Many a night I have been in bars when karaoke was the main form of entertainment. Even more often, I have seen posts on Facebook from friends singing on a stage with lots of 45 records wallpapering the area behind them. Looking down below the picture I would see the tag “Bull Feathers” linking the Facebook page of a bar in Farragut (Lovell Heights to be more precise).
First off, Bullfeathers is NOT a biker bar. Now, don’t get it twisted; that is not to say that you are going to get asked to leave if you come in wearing leather chaps and a club insignia-emblazoned vest. You just had better sing a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd when it comes your go at the karaoke gauntlet. Gauntlet? Now that sounds intimidating. Well, it should! Some of the folks who sing at Bullfeathers are very serious and likely have or will eventually try out for “American Idol.” It doesn’t help the biker bar misconception that the place is located in a plaza behind a place that sells biker gear. However, Bullfeathers is, without question, a karaoke cafe. They do karaoke every single night they are open, which just happens to be all seven days a week.
When I walked in the door to the place, I immediately was struck with the same dilemma I face EVERY time I think about karaoke. If I go up, what song will I sing? Never in my life does my mind go more blank than when faced with the decision of what song I want to sing in front of complete strangers. After many minutes of scanning the tunes currently embedded in my psyche, I inevitably land on a song that is not the “popular” song by an artist only to find out they don’t have the tune. On this evening I had no plans on singing, but I did land in my brain immediately on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” You see, I used to sing in a band in the ’90s. Yes, for some that was the same time they were watching “Teletubbies” and learning to use the bathroom in the correct place. For me? It was the spring of my adult independent life. Suffice to say, some 20 years later, the band didn’t pan out, and, like so many failed singers do, I began a career in stand-up comedy.
When you walk in to Bullfeathers there is a small section of seating available to your direct left. To your right is the main room complete with many tables for main seating area. Past those seats, in the corner of the room, was the stage. I am so used to promoting shows and doing headcounts that I could see they had seating for nearly 100 people. On this night, many of these seats were taken. Pretty impressive for approaching 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The energy was great and someone was on stage belting out a mildly impressive version of “Proud to Be an American” by Lee Greenwood. Thanks to a comedian friend of mine named Waylon Whiskey, every time I hear this song I change the first chorus to “I’m proud to be an American, where my nuggets are trans fat free!!!”
Behind the sound system was whom I later learned was owner Art McCammon. He announced names of performers repeatedly as they rose to take the stage. Art took over Bullfeathers nearly a decade ago. The bar itself is not new to Knoxville; in fact, it has been around since the mid-1980s under the same name. On this specific evening, he had live music on the patio in the form of Blake Campbell and the Juke Joint Drifters, which Art said may become a more regular occurrence. Art also let me know the bar had plans to expand into the vacant building next door to provide a “grabbing a beer and watching the game” alternative to the loud karaoke room.
There is food, too! I must mention, I saw some wings on some folks’ tables and they are larger than average. While the menu proved to be full of the typical pub fare, it was priced a little below what most places charge.
Beginning April 21, singers will have the chance to compete for a $1,000 prize in the Bullfeathers “Sing Your Way to Nashville” contest. Details about this and a calendar of upcoming events can be found on their website. However, if you happen into the place on a random night, you may just get to see a budding star, or a drunken comedian that gave up singing to tell jokes about badly butchering a Queen song.
Address: 10535 Kingston Pike
On the web: http://bullfeatherscafe.com
Hours: 4 p.m.-close daily
Smoking Indoors: Yes
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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