Hector Qirko has been such a constant presence on the Knoxville music scene for the last 30 years that few people probably ever seriously considered a time when he wouldn’t be a part of it. That day is coming soon, though—Qirko, one of Knoxville’s genuine guitar heroes and a nice guy on top of it, is moving to South Carolina later this month.
Qirko, who has held a half-time position in the anthropology department at the University of Tennessee since the mid-1990s, has accepted a full-time position at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.
Qirko’s musical career in Knoxville is impressive not just because he’s a formidable player, but also because of the range of his playing, the notable connections he’s had, and his habit for being in the right place at the right time. His professional career began in Chicago, where he played with acclaimed bluesman Lonnie Brooks for several years in the ’70s. He first came to prominence in Knoxville as a member of Balboa, the near-legendary post-punk band led by Terry Hill from the late 1970s that’s regarded as the single greatest influence on the Cumberland Avenue scene that blossomed a few years later.
Qirko also played in the Lonesome Coyotes, who played souped-up country standards and honky tonk in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The Coyotes broke up not long after serving as the house band for the 1982 World’s Fair, but they’ve had an even longer run together since reforming in 2002. (They’re also playing what might be their last show together for a while tonight in the Old City Courtyard behind Southbound Bar & Grill. See Boom Box, right.)
Qirko’s other main project has been the Hector Qirko Band, a mostly blues combo that has flirted with Latin music, pop, and jazz since forming in a Pick ’n’ Grin jam session in 1985. Members of the HQ Band—Qirko, drummer Steve Brown, and bassist Jim Williams—also served as R.B. Morris’ backing band the Irregulars in the ’80s and ’90s, and Qirko has continued to play with Morris frequently, as both a band member (he’s appeared on all but one of Morris’ solo albums, including this year’s Spies Lies and Burning Eyes) and as Morris’ partner in a two-guitar duo.
The influence those bands have had on other Knoxville musicians over the last 30 years, and the number of notable players who have crossed paths with Qirko during his time here, have made Knoxville’s music scene better. He’ll be missed.