IF YOU GO
What: Nightfall concert featuring WTM Blues Band.
When: 8 tonight. Cadillac Saints opens at 7 p.m.
Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Boulevard, Market and Cherry streets.
Cadillac Saints is a local progressive blues/rock quartet consisting of Matthew Walley, Jeremy Walley, Jeff Copeland and Josh Kile. For more information about them, visit their Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/thecadillacsaints.
Although he beat out plenty of “serious” musicians to nab a headlining slot at Nightfall, Thorpe McKenzie is a pretty poor self-promoter.
“I consider my band members professional, but I consider myself a well-meaning amateur,” the 63-year-old blues frontman of the WTM Blues Band said, laughing. “What I can bring to the table that will make [tonight] fun is years of listening to this material … and new arrangements that make this sound like something that would be on the radio today.”
When WTM takes the stage at Miller Plaza tonight, McKenzie said, his band will perform a set of about 20 songs, primarily covers of blues artists he listened to growing up, from legends such as Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker to lesser-knowns such as Hound Dog Taylor and Dave “Snaker” Ray.
In April, WTM Blues Band earned its headlining slot by beating out 24 other local artists in McKay’s Road to Nightfall, a popular-vote battle of the bands.
McKenzie grew up devouring blues artists and took up the guitar on his own in his early teens. In the ’60s and ’70s, however, he “was sidetracked by folk music and other things.” Until several years ago, his performing resume was primarily limited to playing banjo in a local folk music group decades ago.
Taking up the blues again was a dream McKenzie said stayed with him. In 2008, he met drummer Johnny Smith, a veteran of the Chattanooga scene whose connections made that dream possible. After scouring the area for players, McKenzie assembled the seeds of what would become WTM.
The group’s debut public performance was at Road to Nightfall, which Smith suggested they enter. Despite being relatively untried and older than many competitors, McKenzie took a chance.
That decision paid off.
“We had a great time,” McKenzie said. “A friend of mine who is in his 30s came up to me and said, ‘Did you write those songs?’ and I was so honored, but I said, ‘No, dude, some of these songs were written in the ’30s.’
“I was very honored and surprised to win. We just went out and had fun, but I guess it showed.”
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...