The Return of the King

Even though he departed our world not so long ago, his fans kept spotting him around town as if he had never left. First, he was sighted eating a greaseburger at the Hilltop on Chapman Highway. Two months later, tourists from Kalamazoo saw him bowling with a pink swirly-ball at Western Lanes. Then, last December, a drunken systems manager claimed he had witnessed him singing karaoke, naked, at the Baker-Peters Jazz Club at 2:30 in the morning.

But ignore all that; the stories aren't true. For the past year, Todd Steed—singer, songwriter, Primo Dope, loose Thumb, music scene godfather—has actually been living and working in Indonesia. And now he's back, ready to reenter the trenches of the Knoxville music scene after his long sojourn as an English school administrator and teacher. Taking time out from his new job "for that giant school near the stadium," Mr. Steed was able to muse on his world travels while answering a few questions.

First, how was life in Indonesia, which mostly made headlines for its economic collapse and plane crashes?

"Changing every single thing in your life, including your language, forces you to rearrange your mental furniture—which is good, or at least it was for me," says Steed. "Daily life was actually pretty fun because it was all new and fresh. Just walking around was great. It's like walking around Sequoyah Hills except nobody has special walking and jogging clothes or expensive dogs. Plus, there were lots of volcanoes and palm trees to add to the scenery...not to put down pine trees and Jeeps, mind you. Of course the nature stuff all over Indonesia was incredible. I never knew fish could be so interesting without eating them. But, I ate them, too."

However, the siren call of biscuits was too strong, and Steed returned home Feb. 16 and immediately sat around his parents' house eating. Beyond good American food, however, he also missed the unique sense of humor of his hometown: "People just don't get Cas Walker jokes over there in Asia," he says. "John Bean doesn't translate either." And then there's the music—1997 was a great year for Knoxville bands, and Steed is ready for his '98 comeback special.

First, The Opposable Thumbs will begin recording and practicing this weekend in Nashville: "I wrote about 20 tunes in Indonesia, eight of which are worth hearing, maybe. The Thumbs will certainly continue. It's too much fun not to." But with Dave Jenkins and Paul Noe busy with The Nevers in Nashville, Steed says he wants to start a whole new band. "I hope to also put together another type of musical unit here in Knoxville as well, if anybody out there is interested. I wouldn't be adverse to just joining a band already out there as a guitar player side man. I'm up for anything, basically."

As for live music, Steed foresees a show in April with the Thumbs. ("I think we were really hitting a stride there before I split, so I am dang excited about playing. Plus, I brought some funny shirts and hats back for the band, so we are finally gonna look hip.") Steed says he's also going to remaster the first Smokin' Dave album (Live and Not Lern) and hopes to release it by summer. Other plans include "heckling various local bands."

Speaking of which, is there any truth to the rumor that Steed will soon become The Fifth V-Roy?

"They told me I'd have to learn to play the French horn to join," he says, "so I am renting one from a Fulton High school band student. However, I will be sitting behind the stage once I join so you probably won't see me."

If anybody else would care to enlist Steed's abilities at French horn (or guitar, which he's much better at), e-mail him at [email protected]

It's Just an Expression, Really

Country music guitarist extraordinaire Chet Atkins took the old show-biz maxim "break a leg" a little too seriously recently when he suffered a hairline fracture in said appendage earlier this month, forcing the postponement of his March 13 Knoxville show at the Tennessee Theater. But Atkins fans can take heart in the fact that not only has the concert been reset for June 12 (tickets for the earlier date will be honored), but the promoters are also adding "very special guests" to make up for the inconvenience.

A.C. Entertainment promoter Benny Smith confirms that singer Charlie Louvin, a member of old Knoxville favorites the Louvin Brothers, will perform together with Charlie Whitstein. Other guests are still pending, Smith says.

In other, less hopeful concert news, A.C. Entertainment has canceled four scheduled southern shows—including one in Knoxville—with modern rock chanteuse Fiona Apple due to an unspecified death in the songstress' family. In addition to the March 12 date at the Civic Auditorium, other cancellations include shows in Birmingham, Ala., Asheville, N.C., and Chattanooga. For information about possible ticket refunds for either the Atkins or Apple shows, call Tickets Unlimited in Knoxville at 656-4444.

The Ever-Changing V-Roy Release Date

The wait is starting to kill us, but sources tell us we'll have to wait until Tuesday, June 9 (a tentative date), to purchase the first official copy of the V-Roys' inaugural Warner Brothers release, the follow-up to their smashing debut Just Add Ice on Steve Earle's E-squared label. In the meantime, word has it that the ever-supportive Mr. Earle will take his favorite Knoxville band along as his opening act on a series of West Coast concerts.

—Zippy "What the Hell Am I Doing?" McDuff