Rock City Birdhouse not a drag for Tom Pappas

Tom Pappas, center, is a member of nine different bands, including Rock City Birdhouse.

Tom Pappas, center, is a member of nine different bands, including Rock City Birdhouse.

Tom Pappas is a man who seems obsessed with rock. Take, for example, how he remembers a pivotal day in his life:

"My wife asked me to leave the house on Oct. 9, John Lennon's birthday," says Pappas while taking a break from a construction project.He was later served with divorce papers — which he remembers from passing out from food poisoning, rather than a rock-related date. But he did chronicle the event in a song called "Hook Line & Sinker."

Pappas is best known as a member of the Knoxville-formed rock greats Superdrag, which made a dent on the national music scene in 1996 with the single "Sucked Out."

Pappas is a member of a total of nine bands, everything from Senator Pappas and the Assassins and Flesh Vehicle to the tribute bands Riff-Raff (AC/DC covers) and Warthog (Ramones covers). Warthog also includes fellow current or one-time Superdrag members John Davis and Sam Powers.

At the moment, though, Pappas is fronting the trio Rock City Birdhouse with drummer Scott Ballew and bassist Mick Wilson, both of The Shazam. The group's debut CD, "Breakage," has just been released, and the band is ramping up its tour schedule. The group celebrates the release of the album (available online at at the Well this week.

Pappas moved to Nashville in 1999 to be with his future wife and her two daughters. The two married in 2003, and he started Pappas Construction in 2004.

"Construction work was what had been keeping me alive," says Pappas. "Then we had the Superdrag reunion (in 2009) – that was the only time I did stuff with music and actually made some money."

Pappas says the Superdrag reunion "felt like a miracle."

"The last time that Superdrag played Sundown in the City with 8,000 people there; hearing all these people singing 'Sucked Out'; headlining the Irving Plaza in New York City with all bands from Knoxville … Even when we had a hit we couldn't do that!"

After the tour and the release of the album "Industry Giants," Superdrag again went on indefinite hiatus.

And then came what would've been John Lennon's 70th birthday.

"Within 24 hours I had a home for Pappas Construction," says Pappas, not noting that he came with the company.

Pappas moved in with friend Ballew. Ballew had been wanting to start a new group called Rock City Birdhouse and now Pappas now had some extra time and Wilson was all-in as well.

The trio went for full-tilt rock.

"Working with Scott and Mick is like having Keith Moon and John Entwistle in a band," says Pappas.

The band recorded "Breakage" at REEL recording studio in East Nashville, using analog equipment.

"It was all old 1-inch tape machines and all recorded live," says Pappas.

In support of the album, Birdhouse has been touring almost as much as Superdrag had during its last reunion. The band is currently working on shooting a video for the song "Lordsin Theme."

After recounting his many near-death experiences in the business, Pappas says maybe he is obsessed with rock.

"It appears so. But what usually happens is somebody will ask me to do something, like put together a band, and I like to play. I get the opportunity to say 'Yes' and I do."

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