‘Suttree’s Knoxville’ provides sublime summer evening

The setting at Lakeshore Park for “Suttree’s Knoxville.”

It was a stunningly beautiful evening last week at Lakeshore Park when the Big Ears Festival presented “Suttree’s Knoxville,” a silent film accompanied by live music. The film chronicled Knoxville during the four years in the 1950s which provided the setting of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “Suttree.”

Knoxville’s first poet laureate, R.B. Morris, read excerpts from the 1979 book and Morris, along with fellow musicians Greg Horne, Daniel Kimbro, Will Boyd, Kelle Jolly, Jake Xerxes Fussell and others, performed on a stage beside the 40-foot screen.

Ashley Capps, executive director of Big Ears, estimated the crowd at more than 1,000, a number which exceeded expectations and caused a quick sellout of the beer and wine offered in the refreshment tent.

I’m not sure why, since the novel is so bleak, but the mood at Lakeshore Park was absolutely joyous. Maybe it was just the fun of getting out in groups again or running into old friends and acquaintances. Or the showstopping setting which included dramatic clouds at sunset.

The 70-minute film was compiled by archivist Eric Dawson from the extensive collection of films and photographs owned by the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS).

Rusha Sams, left, with Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon.

Major funding for the free event was provided by the Aslan Foundation.

Former Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, right, with Tony Farris and Nancy Campbell.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, center, with Dr. George and Susan Krisle.

Knoxville City Councilman Charles Thomas looked comfy!

Musicians Will Boyd and Kelle Jolly.

Don Williams, center, with Michael and Evelyn Gill.

R.B. Morris.

Ashley Capps.

Aaron Greenwald, left, and Bryan Crow, both of Big Ears.

Julia and Gary Bentley.

From left, Jon Agazzi, Sheena McCall, Mardel Fehrenbach and Barbara Apking.

Artist Richard Jolley, left, with Melissa and Tom McAdams.

Three Big Ears board members: Mark Grayson, left, Paul Parris and Tommie Rush.

Ronnie Collins and Kim Trent.

From left, Connie Whitehead, Ruth Horton, former Mayor Madeline Rogero, Mary Thom Adams, David Massey and Eldora Fitzsimmons.

Cathy and Mark Hill, at left, with Sheila and Chris Hill.

Waiting for sunset.

Eddie Speeks is ready on the soundboard.

It’s almost time!


Here’s a sample of the Smoky Mountain shots near the end of the film:



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7 Responses to ‘Suttree’s Knoxville’ provides sublime summer evening

  1. Alan Carmichael, on July 14th, 2021 at 2:04 pm said:

    Great job arranging those clouds in the background. Seriously, it was a very pleasant Big Ears evening.

  2. Rusha Sams, on July 14th, 2021 at 2:45 pm said:

    A marvelous night all around: excellent footage from TAMIS, interesting segments from the book Suttree, music played passionately, vocals that moved us all, and great weather in a great city park. What a way to kick off summer! Thanks for pictures and coverage, Cynthia.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on July 14th, 2021 at 3:01 pm said:

    Alan: Those clouds had a lot to do with what a great night it was!

    Rusha: Thanks! Fun seeing you. Agree with all you said.

    Everybody: Be sure and mark your calendars for March 24 – 27, 2022. That’s when the entire Big Ears Festival will return! Even more fun experiences in store!

  4. Melinda Meador, on July 14th, 2021 at 4:32 pm said:

    How fabulous! Wish we could have been there!

  5. Lillian Mashburn, on July 14th, 2021 at 7:43 pm said:

    Wonderful evening!! Thanks to the Aslan Foundation, Big Ears and the other sponsors for a great event. Saw and reconnected with many friends that I haven’t seen in over a year!!!! The movie showed the Knoxville of my childhood.

  6. Kathy Brennan, on July 14th, 2021 at 8:20 pm said:

    I was there. Fabulous night; great coverage of the book Suttree. Cormac McCarthy graduated from Knoxville Catholic high school here in Knoxville. I went to school with his younger siblings. They lived in South Knoxville across the Henley bridge and the Tennessee River where this story took place.

    It was a good night shared by the huge crowd that gathered to enjoy the evening and the story of Suttree.

  7. Jacquelyn Cantrell, on July 15th, 2021 at 12:37 pm said:

    The music and singing that went along with this film was fantastic. I enjoyed everything about the evening, including the clouds. So glad the rain held off. I had just started the book ”Suttree” the night before and that little bit I’d read helped me relate to the movie. Excellently done!

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