Brackins' celebrates 5 years with barbecue and Grammy-winning blues

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By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

Ask Herman Long the secret to the success of Brackins’ Blues Club, and he’ll point to the act that played during the establishment’s five-year anniversary party - Grammy winning blues singer Joe Louis Walker.

Long, of Blount County, said the quality of musical acts was a primary reason for Brackins’ success. "I think it’s the bands they get. You can see Joe Lewis at a festival with 10,000 people and pay $35," he said. "What Mark and Linda have put together here is an opportunity not to have to drive to a big city to see these acts."

The club was jammed with customers Sunday for the anniversary bash. Many showed several hours early to enjoy barbecue that Bill Russell and Mike Adams spent 18 hours preparing from Saturday morning until late Sunday afternoon. Others came just in time to see Walker take the stage at 8 p.m. A few even came for an early dinner, left, and returned for the evening show.

Tina and Rick McCarty are helping to open the new Toogie’s club two doors down from Brackins’ Blues Club. They have their own Brackins’ story.

"We actually met here. This has been the best thing that has happened in Maryville. I grew up in Maryville, and we needed a place, and Mark gave us that.

"There wasn’t a music scene in Maryville until Mark Brackins opened this place," Rick McCarty said.

Jill Halberg and her husband, Bob, have been coming to Brackins since it opened. "The first week it opened, we were here," Bob Halberg said. "We thought it was great. It’s always been a comfortable place. We’ve never had to worry about trouble."

"It’s a fun place but not too stuffy," Jill Halberg said.

Bob added that it is a very eclectic group of people who comes to Brackins. "From the ‘suits’ to the bikers, young to old -- it’s not a local hangout where (just) the same crowd comes," he said. "It is a constantly moving crowd."

Terry Allred and her husband, Cecil, have also enjoyed Brackins since it opened. "I’m from New Orleans, and I’ve heard better blues and more of it in Mark Brackins’ club than I could have anywhere in New Orleans," she said.

Cecil praised Mark and Linda Brackins for the atmosphere at the club. "Frankly, it has more of a Northern neighborhood bar feel," he said. "Mark and Linda make you feel like they’ve known you forever."

Wade West, bass player for the band Dixie Werewolves, said he fell in love with the atmosphere that Mark and Linda Brackins have created at the club. "We held our wedding reception here," said West’s wife, Teresa.

Marty Clemons credited the safe feel of the club for why it is so popular. "I’ve never been a bar person. A lot of places I felt like I had to look over my shoulder," he said. "It’s just comfortable and safe, and people can have a good time without worrying about all the bar hassles."

Jim Cunningham shared the sentiment and said Brackins Blues Club was successful in part because the atmosphere was congenial. "Every place has a strategic niche and Brackins is that," he said.

Bill Russell and Adams prepared the barbecue that everyone enjoyed at the anniversary party. "We put it on at 10 Saturday morning and took it off at 6 p.m. today," Russell said. "It’s slow to go." Russell said he was part of the Hogs in the Fog barbecue team that won the Tennessee state barbecue championship in 1999 and 2001.

Russell said people who go to Brackins make it such a good place to be. "You never have any problems. You show up with an attitude, and you’re asked to leave quickly," he said. "If you’re here to have fun, you fit."

Philip Sharp with the band Hollowtree said one of the draws of Brackins is the live music. "The live music is going to be good, and people you know are here," he said.

Erik McCaffrey described Brackins by comparing to an old NBC television show. "It’s a comfortable atmosphere," he said. "It’s Maryville’s Cheers."

Joe Chastain has worked at Brackins since the first year it opened, and he said the owners, clientele and employees make it a good place. "First and foremost, it’s Mark and Linda Brackins. They’re two of the nicest people I’ve ever known. The clientele, everybody gets along OK," he said. "The employees work well together. It’s like one big family."

Leann Moe has worked at the club for several years and said the customers are a key to the success. "It has a lot to do with the regulars," she said. "Without our customers, we couldn’t’ do it. It’s their support for live music."

Mark Brackins said that in the next five years he hopes to continue bringing in big names in blues and rock. One improvement to the club was made in less than 12 hours on June 1, two days before the anniversary celebration. Workers put up an extension to the rear deck that more than doubled the deck space. "Maybe we’ll expand the deck further and do some acoustic acts out here," he said as he stood near the new portion.

Brackins recognized that other music establishments are planning to open near his club. "With more venues, it’s going to bring more people down here," he said. "In five years, basically, we’ll be right here continuing on with what we’re doing."
Brackins said he planned to expand the kitchen and hopes to draw more of a daily lunch crowd. "Mike Adams is taking over the kitchen, and he has got a lot of experience," Brackins said.

Adams said he went through the menu to see what items were popular with customers and which weren’t. Adams will add several new items to the menu, including a new chicken salad sandwich, a tuna melt and a shrimp poorboy sandwich with a homemade sauce. In addition, there will be potato skins as well as pasta salad and potato salad, he said.

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