Nightlife is a relative term to an extent. By definition, of course, nightlife is primarily entertainment that occurs under the cover of nightfall. However, in this installment of my nightlife column, I ventured out at a much earlier hour. To an hour where the sun still shines. To an hour that is much more, well "happy."
Happy hour has long been a marketing concept/social event in the United States. Drink specials and sometimes even discounted or free food is a common staple of "happy hour" at many establishments across the country. However, there are some states that do not allow happy hour at all. Take North Carolina, for example. While it may have miles of pristine coastline, you can't catch a break on a drink during the early evening there. Tennessee however, is a happy hour happening habitat. One of the most active happy hours in Knoxville has to be at Swizzle's Lounge inside the Holiday Inn at the Cedar Bluff exit in West Knoxville.
Swizzle's has been in existence for 25 years right where it is today. With a gorgeous partially open octagonal bar directly in the middle of the room, patrons have the option to approach from any side to order up a drink. Above the bar are racks holding hundreds of pieces of stemware. I was told that these were no longer allowed to be used in the bar industry, yet they had been grandfathered and allowed to keep it because of how long the bar had it.
Most of the lounge area had dinner-style tables and the floors were raised for some of this seating. One part of the room had a couch and coffee table perfect for sitting back to relax. It was placed just to the left of the fully mirrored dance floor. The dance floor extended all the way to the far wall where a set of windows looked outside.
This is also where the piano was stationed. At the piano was Fredda Valentine Temples. I was there specifically to see her. I had stopped in to the bar on a previous Friday night late in the evening, and there was not much going on at the time. I spoke to one of the managers, Jeanette Bean, and she gave me an events schedule and suggested I come back one of the night's that they had live entertainment during the week.
I had just finished surveying the room when I started to walk up to Fredda. She was playing away on the piano while simultaneously playing a keyboard she had set up to her left. Around the piano were several tall seats with several excited older ladies bopping along to the music. Fredda finished her song and asked me why I was taking pictures. I told her about my column and she immediately announced my presence to the entire room. That was a first!
She proceeded to play a few more tunes before breaking into "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis. The ladies around the table and a taller man they affectionately referred to as "Rich Guy" excitedly bounced around to the music. The smiles beamed from their faces as they were transported back to the summer of 1957 when they were just teenagers sneaking out and jumping in the back of the neighbor boy's Chevy Bel Air convertible.
I stayed around for a bit, watching a couple get up and dance to the music. I drifted past one table after another listening passively to the venting conversations of a few businessmen who seemed a few cocktails from their ties being around their heads and under-tees showing.
Jeanette told me something on my prior visit that made perfect sense now. She told me they had a large group of female regulars who came simply because they felt safe. No worries about having to walk through a poorly lit street after having a drink at Swizzle's. No, sir! The only thing you have to watch out for is the courteous bellhops as they hustle a newly arrived guest's bags past the entrance to the lounge and onto a waiting elevator.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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