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Rock in the New Year with music and resolve to keep old friends

We got a nice visit from one of the oldest and longest-time readers of the Newport Plain Talk
shortly before Christmas. Zola Ruth (Gilbert) Steelman was at our office to place an obituary for
her son, Robert Steelman, who died Dec. 5 in Virginia. She turned 90 on Oct. 30, 2013. Born in
Greene County, she has lived most of her life in the Houston Valley area near Del Rio and has
been reading the Plain Talk for over 50 years. When talking about Robert, she noted that he had
endured the death of four close family members over a period of two years.
Published: 7:08 PM, 12/27/2013 Last updated: 7:09 PM, 12/27/2013

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

The approach of the New Year promises to usher in more cold days but so far our hometown has escaped ice and snow storms but what is ahead in 2014 remains a mystery. Meanwhile, we will warm up with the company of some friends you know.

We are finishing up our pre-Christmas visit with Tom and Mollie Ottinger of Garner Road off Old Sevierville Highway and hope you visited to see there light display before it is taking-down lights time.

I noticed the bulky soft shoes on Tom’s feet and he explained for many years he suffered with diabetes. Dr. Mike Hood of Family Practice Center is his doctor. The disease has taken its toll so that he uses a motorized wheelchair to work in the lawn decorating for the holidays. That started before Thanksgiving. While he and nephew Bobby Northern worked outside on the fence, house and barn, Mollie decorated inside with Sue Ella’s assistance. I liked the musical lights and greenery along the mantel and the dancing little snowman, with his little twirl about. “We do it for the family,” they said of all the work and cost. Tom hasn’t bothered to check if the light bill went up and doesn’t care. “It’s an effort of love,” they said. Their Pomeranian Snowflake curled up in his soft-lined basket near Mollie’s chair and the fireplace and settled in for the night. “He seems to enjoy all the lights and music. But he never messes with the ornaments and decorations,” said Mollie. It’s a good thing they don’t have cats.

Through this year the Ottingers’ decorations will be ablaze and you can visit even until the arrival of 2014. Mollie has been taking it easy after 19 years housekeeping and maid’s work at the Grand Hotel in Pigeon Forge. Tom likewise has done his share of farming and industry work at Falcon Products. On February 13 she turns 72 and the younger of the two, Tom, is 72 on March 12, their anniversary day of 50 years being married. I hope to see them then for sure. Until then, settle in for a long winter’s night.

And I have a few more words to share about the Fifth Street Saints Band and my talk with band lead guitarist Chad Webb. They mostly perform in Knoxville, the Tri-Cities, North Carolina, and Chattanooga. In Johnson City they usually are at Capone’s and The Bowery in Knoxville. Some of the national bands for which they have opened include Black Stone Cherry, Candle Light Red, Siliva, and Confederate Railroad. On Dec. 5 they appeared at the Honolulu Hard Rock Café, and Dec. 7 at Hawaiian Bryan’s. While the past cast them as an average “bar band,” today they are breaking out to another level.


Saints band on YouTube


The higher level includes writing their lyrics rather than to continue to cover popular songs and entertainers. Newportian Eddie Self, a former drummer, is lead singer. Joey Davis is the drummer, and Shane Hoosier the bass player. “It’s a real group effort now,” said Chad, describing how the band has come together and jelled to be much better than any single member of the band. They love performing and traveling, which allows them “to network with other bands.” This leads to new places to perform and helps get them recognized by national bands. “We use Facebook and Twitter too.” So far they have two videos on YouTube thanks to Jacob Long, a Knoxville videographer. You can watch and listen to “Lucky” or their more popular video, “Dirty.” They also have a five-song CD recording produced by Travis Wyrick of Knoxville. I almost fell over when I heard it cost the band $15,000 for this extended play CD. You can actually understand their song lyrics, as Chad, said “We aren’t screaming. We want people to understand what we say.”

Fifth Street Saints is not out to make any big political statements but to have fun and entertain. Music scouts have taken notice of the band and that is good for them and Newport.  When they flew to L.A. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, Chad’s birthday, it was the first time he had ever flown. “It was a big opportunity for us, one that a lot of bands don’t get.” They have been playing and paying their dues for years and get inspiration from a band like Black Stone Cherry and others.

You know various members of the Woody family. I have written about several over the years such as Paul Woody of Grassy Fork and Luther Woody of Newport. Wallace Woody worked many years as a pressman for the Plain Talk. Chad’s mother, Susan is also a Woody and sister to Wallace. Likewise you probably know some of Wayne Webb’s family. His father was the late Jay Webb and Mom is Ina Mitchell Webb. They had a large family of eight children, Wayne being the youngest. Susan’s parents were Wallace Woody Sr. and Margaret Williamson Woody, of Hartford. Nine of the Woody children are still living. I found out this tidbit related to the front-page story about Pearl Harbor survivor Solomon Black. He used to live at 423 Old Knoxville Hwy. This is the house where Wayne and Susan now live. Did I mention that Chad has a sister, Melissa Webb? You may not recall but many years ago Chad sold the Plain Talk newspaper on his walking route and earned enough money to buy his first guitar. And now I’m writing about him.


Awesome Hawaiian performances


Days after Chad and the band and returned from the long flight back from Hawaii, I called to talk with him to see how everything  turned out. “Amazing,” he said. “We had a great time and met a lot of people.” The highlight was performing before a thousand or more people during the main event: Rock Against Cancer at Hawaiian Brian’s. That was on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. The first concert was at Honolulu’s Hard Rock Café where the Fifth Street Saints performed. “It was a good crowd and response. It was awesome,” said Chad. Rock Against Cancer is a fundraiser for a hospital at Hawaii that treats cancer victims. There were about a dozen bands performing and this gave Fifth Street Saints members a chance to network with many other musicians. The only larger venue they have appeared at was at Mount Eagle near Chattanooga during the Battle of the Bands at the Thunder Rock event.

The departing flight west took about a dozen hours with stops along the way. However, on the return flight, the Arctic blast that blew through the Midwest forced  a detour because Ft. Worth-Dallas Airport was iced over. The band stalled in Los Angeles for 24 hours and finally got a flight to Chicago. “It was snowing and terrifying,” said Chad, who had never flown before. They were able to leave on time in the snow from Chicago to Knoxville without other incident. The band will be hitting the studio to finish another demo recording to have available at upcoming shows in 2014. They are happy to be recognized more for their musical talent and marching into the New Year with renewed excitement.





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