Volunteer Jam III: A New Home - Soapbox Jr.
In my previous two soapboxes on Volunteer Jam history, we covered the first two VolJams, the first at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium and the second one at MTSU’s Murphy Center, but those venues aren’t synonymous with memories of the Jam like the next home would be.
Starting with Volunteer Jam III, Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium became the Jam’s home for the next nine years, from 1977 to 1985 – yes, there was a year gap between II and III - and when most people reminisce about the Jams, these are the ones that come to mind.
Municipal held 10,000 and every Jam held there was a sellout.
It was then that the Jam became a “happening” and where some of the traditions really started. For one, the guest list became a closely guarded secret that few in the media thought of leaking, although there were a couple that intentionally broke protocol.
If I remember correctly Jam III also became when “Volunteer” took more significance than a nod to Tennessee’s nickname as the Volunteer State. Artists were not paid anything except for their travel, lodging and meals because the money raised was going to go to help the T.J. Martell Leukemia Foundation. But here’s a little inside information. Donations were definitely made to T.J. Martell, but it was usually out of the CDB and Sound Seventy Productions' own pockets because the Jam was an expensive show to produce and there was rarely any money left over.
One reason was because of one of the backstage highlights was in the lower level of the Municipal Auditorium – where the Musician’s Hall of Fame is now located – the ongoing party.
Large projection viewing screens were set up with chafing pans full of food, and plenty of beer and other spirits flowing with hundreds of people milling around during the course of the show, which sometime after midnight – yes, the Jam was becoming a longer and longer show – the food was changed out to provide an early breakfast for backstage guests.
And backstage guests were aplenty. It would be hyperbole to say that there were almost as many people backstage as there were out front, but it sure seemed like it sometimes.
Add up travel expenses, hotels, tons of food and beverages of all sorts, and you had one expensive show, but the donations were made regardless.
This Jam also brought some spectacular entertainers and some lesser-known ones that would go on to be Jam staples. One of them was the late Papa John Creach, an African American fiddle player who had played with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. He was at every Jam from III to XII, he and his wife were lovely people, and I looked forward to seeing them each Jam.
Bonnie Bramlett also performed at several Jams, and sang backup with a lot of artists, especially The Allman Brothers Band, and this was her first Jam.
Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie returned, along with Toy Caldwell and Paul Riddle from The Marshall Tucker Band, and a second appearance for Grinderswitch and Chuck Leavell.
Sanford Townsend Band performed their hit, “Smoke of a Distant Fire,” and The Outlaws rocked the stage, along with Johnny Lee, Larry Howard, Mylon LeFevre Jamie Nichol and Ricky Barnett, with both Jamie and Mylon previously being guests at the Jam ’75.
But there were also two pretty big names in music at the time who performed which helped elevate the Jam’s status, Steve Miller Band and Willie Nelson.
Both were the hottest things going in rock and in country respectively at the time.
Jam III was combined with music from Jam IV in 1978 to make the double “Volunteer Jam III & IV” album.
One of the highlights from that album is an all-star performance of “Can’t You See,” with Toy Caldwell singing lead while Jimmy Hall played harmonica, Papa John Creach played fiddle and Bonnie Bramlett belting out the backing vocals while other various guests played along with members of the CDB.
It was the epitome of what the Jams were about. Musicians from all different genres coming together and performing, even those you didn’t expect to see on stage at the same time.
You never could tell who was going to walk out on the stage at a Volunteer Jam. It was always a surprise, some bigger than others.
And there will no doubt be more surprises at Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute to Charlie Daniels on August 18, 2021 at Bridgestone Arena. Get tickets HERE
“Ain’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee!”
Let’s all make the day count!
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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