Thirsty Turtle satisfies Blount County crowds

matt ward/special to
Becky Daniels, left, and Lisa Fountain enjoy a laugh at the Thirsty Turtle in Maryville.

matt ward/special to Becky Daniels, left, and Lisa Fountain enjoy a laugh at the Thirsty Turtle in Maryville.

Thirsty Turtle



2641 Highway 411


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Maryville is an interesting place. Not far away, the hills used to be abuzz with the production of the most aluminum in the country during the second World War. Though the aluminum industry remains, the residents are no longer the same factory worker type of folks. Many who now live here have migrated to the area to seek a mountain-view home — and avoid the much larger tax burdens in their home states of California, Colorado or even New Jersey. Not far from Maryville is a nationally known road, U.S. Route 129, also known as "The Dragon," which draws motorcycle riders from thousands of miles away. The Dragon is a curvy stretch of road through Deals Gap in Blount County. I know locals are reading this thinking, "We know this dummy," but I feel it is important for the new transplants that come across this column online to know a bit more background.

Once you leave "The Dragon," briefly contemplating how many accidents the guys taking pictures along the way have likely caused, you don't come to a drinking establishment for nearly 15 miles. When you do, it is The Thirsty Turtle — which, up to just more than a year ago, had been known as Big Daddy's for years.

As you enter, you find the stage immediately to your left. The Thirsty Turtle also appears to have a sound system and lights, more than some Knoxville bars with live music can claim. On this night the band Kudzu was on stage, playing a variety of covers that one would expect from a venue that saw a substantial motorcycle riding crowd. But Kudzu's original songs also held my interest.

The room looks as if it would hold about 200, and even the bathroom facilities seemed they were designed to support such a crowd. Random seating and tables are directly in front of the stage, with a few pool tables stationed to the right as you walk in the front door, just before the restrooms. The bar is in the back of the room, where it makes perfect sense backed right up to the kitchen area.

I stepped to the bar and met Sam, one of the bartenders working for the evening. She got me a water and helped me track down the venue's manager, Brandy Freeman. We spoke for a bit and Brandy gave me most of the aforementioned history of the bar. She shared some of the successes they have had, and talked about their big one year anniversary party in December. Before we were done it seemed we were long-lost friends speaking candidly, including friendly use of profanity (like I normally talk ... I owe the swear jar $42.56).

A few minutes later I was grabbing a picture with bar maid Becky Daniels and her happy friend Lisa. I listened to a few more tunes from the band then made my way to the door. I was pleased at how easy it was to get on 129 and head back to Knoxville. Being on the west end of town I did not have to go through downtown Maryville, which is convenient for those coming down from Knoxville.

So if you are in Blount County or even slightly beyond, check out The Thirsty Turtle. They have live music on Friday and Saturday nights and poker every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday night, which Brandy says is quite popular.


The Thirsty Turtle

2641 U.S. 411,


Phone: (865) 233-5727

Web Site:

Ages: 21 and up

Smoking Indoor: Yes

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