Every now and then, you find yourself in a surreal moment that makes you glad to be alive.
About this time last year, I found myself in the lobby of the Days Inn on Ringgold Road with The Cadillac Band from Sweden. As most of the city was getting ready for work, TCB and an entourage of family and fans were gathered together drinking coffee and eating danishes as Janne Lucas, a popular Swedish singer, fulfilled a dream of singing one of his hits, “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” in the shadows of the famous landmark.
Huge fans of Elvis Presley, they play a blend of standards from the ’50s and ’60s and original numbers.
TCB returned to the Scenic City last week and, just as before, they were in a hurry during their whirlwind cross-country tour of nightclubs and music venues. This time, it was drummer Ulf Nilsson who was fulfilling a dream, or at least part of one.
Back in May, friend and fellow musician Tommy Blum died. Blum was known for singing “Over the Rainbow,” and Nilsson dreamed one night that TCB was playing the song in Chattanooga. He hopes one day to perform it as part of a full show.
He texted me, asking if we could meet for a few minutes as they drove through on the way from Jackson, Tenn., to Macon, Ga. We arranged to meet in the parking lot at Sugar’s Ribs on Missionary Ridge.
As their two white vans pulled up, the skies darkened, so we headed inside and essentially staged a mini flash concert on the patio. While I explained to the restaurant’s staff what was happening, or at least tried to explain, the group quickly plugged in a bass amp and started tuning their guitars and ukuleles.
Once set up, the whole group gathered around me at a picnic table and launched into “Mess of Blues,” an original number by Claes Goran Hederstrom, who sat next to me while Lucas sang harmonies. His keyboard was having some issues, so he quickly abandoned it and provided a melody with his voice. Börje Hall-berg played bass, while Andders Ehrfenstråle played guitar.
After rearranging the seating a bit, they launched into “Over the Rainbow” with Nilsson slapping out a rhythm on his thighs and Lucas handling the vocals and ukulele. The whole thing lasted about 20 minutes from arrival to departure.
Just before launching into his number, Hederstrom leaned over and said, “This is one of the most unusual places we’ve played.” With the city and the Choo Choo in the background, it was a moment I’ll not soon forget.
Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-413-6354.
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 ...