Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Nashville Music Zines, Part One

What was the first music zine in Nashville? That honor, without a doubt, goes to Hank Magazine, published by man-about-town Harvey Magee. Hank focused on "cosmic cowboy" songwriters that had flooded the town during the early-70s, as well as Southern rockers like Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker Band. Hank covered other strains of music -- for example, this humble scribe placed a Johnny Rivers album review in the zine during my senior year of high school -- but Magee's zine was really an unheralded forefather of No Depression, featuring artists like Don Schlitz, Marshall Chapman and Guy Clark.

Then there's Thom King's Take One Magazine, which was really more than just a music zine. Thom, an older guy that I kind of knew from Franklin High School, launched the zine in 1976 with an eye towards serious an early Nashville Scene, with a better balance of local news, thought-provoking articles and entertainment coverage. I came on board somewhere around issue number three or four, after running into Thom at Shakey's Pizza in Green Hills and asking for a gig writing album reviews. By the end of the year, Thom and I were pretty much running the rag on our own, with help from his brother John and writer Sam Borgerson. Hank had pretty much disappeared by '77 and Take One picked up the slack in music coverage. We were the first publication in town to talk about the Ramones and the punk revolution of '77, and if we were also publicized Nashville's "first" rock band, the Smashers, we redeemed ourselves with coverage of Cloverbottom. Almost thirty years later, Thom and I still talk about the trials and tribulations of publishing Take One.

During the waning days of Take One, I disappeared to Detroit for a couple of years (1979-80) and reveled in the ultra-cool punk rock scene exploding in the Motor City. A funny thing happened while I was gone, though -- Nashville developed a rock scene of its own. Working out of a beer joint/hot dog stand by the name of Phrank-N-Steins, Rick Champion provided a forum for original bands like Cloverbottom, the Actuals and others to play. Allen Green's short-lived Grab! music scene documented this growing scene during 1981/82, with great writers like Kent Orlando, Curtis "C Ra" McGuirt, Glenn Hunter and Champion himself. The zine had an irreverent wit, and the couple of copies that I still have of Grab! offer stories on Factual and the Wrong Band as well as reviews of records by the Ratz and the Smashers.

After Green started his own band -- the way-ahead-of-their-time Suburban Baroque -- Grab! fell by the wayside and Nashville was without a real local music zine for a while. I published copies of my own zine Anthem on a sporadic basis, and covered some local bands, but most of Anthem's meager circulation went to places like England, Germany and Poland as well as to LA and NY and Chicago through mail swaps with other zinesters.

Enter Andy Anderson and the Nashville Intelligence Report. I can't remember when, exactly, Andy began publishing NIR but his zine picked up where Grab! left off. Andy was excited about the local music scene, and the zine featured many of the same writers that had populated Grab! Somewhere along the line I got involved with the project, and Andy published the zine for several years, championing local bands but also covering national artists like Katrina & the Waves and Los Lobos. When Andy went home for a year (Knoxville, I think), Rick Champion took on the mantle as publisher and NIR carried on without missing a beat. When Andy returned, he took back over from Rick and published NIR until after Gus Palas came to town and launched the more commercially-oriented Metro music magazine. Andy stopped publishing NIR and ended up doing some writing for The Metro during the late-80s. Andy was a good writer with a real fanboy's enthusiasm for the music; he fled the local scene during the dark days of the mid-90s, relocating to New York City, where I sadly lost touch with him.

More about The Metro in part two....

Corrections (06/19/06): Evidently Thom King's memory is better than mine at this point in our respective lives. Thom launched Take One Magazine in 1977, and it was the summer of that year that we ran into each other at Shakey's Pizza. In '76 the Reverend was actually kicking around Texas, pissing off then future-president Ronald Reagan (another story entirely) and eventually working in the molybdenum mines of Colorado before landing back in Nashville at the end of the year. Also, as Thom reminds me, he's not really an "older guy" but rather just three years older than yours truly. Thanks, Thom!


Blogger B.D.W. said...

I wrote for both those 'zines back in the day; album & concert reviews & artist interviews for Hank (and don't forget Dean Hitt, who was a much a part of it as Harvey), and articles and fiction for Take One. It was a blast, and I sometimes wish I had stayed in the business. Oh well, marriage and kids changes your dreams sometimes. :)

Jim Webb

4:44 PM  

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