Museum of Appalachia faces uncertain future

March 31, 2008

One of the toughest challenges facing any non-profit organization is surviving its founder. The kinds of folks who create museums, schools, or institutes (or websites) are highly focused, driven, and relentless people. The same characteristics that bring life and success to their creations can make it difficult to hand over the reins of power to their successors or make the sometimes hard decisions necessary to keep the organization thriving.

Metro Pulse’s Mike Gibson has written a great article about the Museum of Appalachia in Norris and John Rice Irwin, its founder. The Museum is one of Tennessee’s treasures; Irwin was named a MacArthur Fellow, popularly known as the “genius” award. His Museum, however, is facing an uncertain future. Irwin has been subsidizing it for years, and now says he cannot write checks for much longer. Even if he could continue underwrite the Museum, he is 77 years old.


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20 all-time biggest record company screwups: Stax makes the cut

March 13, 2008

Stax Records of Memphis comes in at Number 14 with a bullet on’s list of the 20 Biggest Record Company Screw-Ups of All Time. Seems that the famous Memphis-based record company signed a contract with Atlantic records and didn’t read the fine print.

I had always assumed that the holder of the Number One goof-up designation was the idiot at Decca Records who infamously turned down the Beatles in the early 1960s, but this article asserts that the worse mistake the record companies made was putting Napster out of business. I have to agree. Details here.


This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Rogersville’s African-American heritage

March 8, 2008

In the days of segregation, Tennessee’s Black communities had their own school buildings, which along with churches served as centers of community life. While many of these small-town structures fell into disrepair or were torn down after school districts integrated, some survive and have taken on new life as museums that provide a glimpse into all-black eduction.

The most prominent such school in East Tennessee has to be the Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton. Rogersville has its museum in the Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum.


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Tate Springs: former resort now another roadside attraction

March 8, 2008

For decades, passersby on Highway 11-W west of the hamlet of Bean Station have zipped past an extravagant bandstand that suggests more elegant times.


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Clarence Brown, Tennessean gone Hollywood

March 6, 2008

Next to Quentin Tarantino, Clarence Brown is the most famous film director to have spent his childhood in Knoxville. Brown directed Greta Garbo more than any other director, and called the shots for National Velvet and The Yearling.

Metro Pulse’s Jack Neely has written the best story I’ve seen on Brown’s relationship to Knoxville, and particularly his generosity to UT, in which he funded the Clarence Brown Theatre. Tennessee Wife and I were undergrads on UT’s Film Committee in those days, and we and others were asked to help plan the Clarence Brown Film Festival–Tennessee Wife chaired it. Brown was delighted that students were so interested in his work, and UT’s fundraising officials were also very happy–he eventually gave UT $12 million. Below is a photo of me sitting beside Brown when he was holding forth during the Clarence Brown Film Festival.


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