Cotton Eyed Joe
In my circle of friends I know people who go to just about every type of bar/club in Knoxville. I have friends who are die-hards of Urban Bar in the Old City, and I know people who hit up Bullfeathers in West Knoxville. I have never known anyone to go to or talk about going to Cotton Eyed Joe. My impression of the place, based on conversations with folks, was that it was an 18-and-up, line-dancing country bar. I decided it was time to see for myself what lay below the glowing sign I passed on the interstate.
I arrived on a Thursday night to see what was shakin'. The parking lot had vehicles as far as the eye could see. About every third one was a jacked-up pick-up truck. I pulled to the back of the lot and got my stuff together before heading in. As I looked up from packing my camera bag I noticed the parking lot was much larger then I had first realized. A quick count of the cars I could see approached 100, yet there were easily another 200 spots available. I looked to the building and was struck by how gigantic it was. The only venue I have ever seen of this size was a concert hall. I got to the door and nervously read the dress code. I was in flip-flops and a not-specifically classy T-shirt. The door fellow carded me and I told him my mission, hoping not to get turned away for my beachwear. He was fine, and let me pass. On second look, the dress code mainly was talking about hip-hop styles that were not permitted. Really? Hip-hop happens here? Now my curiosity was piqued.
I entered the club and directly in front of me was a rectangular dance floor that was easily the size of a basketball court. A few folks were out on the floor dancing. To my right was a bar that sat right at the exit, and past that was another larger bar that was as wide as the dance floor. I walked to the bar and asked for the fellow in charge. After a few minutes, Jed Barki emerged and introduced himself. He let me know that Cotton Eyed Joe has been in business in the same locations for 19 years. I had heard rumors of country singers such as Kenny Chesney once performing at Cotton Eyed Joe, and saw on the coming lineup that Ronnie Dunn from Brooks and Dunn was coming to perform in June. After speaking to Jed, I turned to the bar and ordered a beer before heading to the other side of the room.
On the other end of the bar, nearly a football field away, karaoke was going on. Across from that were about 12 pool tables in a separate section. I couldn't get over just how much space existed in this bar. Not only is it the largest bar I have been to in Knoxville, it is likely the largest bar outside of a rock music venue I have been to in my life. If you are bored with what is going on in one part of the club, you can simply walk to the other side of it. Throngs of country lovers began hitting the floor and dancing. First to some more rocking new country tunes, then to the Electric Slide, then finally to hip-hop. NOW I understand the warning on the door. As I have mentioned before, there is nothing that entertains me more than super-country white folks dancing to hip-hop music. It just rocks. The smiles were plentiful and the dancing was constant. The place doesn't deserve any type of negative rap. It is 18-and-up, which is a rarity in Knoxville, it provides various types of entertainment to keep most people satiated, and the place is roomy enough you could hang out there even if your ex did.
Check out Cotton Eyed Joe for a night of dancing, pretty ladies and good times.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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