In the 1980s and '90s, there was no cooler place to be in Knoxville than hanging out or working at Raven Records on Cumberland Avenue. Jay Nations, the affable owner, helped nourish a scene by both supporting shows and giving local musicians a great place to work. Many of them may have spent all of a day's pay to buy cool albums, singles and magazines sold at the store, but everyone came out even.
Todd Steed, then of Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes, launched the career of LeRoy Mercer from Raven. LeRoy was, of course, the already deceased John Bean, whose phone pranks (which were copied on cassette and distributed by Todd) became legendary.
The walls of Raven were plastered with flyers for upcoming shows and just about every music lover in town saw them as they passed by looking for new or rare music.
When Raven closed in 1994 it was the end of an important era in Knoxville music. The Disc Exchange took up the gauntlet for hardcore music fans, but nothing could quite replace the funkiness of Raven.
Jay teamed up with movie enthusiast Jack Stiles in 2010 to reopen the store on Kingston Pike.
Anyone who went to a film at UT during the late 1970s or early 1980s might remember Jack as the fellow who included Harry Dean Stanton in every film listed in the UT film calendar.
It was always fun to imagine what role Harry Dean might have performed in "The Sound of Music" or "Singing in the Rain."
Jack now oversees the DVDs and film memorabilia at Raven — as well as delivering history on Harry Dean Stanton to anyone who will listen.
It was a great store and held a wealth of amazing vinyl, but it was located in an area that wasn't exactly conducive to foot traffic — unless the kids at Bearden Elementary across the street were jonesing for a vintage vinyl copy of Iggy and the Stooges' "Raw Power" (and I think they should be).
Next Saturday (June 16), Raven Records is moving into the heart of Happy Holler, at 1200 N. Central Ave., just around the corner from the Relix Variety Theatre and next door to Toot's Little Honky Tonk.
To celebrate, Raven is holding a fundraiser for UT radio station WUTK with live performances, rare films and general revelry that should make Happy Holler even happier.
The event begins at 5:15 p.m. with a showing of a director's cut of the notorious R-rated drive-in movie "Incoming Freshmen," which was produced and directed by some University of Tennessee graduate students and shot in Knoxville in 1977 and released in 1979.
The film has a scene filmed at the Dixie Lee Drive-In movie theater (which was showing porn at the time), and it premiered at the Twin Aire Drive-In, now the site of the Clinton Highway Walmart.
The version that made it to drive-in theaters, VHS tape and, eventually, DVD, was drastically re-edited and included added scenes that the creators never intended. Cannon, the film's eventual distributor, wanted more skin and more obvious humor. That version has occasionally been called "one of the worst films ever made."
The Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound has acquired a copy that was more in line with what the filmmakers intended.
That will follow with highlights from the "Cas Walker Farm and Home" show, appearances by Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet, The French, Eric Griffin and Guy Marshall. Between sets Rus Harper will screen vintage video of several Knoxville rock bands, including Teenage Love and Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes.
Admission will be $5 and, of course, Raven Records will be open just around the corner and there's no charge for looking and listening.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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