another show at Pasha!

April 24, 2009 at 10:47 am | Posted in Chattanooga, playing out | Leave a comment

the first show went so well that they’re having us back tonight! I’m very excited that Michelle is joining me on the majority of the songs, and Mark will be playing bass too. so this should be a lot of fun.

also, we’re playing Prater’s Mill this fall, which should be really cool. I’m looking to fill in a few shows this summer and fall, so we’ll see what comes up.

finally, I’ve updated my main music website, so check it out here:


show at Pasha

March 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Chattanooga, playing out | Leave a comment

I’m very excited to be able to play my own songs for the first time tonight at our local coffeeshop‘s grand opening celebration. I’ll have a report on how it goes soon!

work talent show

September 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Posted in aspirations, Chattanooga, playing out | 1 Comment



so here at work they had a talent show, so I figured, what the heck, it should be fun. I was thinking of doing one of the songs I wrote, perhaps “Tear it down” since it’s about the building they tore down that was right next to our building. but then they announced it was a 70s theme, so I wrote We Had Love for the occassion: a song about Chattanooga in the 70s, and I threw in some references about the company too. most of the other entrants were doing stuff like “Proud Mary” and whatnot, so I didnt figure I had a chance of winning. I have nothing like the crowd-pleasing antics of a bunch of large women singing well and dancing like crazy.

so I didnt win. but it was still fun. I borrowed some cool 70s threads (thanks Jade, Isaac and Joe), and when I stepped on stage there was a murmur through the crowd, so I think they thought it was cool. I’m proud of the fact that I wrote and performed my own song (with my own instrument) and it was well-received. my boss, his boss, and his boss all had nice things to say.

as I ponder baby-steps toward performing some of my songs around town, I think this was a good experience. there was a pretty good crowd (500 maybe?), but I wasnt really nervous. the crowd wasnt really into the show in general, but I felt like they were happy with what I did. I always say my best rendition of a song is usually my best practice, and the actual performance (or worship service, as the case may be) is a notch down, but I think I did pretty well this time. I dont have much stage presence usually, as I tend to look down or away and not engage, but I got into it a little this time. I liken it to the persona that comes over me when I’m dealing with a sunday-school-class full of 3 year olds: I dont even recognize myself with all the enthusiasm and antics. I wont say it was quite that much, but I think I can get into a stage persona eventually. I am completely fine with being a quiet/boring person in general, but no one wants to watch a boring show.

so it was fun. next month I’m backing up my friend Chris at a fund-raiser, so that’ll be good. and I’ve got the possibility of playing for a neighborhood event later this year, so if I make the cut that’ll be a good next step.

Norman Blake documentary

September 5, 2008 at 9:50 am | Posted in Chattanooga, learning, listening to | Leave a comment

last night we went to see the premier of documentary about Norman Blake, a local and international folk music icon, and a great inspiration to me in many ways. here’s a brief review:

firstly, this is still a relatively rough-cut production. geeks might call it a beta release. apparently the original filmmaker did this 6 or 7 years ago, and he passed away before completing it. then his digital files were corrupted. someone resurrected the files and now we have a mostly-complete film. given the circumstances, I think the film was rather well done, with good production values (although the projector equipment was having problems at the venue too, so it’s hard to tell what was film glitches and what was playback issues)

anyway, there wasnt anything necessarily groundbreaking here, but I think it was a very good portrait of Norman and his work. there were appearances/interviews from George Gruhn, Sam Bush, Michelle Shocked (!), Nancy Blake (of course), John Hartford (who had some very funny stories), a music historian whose name I forget (he gave some good perspective on Norman’s chosen career path) as well as some vintage footage from the Johnny Cash show.

there was a jam with Sam Bush, and a few other songs from Norman throughout, mostly on the guitar, although he was on mando in the Johnny Cash clip, as well as one other time.

he discussed his youth, the old days playing with all the legends, song writing stuff, touring stuff (and his decision to stop flying in 1974), spoke about Nancy (they’re very quirky in an endearing and cool way), O Brother, etc.

I think the best stuff (besides John Hartford’s stories) was him talking about how he hopes his music can serve people in some small way, and the importance of staying humble. this attitude is in stark contrast to that of the vast majority of the music industry, in my opinion, and I find it very inspiring, to say the least.

the guy in charge of the project now (didnt catch his name) said they’re planning on adding some to it to bring it up to today, and they’ve had interest from producers and from PBS. so hopefully that will go well and everyone will get to see a final version sometime in the near future.

Ed Bass

May 22, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Chattanooga, lyrics only, song ideas | Leave a comment

here’s another old Chattanooga story that I’ve tried to put in song. I think I want to add more to it, but here it is so far:

Here’s a rough demo MP3

His name was Ed Bass
He needed that road done fast
There wasnt a way around
To the south side of the town

The old warehouse was in his way
Georgia said it had to stay
But Ed was the kind of man
To take things in his hands

So grab your axes and your shovels boys
Here’s what we’re gonna do
We’ll take that darned old building down
We’ll split it right in two

As the night began to fall
Ed’s bulldozer attacked the wall
Soon a band began to play
And South Broad was on its way

They worked all through the night
So Georgia couldnt put up a fight
Round midnight Ed drove through
That old warehouse torn in two

After this Ed stuck around
20 years he led this town
and he should always renowned
for taking Broad street all the way down
(to the town of St. Elmo)

here’s an article about Ed and this escapade

my first paying gig

April 9, 2008 at 10:52 am | Posted in aspirations, Chattanooga | Leave a comment

well, not really, but it was kinda fun. last night was a girls-night-in, so I left the house with my guitar and songbook and headed toward the walking bridge to work on my songs.  as I was playing the Tale of Ed Johnson a handful of young kids departed from their family cluster with dollars in hand. I wasnt hoping or expecting anything, so I wasnt really prepared. my guitar case doesnt even stay open. so they laid their funds on top of the case. as it was a windy night, the money started to get away, so I put my hat on the ground and put my earnings there. I was actually planning on turning anything down, but I didnt want to take away the experience from the kids, and I was in the middle of the song, so I let it go.

it was otherwise and uneventful evening on the bridge. a cluster of college-looking kids hung around for a while, and various other people came and went on their way. I enjoy playing out there and it was nice to work on my tunes a little. I think most of my songs sound too much the same, but I suppose that’s an issue for most folks.

after the bridge I went to check out open mic night at a bar across the river. it’s a relatively nice little bar, so I worked up the nerve to go see if I could do a song or 2. when I got there there was a guy singing country kinda songs, so I figured I’d fit in. I soon discovered that the line to take a turn at the mic was quite long, and each singer was doing 4 or 5 songs. I didnt feel like staying that long, so I spent my earnings on a good beer, checked out a couple more singers and headed home. maybe next time I’ll show up earlier so I can take a turn before bed time.

oh and one more thing. I was sitting there thinking about putting my name on the list and then I thought: “there’s no way anyone is going to pronounce my name right, or remember it right”. I love my name, but it’s a tricky one. so I thought of a stage name: Bob Robertson. we’ll see if I ever use it or not.

St. Elmo Home

March 28, 2008 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Chattanooga, songs with words | 1 Comment

listening to Norman Blake today, and he’s got a happy homey song called Seaboard Airline Rag that inspired me to write about my home. I had his tune in my head when I put this down. by the way, the “Lookout Town” reference is what the Cherokee called it when they first settled the area.

St. Elmo Home – draft mp3 here

I live in the shadow of the mountain
1/2 a mile from the Georgia line
in a little neighborhood
treats me so good
founded eighteen-eighty-five
come spring the trees are in full bloom
cherry and pear so fine
when the wind blows
it looks like snow
with the flowers that fill the sky
call it Lookout Town
call it St. Elmo
call it Chattanooga
I dont mind
whatever you call this little old place
I’ll call it home sweet home of mine

we got ourselves a little history
got an incline railroad too
an amazing mile
will bring a smile
beautiful smokey mount view
got all kinds of folks round here
all colors both old and young
try to get along
‘cuz we all belong
every nation tribe and tounge

The Tale of Ed Johnson

March 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm | Posted in Chattanooga, songs with words | Leave a comment

here’s an old story, one of the darkest chapters of our town’s history. as I looked into it here and elsewhere I came to realize that the original crime happened in our neighborhood, and I already knew the resulting crime happened where I spend many of my lunchtimes. there’s lots of fascinating and terrible stories surrounding this, and there’s a book about it too (that I’ll probably read soon). one glimmer is that Ed was eventually exonerated, but that was about 94 years too late.

here’s a draft mp3 of the tune (most of it borrowed from Willie Nelson) 

The Tale of Ed Johnson

on a cold winter’s eve in St. Elmo
the year was 1906
miss Nevada Taylor
attacked and waylaid
and dark was the criminal’s skin
and dark was the criminal’s skin
worst crime in all the towns hist’ry
Chattanooga was pulsing with rage
the hounds came up empty
so the sherriff’s deputy
found a black man of young age
found a black man of young age
Ed Johnson declared he’d done nothing
he’d been at the Last Chance Saloon
but downtown they took him
and justice forsook him
though he had done nothing wrong
though he had done nothing wrong
the lynch mob came with their fury
they stormed with rifles and rope
but the guard stood strong
and sent the crowd home
and Ed had a glimmer of hope
and Ed had a glimmer of hope
12 white jurors assembled
a trial was speedily done
Nevada wasnt quite certain
but her hand pointed to him
he was probly the one
he was probly the one
the appeal went to the courts highest
Judge Harlan granted a stay
but the lynch mob returned
to kill and to burn
and noone dared stand in their way
and noone dared stand in their way
for hours they hammered the jail doors
they mocked and they beat young Ed down
and down at the span
each woman and man
rejoiced as his feet left the ground
rejoiced as his feet left the ground
so here on the Walnut Street Bridge
remember poor Ed and lament
for the last thing they heard
were his final words:
“God bless you all, I am innocent”
God bless us, he was innocent

Hobo Hotel

March 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Chattanooga, song ideas, songs with words | Leave a comment

today’s edition is inspired by recent events in local politics, which you can read a little about here.

Here’s a rough-draft mp3

Hobo Hotel
Tell me good sir where can I go
I aint got nowhere, nothing to show
For all of those years at war and beyond
So I sit here and ask, please who will respond?
“Let’s build us a park, a hobo hotel
You’ll have a warm bed and warm food as well
Folks will come here from miles all around
Just vote now for me, mayor for this town”
A hobo hotel, a hobo hotel
The mayor will build us a hobo hotel
A hobo hotel, a hobo hotel
So all will be fine and all will be well
Oh kind sir that sounds really good,
But I’m not quite sure that I’ve understood
Explain to me please as clear as you can
How this will work, sir, what is your plan?
“Well each man needs his own legacy
Something to tell the grandkids you see
The details might take a little more time
But trust me and know it’ll turn out just fine”
OK fine sir I will take your word
But I’m wondering now if it has occurred
To you that I do not really know how
I’ll be eating my next meal right now
“The food will come by the truckload each day
And beds will be ready for the tired to stay
We’ll buy this small field with taxpayer money
No need for a plan, just please vote for me”

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