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Random Notes

The quotes used in this story were provided by local journalist-gone-bad Jack Rentfro, who shares some remembrances from his upcoming Cumberland Avenue Revisited, an anthology of UT area pop music history.

"Maggie used to bounce back and forth between making music, which she did with her usual immense energy, talent and competence, and doing leather work...She would suddenly reappear on the club scene, and all the pretty little girls with the pretty little voices would be blown off the stages, 'cause this was Maggie! And you couldn't touch her up there. Sheeuwwee!"
—Robbie Hoskins, longtime fan

"Somewhere in the early '70s I first saw Maggie Longmire play and sing. At the moment, I can't recall where it was, somewhere on Cumberland...I was always taken with her voice, which has this beautiful timbre and natural integrity about it. And, really, her choice of songs. I remember hearing her sing Johnny Cash's 'I Still Miss Someone,' and thinking, 'how beautiful.'
"At that time, Maggie and Russell Smith (later of the Amazing Rhythm Aces) had sung commercials for Pride Market, which I still think are some of the coolest vocals and recordings either of them ever have to think of it more in the tradition of Flat and Scruggs' great recordings for Martha White."
—R.B. Morris, poet, singer-songwriter laureate of Knoxville

"I first heard the Coyotes play in Maryville at a little club downtown. I remember being knocked out by the band and the talent in it...Steve Horton has been a friend, an inspiration and a musical co-conspirator for over 30 years...Doug Klein and Greg Trostle I knew and greatly respected as accomplished musicians before they joined the Coyotes. Maggie and Hector, I got to know through the Coyotes...They had a profound impact on Knoxville's music scene because of the depth of talent and virtuosity in the band. They were wonderful entertainers and they covered a wide range of musical styles, some of which, like country swing, were very difficult to pull off. Yet they made it look easy."
—Dana Paul, onetime Rich Mountain Tower frontman, now vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions, Presbyterian College, Clinton S.C.

"One time, Hector, Maggie and I were at the Camel House and were inspired to record something live, and ended up with her on acoustic, Hector on electric and me on this fretless bass that Maggie was trying to sell. It was my first time picking up a fretless. Anyway, we ended up doing 'This Masquerade" by Leon Russell, "Georgia," and this great song that Maggie said was the only song she had ever written, and was really sort of shy and mumbling with it till we had to draw it out of her."
—Terry Hill, ÜberRocker and professor of guitar

"The Coyotes—God, how many times did I go hear them play? I thought that Hector Qirko was the best guitar player I'd ever personally heard. And he was a hell of a nice guy to boot—he'd always come over and talk to me during breaks, and I was just a third-rate rhythm guitar player with a second-tier local band. Made me feel good, though, that he'd even remember who I was. Jay Barron was so smooth on that pedal steel guitar! Made me want to learn how to play one. One night during a break, I talked to him about it. He showed me how it was tuned, how the pedals worked to change the pitch of certain strings, how you used the slide to create the distinctive sound.
"And of course Maggie. Ah, Maggie. A voice that was simultaneously sweet and raw...Anyway, in addition to having a hot voice, I thought Maggie herself was hot. She looked better in a flannel shirt and jeans than most any other woman in a miniskirt and stiletto heels."
—Michael Burke, original scenester, Ph.D. UT Office of Research and Information Technology

The Coyotes Howl Again

After a long absence, the Lonesome Coyotes reunite for a one night stand and a good cause

by Betty Bean

Urban coyotes are one of the plagues of modern life, but a bunch of Knoxville 'boomers are going to show up at the Bijou Saturday night to celebrate the return of the Lonesome Coyotes, a quirky country/rock/swing-fusion band that enjoyed its greatest success during the days of the World's Fair in 1982. The Coyotes will be reuniting with some of their '70s and '80s Cumberland Avenue cohorts for a one night stand at 8 p.m.

Sitting in on a modern-day Lonesome Coyotes practice session is like time-traveling with an upgrade. The real-life music sounds just as good—or, shockingly, maybe even better—in the straight-and-sober flesh as it does when replayed in the beery archives of the mind. But Dasani has replaced Budweiser as the beverage of choice, and the assortment of cowboy studmuffins have gotten to be 40- and 50-something business owners, professors, artisans and parents since they last made the scene. Although they remember the wild days, they mostly speak now of grown-up things; of children and jobs and friends lost along the way.

But Horton still makes you dance; Maggie makes you sweat. Dana Paul's sweet tenor lightens the mix. and Hector's guitar talks. Greg and Jay make the pedal steel weep; Stan walks the steady bassline that makes it all work, and Doug drives the drumbeat. The music is still there, still doing what good music does.

"This whole thing has been about reconnecting with the love of music," says Maggie Longmire, the Coyote diva whose sweet, smoky now-you've-got-her, now-you-don't, chameleon voice earned a place in the genetic memory of a generation of Cumberland Avenue denizens. "But without all the goofy baggage. You can do your music without having to play in bars when you're 54 years old because you've already done that. When I looked in Dana's eyes, I knew exactly what was simmering."

This new chapter in Coyote history started one day last December when Longmire, who hung up her performing shoes some 17 years ago, decided it was time to buy herself a new guitar. So she went down to Pick 'n' Grin and was browsing in the guitar room where she noticed another customer.

"I thought, 'That's a nice-looking man. Looks like Dana Paul.' But then I told myself 'It can't be, because he's not living here anymore.' A few minutes later, he came around the corner and said, 'Maggie?'"

It was indeed Dana Paul, whose high lonesome vocals fronted Rich Mountain Tower, a popular, but long-since defunct Southern rock/country-inflected Knoxville band. After a little small talk, the two decided to renew their acquaintance over lunch.

"We talked about how much we missed music," Longmire says. "I asked him 'If I could put a benefit concert together, would you sing again?' He said yes, and I started talking to the Coyotes. I called Steve Horton, Stan Turner, Hector Qirko, Doug Klein, Greg Trostle and Jay Barron, and it started coming together." And that is how the Back to Cumberland Avenue Reunion Concert was born.

The concert will reunite the Coyotes, and will also spotlight performers like Paul and R.B. Morris and an assortment of other local players who will join the Coyotes for a jam session at the end of the evening.

Proceeds of the concert will benefit the YWCA Victim Advocacy Program, and the beneficiary wasn't chosen lightly. Like all good reunions, one of the purposes of the weekend will be to remember friends who are no longer here, and Longmire has written a song evoking six of them: David Young, David Carr (of Rich Mountain Tower), Jimmy Kershaw, Glen Laney (of Knoxville Grass) Butch McDade (of the Amazing Rhythm Aces) and Karen Keith, lead singer with Cheap Shoes. Keith had given up singing for motherhood and a career as an elementary school teacher, and it was her death at the hands of a jealous lover that inspired Longmire.

"Karen didn't think she could ever have a child, and her baby's birth was just a miracle. This song is for her daughter," Longmire says.

Writer Jack Rentfro, who is working on a history/ anthology of University of Tennessee-related pop music (inspired by this concert), played in a band called "Potluck" with Keith as the lead singer. He remembers it as "just a hippie band—friends getting together to play on the porch—but we had this great singer we gravitated around—that was Karen. We were incredibly lucky to be able to perform with her. The rest of us were pretty average at best, but Karen had this amazingly powerful, shout-style voice, and could also do the ballads that would make you cry. She had it all. She was a cancer survivor, and later had this miracle baby who was the light of her life."

Longmire, who was known as the "Lily of LaFollette," was a graduate of Norris High School who began her singing career "back in the Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan days." She remembers singing and playing at clubs up and down the Strip "...playing for the door; playing for fun." Late she joined up with the Coyotes, who got their greatest exposure when they were selected to perform on the soap opera One Life to Live, which was being filmed in Knoxville as the World's Fair arrived.

The One Life story line centered around a raffish country music singer wannabe named Asa, and the Coyotes were his backup band. Longmire laughs as she remembers the Asa character showing up knee-walking drunk for the nearly-disastrous wedding scene that was to be the climax of the Coyotes' adventure in daytime drama.

"Asa was wasted," Longmire says. "There was no way to get him in."

The Coyotes got some national exposure, did a tour of the Northeast and played New York City and Nantucket in what Longmire calls "our millisecond of national fame." She remembers looking up and seeing Walter Cronkite come into a club where they were playing. And then it ended.

Since then, Longmire was co-owner of Minnowhead, a leather-goods company on North Broadway, an "early-to-rise" business she found incompatible with musicians' hours. Paul lives in South Carolina, where he is the vice president and dean of admissions of Presbyterian College. Barron and Trostle have relocated to Nashville to work in the music business, Horton and his wife Liz are still in the process of getting six kids raised. Qirko combines a college teaching career with playing the blues, Klein is a composer and TV producer.

But for one Saturday night, they'll all be Coyotes again.

June 6, 2002 * Vol. 12, No. 23
© 2002 Metro Pulse