published Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Performer pens protest song after incident at Track 29

  • photo
    Corey Smith has written and recorded “Chattanooga.”


Singer/songwriter Corey Smith has written and recorded a song called "Chattanooga" in response to the alleged censoring of his show last Friday night at Track 29.

Smith said in an interview Tuesday that before his taking the stage Friday, venue managers had asked through his tour manager that the artist not play his anthem "F--- the Po Po" if "an official from the Chattanooga Beer Board and his men were present."

Smith said he has omitted the song from some shows in the past and played it at others without incident, but he felt that an 18-and-older crowd in a club is "appropriate. I set it up in a way where it is not really controversial."

Smith noted on his website on Saturday that he wrote the "Po Po" song in 2003, "when I was wrongfully arrested for disorderly conduct for voicing my displeasure with the way a road block near my house was being conducted by local law enforcement. Although the charges against me were later dropped, I felt compelled to write a song about my ordeal."

YouTube videos show that he introduced the song Friday night by saying he respects law officials, just not the ones he wrote about in the song.

Management at the 2-week-old venue on the Chattanooga Choo Choo property turned off Smith's microphone as he began to play the song, which occurred near the end of his sold-out show.

Track 29 managers said in a statement on the venue's Facebook page that they made the decision in the interest of safety.

The statement reads in part: "Unfortunately, the show ended while Corey was playing his last song. Our team made that decision with the intent of protecting our audience, our talent, and the long-term viability of Track 29 to bring great live entertainment to Chattanooga.

"Rest assured that we had no intention of limiting any artist's creative license or right to speak freely. All decisions were made for safety and safety alone. We will always keep the health and well-being of our patrons, talent and staff as our utmost concern."

The incident was the second at the venue since it opened to the public on Sept. 1. Two patrons at Track 29 were charged in connection with a Sept. 1 altercation after they allegedly became belligerent with security and then fought with police. One of the men was subdued with a stun gun.

In the lyrics to his new song "Chattanooga," Smith says that management was coerced into pulling the plug by a beer board official he calls "Officer John."

Beer and Wrecker Board Officer John Collins, who was in attendance in an official capacity at the concert, denies making any such demand.

In a statement issued through his attorney, Gerald Tidwell Jr., Collins said he and several police officers were at the club checking on tips that underage drinking was taking place.

  • photo
    The Futurebirds from Athens, Ga., entertain at a private party at Track 29 in this file photo.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

"At no time did Officer John Collins order, suggest, ask or in any way try to get the management at Track 29 to cut Corey Smith and his performance," Tidwell said. "And, he does not know if anyone else did, or if they did, why they did."

When asked if he was asked to censor the song, Track 29 co-owner Josh McManus said the venue would not make further comments beyond what was in their Facebook statement.

Smith said Tuesday afternoon that he was going on what his tour manager told him.

"When I walked off before my encore, the crowd began chanting for 'Po Po,' which is a normal occurrence. My tour manager said that the venue demanded that I not play it and that a city official told them they would pull their license or threatened action against them if I was allowed to play the song.

"They [Track 29 management] said if I played the song, they would pull the plug and I would never play there again."

Smith claims in the song "Chattanooga" that John Collins held a grudge against Smith following an incident five years ago at Rhythm & Brews, a club on Market Street.

He says in the song that the officer blamed Smith and "the song he was singing on the stage" for a fan pouring a beer onto "Officer John" and that he told Smith then that he would never play in Chattanooga again.

Rhythm & Brews manager Mike Dougher said Tuesday he has heard the new song and remembers the night five years ago, though he did not see what happened. He said Collins came into the club with an official with the Tennessee Alcohol and Beverage Commission.

"I didn't see what happened and don't know who said what, but I do know they [Officer Collins and the ABC official] were not happy when they left," Dougher said. "I will say I've had a very good relationship with them since that night."

In reference to the Friday night incident, Smith alleges in the song that "Officer John" came in to Track 29 and recognized "Corey" and told the club management "you're going to have a problem if you don't pull the plug."

Smith later described pulling the plug as "censorship at its worst," and a violation of his First Amendment rights.

"I know that I was censored by the club either on their own or by the club under implicit pressure from the beer board or under explicit pressure from the beer board. Either way, it wasn't fair.

"I do know I'm not buying that it was done in the interest of safety and only safety."

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about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
NorthChatter said...

You nailed it, Barry. Great article.

September 14, 2011 at 12:16 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

Wow! I havent been and wont EVER go to Track 29 now! What happened to Freedom of Speech? That song is one of the songs he is known for therefore it should have been advertised that he would be consored! THis was an ALL ADULT show and it was expected for him to play that song! Kissing Officer Johns butt probably sealed the fate of (play what we tell you to) Track 29! I sure hope if this venue books rappers in the future they censor them too!

I hope some venue in Chattanooga has the gonads to book Corey without restrictions!

September 14, 2011 at 7:01 a.m.
discovery said...

There is no freedom of speech issue here. Track 29 is a private company that entered into a performance contract with a private entertainer. There must have been a miscommunication over what songs Track 29 was paying Smith to play. Busch league mistake by whomever is negotiating performance contracts for Track 29, and childish move to pull the plug because of your failure to properly draw up a contract that would give Smith incentives not to play the song (docking pay, limiting area for merch, etc)

By the way does anybody notice the irony: In 2003 Smith is arrested for disorderly conduct for what can be described as interfering with the police while they were attempting to do their job (right or wrong) at a DUI checkpoint. Then in 2011 Smith is upset that Track 29 pulled the plug on him while he was attempting to do his job (right or wrong).

It's not fun when somebody tries to prevent you from doing your job is it?

September 14, 2011 at 8:33 a.m.
rosebud said...

Congrats, it only took Ye Olde Times Free Press 5 days to do the story that's been all over the web and local TV since Saturday morning! And not one tidbit of new information.

September 14, 2011 at 8:42 a.m.
chioK_V said...

Be afraid! Be very VERY A F R A I D!! This is the new SS stormtrooper response in America to everything. It won't get any better anytime soon. Just ask the Arab/Jewish American mother and writer, Shoshana Hebshi, who was snatched from her seat on an airplane(stormed by LE), questioned by FBI for several hours and strip searched. For what? Looking Arab/Jewish/MiddleEastern?


Their excuse is: They're keeping America safe, but who's watching over them to assure Americans remain safe and free from this new SS stormtrooper mentality that's invaded and occupied American soil?

September 14, 2011 at 9:16 a.m.
chatttn said...

Rosebud - isn't that the dang truth!

September 14, 2011 at 9:27 a.m.
twharr said...

2 guys get beatdown by cops a couple of weeks ago at Track 29 and now this...I'll be sticking with JJ's Bohemia and Rythm-n-Brews.

September 14, 2011 at 9:38 a.m.
Spoke said...

Yes, discovery, there is a Constitutional freedom of speech issue here if the police are applying explicit or implicit pressure to the club owner to silence this performer.

And since you seem a devotee of property rights, I suggest that consumers exercise their own property rights and refuse to patronize this club as long as it censors performers.

September 14, 2011 at 9:39 a.m.
sbryant said...

I know the title of the song is crass, but please actually listen to the song before you condemn it.

September 14, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.
adolphochs said...

This isn't a Constitutional issue because the venue is a private club. You wouldn't be able to pack heat at Track 29 either because the entity can restrict your 2nd Amendment right when on its premises. Come on folks. Just do a little research before you start citing the Constitution.

September 14, 2011 at 10 a.m.
tbs1015 said...

I hate to inform everyone but just because Track 29 does not mean that it isn't a Constitutional issue. The Constitution IS the law of the land. Which means all State laws and local laws must follow Constitutional Law. The 1st Amendment (Free Speech) is the first Amendment in the Bill of Rights (that is rights pertaining to individual citizens.) The reason the Bill of Rights was adopted in the first place was because some framers of the Constitution were worried that the newly created Constitution didn't have any rights protecting the individual citizen. So yes be definition, the 1st Amendment, also in the Bill of Rights, does apply to this situation and therefore is applicable to censorship of Corey Smith at Track 29. Whether or not different laws come into play has not been raised, but i'm sure any well-to-do lawyer could easily find one and refute the constituionality of the argument.

Article VI, Section II of the Constitution: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

September 14, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.
Salsa said...

This is nothing but a big publicity stunt by the "artist" to try to gain some attention.

September 14, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.
PaulWilson said...

Salsa...this was definitely not a publicity stunt thought up by Corey Smith to gain attention. This was a case of an over-zealous law enforcement official who has a grudge with Smith. "Officer" John Collins has had it in for Smith since the incident at Rhythm & Brews several years ago. "Officer" John Collins is known for using his position as a way to intimidate business owners, as we have seen in this case. He may say he had nothing to do with it but, whether directly or indirectly, he used his influence and intimidation tactics to get his way and ruin a show. Smith has used his methods, as all artists have throughout history, as a means of voicing his opinion and protest. I am not going to speak to the Constitutionality of the actions taken by Track 29 as I am not qualified to do so. I will however say this. If you put yourself in Smith's shoes and have your art, your voice do you think you would react?

September 14, 2011 at 5:28 p.m.
xyzyra said...

finally someone with the intellect to break it all down. Thank you Mr. Wilson.

Another thing to consider, and I've thought about for a long time, is if this officer, Collins, is acting on behalf of some of his friends who own clubs downtown and using his position to shut down any competition, he needs to be fully investigated and gotten rid of. I've noticed, for quite some time now, it seems some Chattanooga clubs are being specifically targeted and singled out, while other clubs are rarely in the news. That is, until one of their after hours drinking waiters goes out and kills someone. Then the truth can't be hidden or covered up.

September 14, 2011 at 8:06 p.m.
chefdavid said...

@paying attention If you would listen to the lyrics of F the POPO you will see it is not about hating the police but about hating corruption of power. The song is clear that we should respect the police, firefighters and those that defend our freedoms. I was there. For them to pull the plug was unacceptable. Even when I was a commissioner we didn't pull the plug on a citizen when they were talking in peaceful protest. So why should he be any different. This song is about cops harassing his wife at a road block. He said something like let us got home and got arrested. If you ever saw Corey you would say what a geek, but the man can write. I would encourage you to listen to his many albums and you will too fall in love with him. His is a master of prose and speaks to the soul. Most of his songs are about love.

September 14, 2011 at 8:21 p.m.
tbs1015 said...

Dear Paying Attention: I feel you have mis-understood my argument. I was not doubting the fact that Track 29 had the right to throw Corey Smith out. Thats totally within their grounds. But to say that because Track 29 is private institution and therefore the Constitution and 1st Amendment are not applicable is extremely wrong. Freedom of Speech DOES indeed apply to private institutions. Just because your a private organization does not mean you escape the government.

September 14, 2011 at 9:06 p.m.
chefdavid said...

@paying attention. The song is a normal song Smith plays at his concerts. If they didn't want him to play the song, they should have put it in the contract and inform the fans they were not going to allow the song. They did allow the prior band to play a song about mixing whiskey and prescription drugs. So if the business is going to censor musicians it should be known to their patrons that they will do so and not hire for example Kid Rock to play Disney songs and not tell concert goers they are only going to hear the politically correct songs because the King is in town.

September 14, 2011 at 11:09 p.m.
chefdavid said...

It was not in his contract to not sing the song. So he shows up and then they tell him don't sing it. This is a normal song in his set list. So what would you do? This is one of his most popular songs. A normal encore song. The crowd that was not out of control was chanting for the song. I was there. SO he could have risked not getting paid but played the song anyways. I say good for him. Not just because I am a fan but that was unprofessional. You don't come to an artist who has rehearsed a set, with his band, and tell him no way. This would be like telling a play to cut out scene 3 because one of our patrons does not like it. At least riverbend put it in Kid Rock's contract. Guess what there was no fan outrage over that.

September 14, 2011 at 11:40 p.m.
01centare said...

Unfortunately, controlling freedoms has become the new American normal. So much for that lie, "our men and women are sent to war to protect our cherished freedoms."

It won't get any better from here. I can personally assure you.

September 15, 2011 at 9:40 a.m.
Spoke said...

What makes this a potential violation of the Constitution is the involvement of the police. If this were purely a private decision by a private club owner, there would not be a Constitutional issue. But if the police were applying pressure on the club owner to silence this singer, then the police have violated the First Amendment and should be held accountable.

As for the club owner, he is within his rights to pull the plug. ...And his customers are within their rights to decide they don't want to do business with someone who censors performers. A boycott would be an appropriate response by any customers who feel that way.

September 15, 2011 at 12:40 p.m.
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