More than a decade after their last show, and long after most fans had given up on ever seeing them perform together again, the V-Roys are back.
The late, lamented local country-rock combo—guitarist/singers Scott Miller and Mic Harrison, bassist Paxton Sellers, and drummer Jeff Bills—announced earlier this week that they will release a greatest-hits compilation this fall, and then reunite for one more show at the Bijou Theatre on Dec. 31, exactly 12 years to the date since their last performance together. The upcoming concert is being billed as "One Show; Goodbye," which sounds definitively like a one-off performance.
The new compilation, Sooner or Later, named for one of the band's signature songs, will be released on Sept. 27 on Miller's F.A.Y. Recordings.
"When Jeff gave me the final mastered version of this compilation, which he really put the effort into making, he had written ‘Sooner or Later or Just Whenever' on the disc," Miller says in the press release. "‘Perfect!' I thought. I think we all knew we'd do it sometime."
The set will include 13 tracks from the V-Roys' two studio albums as well as five previously unreleased recordings: covers of Neil Young's "Burned," Tom T. Hall's "How I Got to Memphis," and Leiber and Stoller's "Smokey Joe's Cafe," plus two original songs ("Someone to Push Around" and "Hotel Room") written by Mic Harrison. All three of the band's albums—Just Add Ice (1996), All About Town (1998), and the 2000 live disc Are You Through Yet?—have been out of print for several years.
"I'm fired up," says Harrison. "I'm learning all the leads from all that old V-Roys stuff. I haven't played lead since then. It's kind of like learning cover songs."
A band called the Viceroys first appeared on local stages, dressed in suits and ties, in 1994. Its music was a blend of hardcore honky-tonk and natty British Invasion rock, led by songwriters/guitarists/singers Miller and John Paul Keith. Miller and his wry, sarcastic songs had built a local following during regular solo gigs at Hawkeye's on 17th Avenue; Keith was a precocious newcomer from Jefferson County who wasn't yet old enough to drink. They were joined by Keith's friend Sellers and ex-Taoist Cowboys drummer Bills. (Bills and Miller had briefly played together with Todd Steed in the early '90s as Run, Jump, and Throw Like a Girl.)
Keith soon left the band, to be replaced by West Tennessee transplant Harrison. Following a legal dispute with a Jamaican band claiming the copyright to the name, the Viceroys became the V-Roys just before their debut album, Just Add Ice, was released on Steve Earle's now-defunct E-Squared label. Then the band's local notoriety—long sweat- and booze-drenched shows at the Mercury Theatre on Market Square and several years running of some of the best New Year's Eve festivities Knoxville has seen—started to go regional, and then national.
By 1999, though, the band seemed to be running on fumes after five years of touring and dealing with the machinery of the music industry. Their last show was at the Tennessee Theatre on New Year's Eve in 1999. In 2009, a Metro Pulse panel voted them the best Knoxville band ever.
Now Miller and Harrison have solo careers and backing bands—Miller's Commonwealth and Harrison with the High Score—and spend much of their time on the road. The two still join each other on stage occasionally. Bills and Sellers have been seen less frequently on local stages. Bills runs Lynn Point Records, which has released albums by Harrison and Keith and maintains digital archives of local music from the '80s and '90s. Sellers has been absent from the Knoxville music scene since playing in the Faults, a short-lived post-V-Roys project also featuring Harrison and Bills.
"Paxton's come in and played some stuff in the studio, but I haven't played a show with him since 2001," Harrison says. "And definitely not Jeff. I've been in the same room with him and on the same stage but not at the same time."
Tickets for "One Show; Goodbye" will be $35 and go on sale on Sept. 9.