Ashley Capps first met Cy Anders in 1973. Capps hosted a late-night show on WUOT 91.9 FM, the University of Tennessee's public radio station, and on this particular night he was playing a record by the experimental German rock band Can. Anders, apparently impressed with the selection, called the station and struck up a conversation with Capps.
"He called me up because I was playing Can on the radio," Capps says. "I immediately sensed he was a kindred spirit. We met shortly after that and became friends, and remained friends for 36 years after that."
Anders soon joined Capps on the air at WUOT and stayed there, off and on in various positions, until his death last week at the age of 57.
Anders died of a heart-related ailment on Tuesday, March 17.
Most recently, Anders hosted the Friday broadcast of WUOT's evening jazz program Improvisations. (Anders had a particular interest in late-'50s and early-'60s hard bop and post-bop jazz artists like Hank Mobley, Art Pepper, Art Blakey, and Wayne Shorter.) He was also, along with Capps, Mike Dotson, and Paul Parrish, one of the original hosts of the influential freeform WUOT show Unradio in the late 1970s and '80s. That long-running show specialized in experimental rock, modern composition, and jazz that was impossible to find elsewhere on local radio, and not much easier to find in record stores.
"We had a tremendous amount of programming focused around weird rock music or jazz or experimental music," Parrish says. "Can, Neu!, Terry Riley, Phillip Glass—they're well-known now but back then it had an out-there edge to it. We had a lot of fun trolling through that stuff. Several of us would get together and just listen to records, drink beer, and have a good time talking about what we were listening to.... Cy and others who had that knowledge deserve a lot of credit for helping to plant that seed and contribute a lot to the music community here."
Anders left Knoxville in the late '80s for graduate studies in philosophy at Ohio State University. He returned in 1997 to take over management of Ober Gatlinburg after his father became ill; he served as president and CEO of the family-owned company until his death. Even though he lived in Sevier County, he still found time for hosting radio once or twice a week and taking part in the spring and fall fund-raising drives.
"Cy was a really smart guy," Capps says. "He was also a very, very giving and gentle person, probably the most loyal human being I've ever met—not just to me but to any of his friends."