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- [Announcer] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by. - [Narrator] Truist is committed to the communities and people it serves across Tennessee. Offering in-person and online banking, investment, and other financial services for individuals and businesses. More at truist.com Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at TNTrailsAndByways.com - [Joe Elmore] This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," a story for the record, vinyl that is, at a trendy shop in Nashville. Then, we'll discover a one-man carousel making project in Franklin. We'll go back to the 50s at a diner in Alcoa, and wind up in Lynchburg where whiskey takes the cake. Hi, everybody I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome again to "Tennessee Crossroads." Whether you call them albums, LPs, or records, vinyl is much in style again. This resurgence is really hitting all the right notes for one Nashville indie record store, one that's been around for a couple of decades. Laura Faber introduces us to Grimey's Records. It's one of the first of its kind in Music City. - [Laura Faber] There is something about the ritual of putting a record on a turntable, placing the needle on the vinyl, and hearing the analog quality of an LP. The hisses and scratches, the unclean sound, the warmth. The imperfection itself is making this format perfect again for a whole new audience. - We sell records. Yes, chiefly. Any physical recorded media format just about. We've got books, we've got DVDs and Blu-rays, we've got the little records, the 45s, we've got cassettes, um probably an eight track or two kicking around. - [Laura Faber] Mike Grimes and Doyle Davis are the co-owners of Grimey's New and Pre-loved Music Store, which launched in 1999 in a tiny house in Berry Hill. - I came up with the... or was bestowed with the inspiration to open the record store. I did notice that there was a void, and there was not what I considered to be a Floyd's Barbershop of record stores, i.e. a place where like-minded music geeks could come and like ply their wares, talk to people, and basically that pre-social media you know, physical hang was something that I really felt people needed in Nashville. And it happened to be physical format music-based. - [Laura Faber] It didn't take long for Grimey's to outgrow their 600-square foot house. It reopened on 8th Avenue where the store operated for nearly 15 years, offering all formats of all kinds of music. - [Doyle Davis] We don't specialize in any one specific thing, other than maybe local community. I mean, we do go out of our way to stock a lot of local music. - [Mike Grimes] And a big part of the fabric of the store has been in-store live appearances to support records by national acts and local acts. That was part of the early mission statement also, was to basically have a lot of live music in the store, free beer on Saturdays. - [Laura Faber] Now in its third and hopefully last location at an old church in East Nashville where Grimey's still hosts live performances. - I mean, we were so glad when we found this spot you know, after we walked in and decided this is our new spot, we realized okay, the Ryman is the mother church, and Grimey's is the other church. - [Laura Faber] The pandemic forced them to explore other income streams, like selling online, and they realized they could sell their walls for label art. On this day, a mural is being painted celebrating the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell's album, titled Blue. Though vinyl sales took a nose dive when streaming came along, it's experiencing a resurgence. In Mike and Doyle's opinion, the format remains the best way to experience music. From the cover art, and liner notes, to the sound quality itself. - [Doyle Davis] Vinyl has a level of warmth, and of detail. It truly is like the high depth. It's the HD of music. I know they make digital formats now that are also HD, but there is something about vinyl, the soundstage, the louder you turn it up the more detail comes into the room. - [Mike Grimes] He described it perfectly, there's an intimacy involved that you just don't get. - [Doyle Davis] Streaming formats make it too easy to skip songs and people get sucked into play listing everything. Putting it on random? What is that about? The artists put a sequence together on purpose. It's part of the art. It's part of how it's supposed to be absorbed and digested. And you know, vinyl is the truest format for that. - [Laura Faber] And it's not just mature music lovers buying classic rock albums. The hottest selling LPs these days are Harry styles, Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish. By the way, that younger audience calls them vinyls. - If you say the word vinyls, it almost immediately gives you away as a newbie. - It also, if you have a problem with the word vinyls, it immediately gives you away as an old convention. - I just, I'm team vinyls. That's what our young customers call them. - When you come to Grimey's Records, you're not only here to buy vinyl, but you're also here for the knowledge of the staff. If you like a certain artist, the staff can likely tell you about other artists that you might not know about. The ultimate staff pick, Doyle, let's talk about this. This is your album. - Yes, it is called The Jazz Dispensary Series, They do one of these every year for Record Store Day. And a few years ago, they asked me to compile one, and I did The Dank Defunct Blend, and volume two has just come out this past Saturday for Record Store Day - [Laura Faber] Inventory for their pre-loved albums comes from individuals. - [Employee] There's some weird ones. - [Laura Faber] Prices are fair and affordable. Though there is that rare vinyl that can empty your wallet. But to browse through records, talk with like-minded music fans, is exactly what Mike and Doyle wanted all along. They couldn't have written better lyrics. - [Mike Grimes] When I was 11 years old, I decided, after I saw "Kissed" that this would be what I do for life. If it's not playing music, it's working music in some way, shape or form. That's all I've ever done. And you know, it took a long time before I actually made a really decent living at it, even into my mid-thirties, but the journey was so much fun. I consider everything that I've gone through to just have been a life well lived, and a lot of fun has been had along the way. - All right brownies If we can sing this early Then surely you can Help us sing! - [Doyle Davis] I mean, sharing this passion with all the people that are attracted to it here, you know, it's one of the most fulfilling things I can imagine in life. - [Singer] You sound good! - Thanks, Laura. There's something magical about an old time carousel, something that inspired an artist to take on the task of building his own. Ken Means is reviving an almost lost art form, While following a time dream. - [Ken Means] You can't go into a carousel and walk out and not be a little happier, and that's what I want to leave behind. - [Joe Elmore] If you take a rotary ride into a special chapter of history, you'll discover that golden age of carousels from 1880 to 1930. While thousands of classic wooden models were built and operated during the era, today less than 200 are still running. One is in Memphis. It was built by Gustav Dentzel in 1909, recently restored and now housed in the Memphis children's museum. In the late 1990s famed Nashville native artist, Red Grooms created his own quirky untraditional carousel. Instead of horses or other animals, he rode on images of historical Tennessee characters. While the ride was short, the carousel spirit lives on. Here at the factory in Franklin, you can witness the creation of the latest Tennessee carousel. It's a soon to be finished long-term dream of an artist named Ken Means. - [Ken Means] I started out as an oil painter, portraits and that sort of thing. And then I went into scenic art. I did some, some scenes for movies and plays a lot of it. I did several, well quite a number of plays. Started carving as a kind of a hobby. - [Joe Elmore] Ken Means is a veteran artist whose talent covers the gamut. When he and wife Betty moved from Oregon to Franklin to be close to their kids, Ken brought along 20 completed carousel animals with more to come. His collection is unique because most of the colorful creatures are named after animals and popular stories. - [Ken] Hidalgo, in the back corner there is from is from a true life story of a horse, Indian pony that was a, did a race across Africa. I did Prince Valiant's horse, that black one, way in the back. Prince Valiant was the son of King Arthur. So when I did Prince Valiant's horse, I did King Arthur's horse. - [Joe Elmore] Then there's the largest member of his menagerie, this hardy and hefty lion. - [Ken Means] Aslan, he's from the Bell Book and Candle series. The big, huge lion that's in there. - [Joe Elmore] From each animal idea, Ken creates a sketch, which may or may not look like the finished piece. - [Ken Means] The drawings are just to get the pieces going. That's the rough idea, I'm building off of that, and then when I'm carving away, well we'll make this change, we'll do that. You'll see changes from the lion, to the lion. - [Joe Elmore] When it's time to start putting those carving tools to use, the head always comes first. - [Ken Means] I try to get the personality of the animal to start with. I don't look for realism as much as I do the essence of the animal. If I can capture the look of the goat, the essence of the goat, that's what I'm after. The bodies are usually the last part. On all the animals, the bodies are hollow, like that one over there. Their necks are hollow. And on the big animals, even the heads are hollow. - [Joe Elmore] Inside the hollow bodies, Ken places a time capsule of sorts, pictures, a poem maybe, just a way of leaving a piece of the present for future. - [Ken Means] The reason for that being was, I've done a lot of restoration work. You know, by the time I break something open and look inside, there's nothing there. The only thing I ever found was, in one I found some shredded newspaper and in an another one I found a big rat. - [Joe Elmore] Needless to say, he gets lots of attention from passers by. To wide-eyed youngsters, the colorful, whimsical characters can be irresistible. - [Ken Means] Probably have at least minimum a 100 kids. - [Joe Elmore] Is that right? And you don't mind? - [Ken] No. Heck no. That's what it's all about. You know, you go to a museum or you go to a gallery, you go someplace and you can't touch anything. You can't take pictures, not here. You know, kids come in and they go crazy and they put their fingers all over it. I'm cleaning windows and horses every day. And that's what I want to leave behind. Something that people can use for a 100 years. These animals are built strong enough to withstand with care a hundred years or more. - [Joe Elmore] Before long Ken will have completed 32 carousel creatures, 11 standers or stationary animals, 21 jumpers, the ones that move up and down, and two chariots, one of which will be wheelchair compatible. So soon, his merry-go-round menagerie need a home. - We're looking for a place to put it. I like Cheekwood, I like Franklin. You know, somewhere between there and here. Then I can walk away and feel that I've left a contribution to society that everybody can enjoy. - [Joe Elmore] Few time periods bring back sentimental feelings like the 1950s. The birth of rock and roll, classic cars, sock hops, malt shops, it goes on. Well if you'd like to take a walk down memory lane or a drive, here's a restaurant in Alcoa that will let you do just that. Gretchen Bates has the story of Hot Rods 50s Diner. - [Ray Schwartz] I'm just Looking for the step back in time feel with chrome, the neon signs, the Elvis records, just trying to give you more of a retro, true 50s diner feel. - [Gretchen Bates] Move over HG Wells, Ray Schwartz built a real time machine. From the jukebox to burgers and fries, everything about Hot Rods 50s Diner is designed to whisk you back to the days of malt shops and Marilyn Monroe. But Ray didn't always have it made in the shade, his first gig was working with amphibians. - [Ray Schwartz] I was a dishwasher and I breaded frog legs. And that's because nobody else wanted to bread them I guess. And I was the lowest man on the totem pole. - [Gretchen Bates] Ray finally forgot the frog legs, leaped out of Squaresville, and into his dreams. - [Ray Schwartz] I always loved cars. You know, I always loved neon, and you know, the retro, you know, look. - [Gretchen Bates] Every inch of real estate at Hot Rods is jam packed with fifties memorabilia. - [Ray Schwartz] I just really want to do something that was fun. And I went to a lot of the local, little antique shops and stuff like that and picked up where wherever I could find that would fit the, you know, the retro feel that I was looking for. - [Gretchen Bates] But you don't just run across authentic booths and chairs in an antique shop. Those babies are custom made. - [Ray Schwartz] They're actually modeled after a Chevy. You know, I think it's more like a Bel Air type of backseat, is what the, the look they were going for. - [Gretchen Bates] Muscle car memories are nice, but it's the menu that's guaranteed to get your motor running, and believe me when I say there's a whole lot of shaking going on. - [Ray Schwartz] We make our shakes the old fashioned way where we, you know, we hand spin them. They're not from soft serve ice cream. They're actually hand dipped ice cream, 16 flavors of hand dipped ice cream. We have a lot of desserts. - And I'll be honest with you, I've not had many of the desserts because usually after the hamburger you don't really have much room for anything after that. - [Gretchen Bates] Hamburgers? Yeah, different styles? Hot Rods might have one or two, or 80. - [Ray Schwartz] We have over 80 burgers. We have pork burgers. We have black bean burgers. We do have chicken burgers. - Among the 80 burgers, you can sink your teeth into at Hot Rods, this monster is the most famous. It might even be your ticket to the wall of fame. - [Ray Schwartz] We have a challenge called The Chubby, and that's why all the pictures are on the walls. It's three patties that are 11 ounces each, and for a total of 33 ounces, they have to eat it with a pound of fries within 30 minutes. And they get their picture on the wall and they get a free shirt that says, "I got a Chubby at Hot Rods 50s Diner" - [Gretchen Bates] Now, as you can imagine, The Chubby Challenge isn't for everyone. But every once in a while, a rare breed of dietary desperado moseys into town looking for a beef with The Chubby. - [Gretchen Bates] A valued effort. - I gave it my best shot. - [Gretchen Bates] Any advice for future challengers? - 30 minutes sounds like a long time, but it's not a lot. That's not enough time. You gotta just eat. - [Gretchen Bates] Just eat. Wise words, especially at Hot Rods because burgers and shakes are just a fraction of the whole delicious story. - [Ray Schwartz] Food wise, if you're not looking for a burger, we have, you know, all traditional 50s diner food, including pot roast, which we, everything's made from scratch. We have killer grilled cheese, chicken pot pie. We have just about everything you would expect to find in a 50s diner. - [Gretchen Bates] And a few things you may not expect to find, allow me to introduce The Hog. - [Ray Schwartz] We take a pork loin, we cut it and then we pound it, and then we season it with salt and pepper. And then we actually marinate it in a egg buttermilk batter, and then we bread it and pan fry it. It's huge. - [Gretchen Bates] Huge aptly describes The Hog, as well as the menu. - [David Bills] Our menu is so expansive. There's going to be something for everyone, and everything is, you know, homemade. It's made in house. If you're ordering, even onion rings, you know, we're cutting them and we're battering them to order. So everything's very fresh. The patties are made probably an hour or two before you order them. No matter what you get, it's going to be good. And there is something for everyone. - [Gretchen Bates] David Bills is the manager at Hot Rods. This young man takes great pride in his work and you can taste it. - [David Bills] We have plenty of options that we make from scratch in house. Anything from the marinara or the chicken pot pie soup, to the burgers. You know, we don't, we have chicken tenders, but we don't just buy chicken tenders. We take chicken breasts, we cut them to size, we use those scraps. We grind them to make burgers. It's all very efficient, very fresh. There's not anything that you're going to get here that was made in, you know, a factory or something like that. It's all the real deal, local, good, yummy food. - At the end of the day, you know, when everybody, and we start closing up and everybody's just happy and leaving here and you know, we see all the comments on Facebook and everything, and all the reviews. It just gives me a great feeling and actually makes me, you know, I have a great night's sleep after a day like that. - [Gretchen Bates] Chances are after eating at Hot Rods Diner you'll sleep well too. Just wait until you get home, please. - That hamburgers probably about the size I am. So I don't think I'd, I might get it down, but getting back to the house will be the problem. - People come approach me and tell me how much they love the restaurant, and it really means a lot to make an impact in the community and just to have a place where people can come and make memories is really special. - Many of our favorite dishes come from old family recipes handed down from generation to generation. Several years back, Tressa Bush met a Lynchburg man who turned a 130 year old recipe into a booming business. Thanks in part to a special ingredient that made Lynchburg world famous. - [Tressa Bush] You could say it's cake with a kick. - [Tressa Bush] What's the kick? Jack Daniel's whiskey. The thing that put Moore County and Lynchburg, Tennessee on the map. Retired accountant and Lynchburg resident Billy Thomas created this concoction and calls it the Lynchburg Whiskey Cake. In the beginning, it was just Billy and his niece Clita. Now he has six employees. And Billy says this sweet venture began because he was bored. - [Billy Thomas] I just knew I couldn't sit down. I just can't do it. I've got to do something, I don't have enough to do. And I've been thinking for years about a cake, and probably 30 or 40 years about a cake and a restaurant. I used to want to own a restaurant, a steak restaurant, and a night business. And either that, or are making something to market. Wanted to be in manufacturing, so I thought this is what I need to do. And I liked that cake, and I thought this, I just know would hit the market well. - [Tressa Bush] That cake Billy is talking about is one his beloved mother Ethma, whose nickname is Bunt, used to make when he was growing up. - [Billy Thomas] Well, it was just mother's favorite cake. She'd say, "I'm making my favorite cake for the kids", you know, and it was made at Christmas time. - [Tressa Bush] Since his mother's favorite cake did not include liquor, Billy had to modify the recipe just a little bit. Once he and his family agreed with the taste, Billy decided he needed to ask strangers their opinion. - [Billy Thomas] I cared downtown, because we have a lot of tourists here in Lynchburg. I cared for the clerks and the tourists on the street that didn't know me so it'd be independent, just old, simple way, "Would you like to taste this cake?" and they'd taste it. "And how did you like the cake? And just tell me the truth" And they would tell me. And I just wanted to do 50 cakes a month and sell them to the stores downtown for tourists that comes here to have something, a little novelty out of the care of home. And by the time we got going a couple months, it was up to 200 cakes a month. And the end of the year was at 500. - [Tressa Bush] Wow. - So it grew from that. And it's still growing. Now we're doing 300 a day. - [Tressa Bush] The work is done in a quaint building, that looks more like a country cottage than a factory. And Billy, he never has to walk very far to work because it's in his backyard. - [Billy Thomas] We're out here on the farm, making it, we want to make it the way she made it. - Billy made the cakes for about 13 months before deciding he was ready to diversify. He came up with the idea to make some candy and his wife Nancy, thought something with pecans would be nice. So Billy's idea became the Lynchburg Whiskey Balls and Nancy's idea became the Lynchburg Whiskey Pecan Pralines. A Whiskey Ball is a sugar based candy mixed in with pieces of pecans and hand dipped in milk chocolate. The pralines are jumbo pecan halves from Georgia coated in a candy mix, and of course both items are flavored with Jack Daniel's. - [Billy Thomas] It hit the market well, and it really went good again. I started it with the stores down in Lynchburg. - [Tressa Bush] Because the company makes so many products flavored with Jack Daniel's whiskey, you may be wondering, "how is Billy able to transport the amount he needs each month in to a dry county?" Well, we wondered too. - [Billy Thomas] I went to the legislature with my own bill, to allow me to haul unlimited quantities into a dry county to use at this bakery. And it was passed. - [Tressa Bush] A bakery that began as a hobby has grown into a successful business for Billy Thomas. Life for him is now sweeter than ever. - [Billy Thomas] I wish I'd started this 30, 40 years ago when I first had the idea. I just kept putting off, wanting to, and it's really enjoyable. It's always good to be in business yourself. I loved my career. I had a great career. It was one I wouldn't trade back for anything, but at the same time, I wish I'd started my business because I love it. - Well, I'm afraid that's it for this week's Tennessee Crossroads. Thanks for joining us. Please check out our website from time to time, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, and by all means, join me here next week. See you then. - Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by: - Truist is committed to the communities and people it serves across Tennessee. Offering in-person and online banking, investment, and other financial services for individuals and businesses. More at truist.com. - Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at TNTrailsAndByways.com.
September 16, 2021
Season 35 | Episode 09
Laura Faber checks out stacks of wax at Grimey's New & Preloved Music. Joe Elmore discovers a one-man carousel making project in Franklin. Gretchen Bates gets lost in the 50’s at a diner in Alcoa. And Tressa Bush finds a bakery in Lynchburg where whiskey takes the cake.
Watch Clips from this Episode
Ken Means’ Carousel
There's something magical about an old-time carousel. Something that inspired an artist to take on the task of building his own. Ken Means is reviving an almost lost art form, while following a longtime dream. You can watch him in action at his studio inside the Factory in Franklin, TN. Join us on Tennessee Crossroads and Nashville Public Television to find out more.
Hot Rods 50’s Diner
Few time periods bring back sentimental feelings like the 1950s. The birth of rock and roll, Classic Cars, sock hops, and malt shops. Well, if you'd like to take a walk down memory lane, there's a restaurant in Alcoa, TN that will let you do just that. Gretchen Bates has the story of Hot Rods 50's diner. Watch this and more episode segments of Nashville Public Television's Tennessee Crossroads.