Heartbreak Square

Market Square Elvis's Vegas-style show hits the road

Elvis Has Left the Square

Well, we hear it's final. Whether you loved him or otherwise, the city has unplugged Market Square Elvis. Decked out in white jumpsuit and cape as Elvis, ca. 1973, the man sang into a karaoke amplifier for as much as four hours a day, to the delight of some and the consternation of others. Last July, he made the cover of Metro Pulse. Otherwise known as South Knoxvillian Jeff Martin, the personally quiet fellow would admit, if approached, that he was hoping for honest Elvis-impersonating work with a real band.

Tuesday, after tolerating the Vegas-style act more days than not for about three years, police told Martin he'd have to find another stage. If he's a victim of hypervigilance, there's a backstory. There was a time, maybe a decade ago, when Knoxville cops sometimes told acoustic bluegrass buskers to hit the road—that was a form of panhandling, they said—while tolerating evangelists who almost daily commandeered the Market Square stage, using an amplifier and pre-recorded music; the evangelism never seemed particularly effective except in adding a certain tooth-jarring quality to lunch at a cafe table on a spring day. City officials answered objections with the shrug that there was no law against it.

After complaints from then-struggling businesses on the Square, the city about-faced to come up with a compromise which has, officially or unofficially, been the general rule since: tolerate unplugged buskers while banning artificially amplified music, especially those that use city electricity, without a permit. It seemed a perfect solution.

But there was never any special exemption for an Elvis with a karaoke machine. (Jack Neely)

A Capitol Idea

This fall, Maryville's historic Capitol Theatre on West Broadway will be open for business as a theater for the first time in more than 30 years, says the building's owner, local artist Heath Claiborne.

Construction work starts May 1. Claiborne's already booking shows for the space, expected to open Oct. 1. He expects to draw national concerts and dramatic productions like those at the Tennessee Theatre and the Bijou. When completed, the theater will seat 400 people in a dinner theater-type setting, as in tables and booths rather than theater seats.

The 18,000-square-foot building opened in 1923 as a combination furniture store and undertaker, according to Claiborne's website (bookthecapitol.com). In 1934, the Crescent Amusement Company bought the building and converted it into a Golden Age movie palace, lighting up downtown Maryville throughout the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. Then, like most of the rest of those celebrated movie houses, the Capitol slowly slid into obsolescence under the weight of multiplexes and mall theaters. In its waning years, it was home to a record store, a wedding dress store, and, finally, a disco, before the building was finally shuttered in the '70s.

Chattanooga native Claiborne came across the art-deco gem in 2002 and saw its potential. "It was a very unique space," he says. He paid $200,000 for the building. He restored the grand old marquee and converted the foyer into a coffee shop and a gallery for his work. He rents out the balcony, to which he's added a movie screen, for private parties.

Claiborne won't say exactly how much he expects the project to cost. "A lot," is all he'll say. (Charles Maldonado)

Pine Ridge in the House

Nightclubs and bars can be hard places; most of them aren't known for their personal touches. That's where the Pine Ridge House Concert Series comes in. The third season of the series, held in Bryan and Wanda Smith's living room in their house in Clinton, kicks off Saturday, March 29, with a performance by local songwriter Karen Reynolds. The Saturday night concerts continue with David Olney and Sergio Webb May 3, Chuck Brodsky June 28, R.B. Morris and Hector Qirko July 26, Michael Reno Harrell Aug. 16, and Jay Clark Sept. 19. Each show starts at 8 p.m. For reservations and directions, call 207-2207 or e-mail pineridgehouseconcerts@comcast.net. Advance tickets are $10. Admission at the door is $12. All proceeds go directly to the artists. (Matthew Everett)