KNOXVILLE — When the sun comes out and the temperatures begin to warm, Market Square fills with folks eager to enjoy the weather, outside dining and shops. But another group eager for the warmer weather is the buskers who perform there.
For some the street performers are a delight, and for others they may be a nuisance. But there's one thing that is certain: the performers are people with stories and talent. And one size does not fit all. Here's a look at just three distinctive and frequent Market Square buskers.
Sitting outside Cafe 4 on Market Square, William "Bill" Page strums his guitar and sings with his best friend and companion, his dog Jake. Page, 59, has been playing in Market Square for four years. "I do a lot of family-oriented songs. It's a way to serve the community," he said.
Page is homeless. He lives in the woods with his dog but is thankful for the opportunity to be a busker. "I wasn't finding any jobs. I didn't feel like I had anything to offer, and I knew (street performing) was legal," he continued, "I'd rather be out here than in a bar."
As a young boy, Page had an aversion to conformity. His family moved often and, by his junior year of high school, Page knew what he didn't want to do. "I started noticing cliques. I was shy and didn't want to be a part of it. I saw all these flaws in society, and I wanted to be in the woods to be away from it," he said.
In 1970, when he was 18, his family moved from Ohio to Tennessee, settling in Maryville. Page hit the road shortly thereafter, hitchhiking for 15 years while studying religion and philosophy on his way to nowhere and anywhere. "I was 36 when I got my first automobile after being in every state but three," said Page.
During his travels Page taught himself to play the guitar. Inspired by folk music, Page sings, plays the guitar and the harmonica. "I like real music. I don't like synthesizers. I like something with soul, and real," said Page.
Page has another talent, writing poetry. "I have 35 years of poetry I want to get published," he said. When asked to share some, his eyes brightened, he leaned in and began to speak his free verse with confidence and eagerness, "We the poets and musicians travel in the beauty of tears; ever longing for the union with the source of our inspiration," he shared.
Though he enjoys being unplugged and outside, Page does have a longing for a home. "I live in a shed and tent. I'd like to have an inside place that I can live with my dog. I'd like to have a place to live," he said.
Meet Page and Jake most sunny days in Market Square on the benches in front of Cafe 4.
Jack Wolf is 23 years old and hails from Loudon. He is "homeless" by choice, he said. "I had a place for a year and stayed there five times (because I travel) and wasted thousands of dollars. I just stay with friends wherever I'm at."
Wolf is an aspiring artist and plays local venues in town. "I've played at the Bijou Theatre, Preservation Pub, the Square Room," he said. "(I hope) that people love my original music, and they buy it and come to my concerts."
Wolf is self-taught through YouTube videos. He has been playing the guitar for four and a half years and street performing for a year and a half. "It's good money and really fun. I don't have a boss and work my own hours And I make as much money as I work for," he said.
Though he lives out of his truck, his mother has a home in Loudon. "I'm living the life, the way I wish everyone would. If I want to go to the ocean, I do. Drive down and play in the streets. Enjoy the night," he shared.
On his right hand are tattooed letters spelling out Jack and Live and on his left hand Wolf and Love. "Two most important things to do in life; get out and live and love somebody," he shared.
With that as his motto he plans to take off with his girlfriend to California for two months and to street perform. "I've met a lot of people doing this. I (once) road my mountain bike from Charleston to Nashville (and from Nashville) to New Orleans," he said.
With aspirations of being the next Jack Johnson, he has just recorded original songs and is working on production and getting a website. Until then, you can follow him on his Facebook fan page, where he has more than 600 fans, by searching Jack Wolf Music.
Forty-one-year-old farmer Richard Scott had an ordinary childhood. He took guitar lessons when he was 11 and played saxophone in high school. But he always seemed focused on one thing - playing his guitar.
"I studied at Virginia Tech. I played my guitar and changed my major a bunch of times. Then I never graduated, and I played my guitar," he said. He studied psychology, sociology and physics. Finally, during his senior year, he was dismissed from college because, he said, he played his guitar. "There was an attendance policy," said Scott.
His parents own a farm in Lee County, Va., and second to music, Scott loves his cows. When he isn't in Knoxville playing on the streets, he is home tending to the farm and his cows. "I'm still keeping residence in Virginia and staying in a couch motel during the week (when in Knoxville)," he said. When asked what brought him to Knoxville, "It's the biggest city that's close enough to my cows."
Scott is a skilled musician and a bit of a carpenter. He made his guitar that he plays, strumming with a cigarette in his hand. It's an eight-string "homemade contraption" he said that is a mix between a bass and a guitar. He often has a drummer accompany him though he wasn't present on this day. Scott was eager to introduce his drummer, pulling out his cellphone to call him to come quickly. "(My drummer) owns a car and is not homeless," said Scott.
And neither is Scott. The only time he lived in his car, it was a "willful" decision, he said.
For Scott, being a busker has flexible hours and provides a place to entertain. "It's a matter of hours. It's hard to get enough club work," he said.
Six years has passed since he first started playing two or three days a week on the streets in Knoxville. "I started doing it, and people started throwing me money," said Scott. And so it stuck. But it hasn't been all roses. "There are a lot of hard things (about street performing). Dealing with all kinds of people. Some people are hard to deal with," he said.
His goals are to erase debt, build a guitar factory and raise cows. "(I'm) not into becoming a rock star. It costs money to become a rock star. It costs a $1,000 bucks to look for work. This way I don't have to look for work," he said.
And though he doesn't aspire to be a rock star he does have "a press agent, really, I do," he said.
Trillia Newbell is a freelance contributor to the News Sentinel.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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