Volunteer Jam IX: New Highs and One Unfortunate Low - Soapbox Jr.
January 22, 1983
Volunteer Jam IX, the seventh one at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium was during my senior year in high school, and it was eventful to say the least.
By this time, my “Hell No! I Don’t Have Any Jam Tickets!” shirt had been retired, and I lost count of how many of my fellow Mt. Juliet Bears football players went with me to the show.
There were new highs and one unfortunate low that I’ll talk about shortly.
Returning were Roy Acuff, Papa John Creach, Dobie Gray, Dickey Betts, Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall, Johnny Lee, Grinderswitch, Carl Perkins, Quarterflash, Steve Walsh & Streets and The Winters Brothers Band, among others.
Tanya (or Tonya as dad always called her) Tucker made her Jam debut, along with Marty Robbins and comedian Jim Varney of “Ernest P. Worrell” fame, who would go on to star in several comedies based on the character who at the time was most famous for doing commercials in various markets. In Middle Tennessee, he was doing Purity milk commercials, in East Tennessee, it was a convenience store, and so forth.
Boxcar Willie also made his Jam debut, along with Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers Band, and Dr. Hook who did – kind of – finally get “The Cover of Rolling Stone” (which is the actual title, even though it is sung “the Rolling Stone”) even if it was only a caricature and not their actual “picture.”
Two very different styles of music also debuted at VolJam XI, the first was Big Band/Swing with The Woody Herman Orchestra who probably was the first (and likely only) clarinet player at a Volunteer Jam.
The other major departure for a Jam was the introduction of soul music in the form of James Brown, who came with his whole entourage, including a horn section and an emcee. James was just a few months shy of being 50 when he took the stage, but with the splits, and spins and dancing he pulled off, you would not know it. He definitely lived up to his moniker as “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”
But I do need to talk about one unfortunate aspect of James Brown’s performance. It was reported that James Brown got booed off the stage, but that was not the case. Here’s what actually happened.
James Brown got cheered when he took the stage. He did “Hot Pants/Cold Sweat,” “I Feel Good (I Got You)” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and dad even sat in and played fiddle.
The problem was, and dad said this was his fault. He was a big James Brown fan and gave him about a 15-minute set, which was probably too much of a good thing, especially with his schtick of appearing too tired to continue and being walked off the stage several times seemed to get old to some fans who were ready for the next act to take the stage. That and James Brown’s emcee repeating “James Brown! James Brown! James Brown!” countless times probably went over really well at one of his shows where all the fans were there to see the Godfather of Soul, but at the Jam, probably way after midnight, some in the crowd seemed to get to the point of being fatigued by all the hyping and faux exiting that was part of his trademark that by the time he did finally walk off the stage, there was a faint chorus of boos below the applause and cheers.
It was a very different style of music than what usually was performed at the Jam, and I think a little went a long way, especially all the hyping.
Before somebody starts screaming “racism,” as the reason for the booing, I don’t believe that was the case. Many African American artists had taken to the Jam stage before, and never gotten booed. Neither Dobie Gray, Rufus Thomas, Papa John Creach, Bobby Jones & New Life, BC&M Mass Choir nor Allman Bros. percussionist, Jaimoe ever got booed at a Volunteer Jam, I just think a couple of songs and a quick exit would have not resulted in the boos, but regardless, they happened, and it was disappointing, but I think way more people enjoyed the spectacle than did not.
Despite that unfortunate aspect of the show, the Jam was another sellout success story, and they would be back at it the following year for another landmark show, the tenth anniversary with Volunteer Jam X.
There will be plenty more surprises at Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute to Charlie Daniels less than a month away 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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