringing your family to the show and for sharing your thoughts on the creative process of writing and your journey up to this point.  I look forward to reading all of your writing in the past and more that is sure to come.  I am honored to promote and sell your work.  THANK YOU for being a part of my journey.

Tommy Womack (www.tommywomack.net) – THANK YOU for taking time out of your ultra-busy schedule to share your stories and songs with the East Side Story family.  I look forward to helping sell your books in my store sooner than later, and I am so thankful you dropped your passport long enough to spend some quality time with us at East Side Storytellin’.  I really can’t say thank you enough.  So I’ll say THANK YOU one more time here and then later when I see you again.

WAMB Radio, thank you for saving us a spot on your respected airwaves and for allowing us to be a small part of your treasured history.  Without the help of Beth and Dave and the rest of the gang over at WAMB, none of this we’ve done so far would have been possible quite the same way.  We will do more shows and events in the future, I am sure.  But know you are in my heart and thoughts every time I mention East Side Storytellin’.  THANK YOU so very much for all you do.  You have the best, most original and most authentic, radio station that I’ve ever known of or hear out there today.  You have restored my faith in radio.

 

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ event will be …

Date- Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Time- 7 pm sharp (Central)

Location- Fat Bottom Brewing Co. (900 Main Street)- www.fatbottombrewing.com

Need information or details about Fat Bottom Brewing Co., call 615-678-5895.  Otherwise it is first come, first available seats.

Who will be featured- writer Martha Nelson (author of the book Black Chokeberry – www.blackchokeberrythebook.com) and music by Tommy Keenum (http://tommykeenum.com & also featuring James Haggerty on upright bass and Park Chisolm on guitar).

 

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