You may not have heard of Ray Wylie Hubbard — you should, but I get it; old, grizzled singer-songwriters
from Texas aren’t exactly a hot commodity on an average Scot’s Apple Music playlist — but he likely had
the same reaction you do when it comes to The Shed.
The Shed, incidentally, would be The Shed Smokehouse and Juke Joint, a live music venue located just
up Lamar Alexander Parkway if you’re driving toward Lenoir City. It’s a part of and adjacent to Smoky
Mountain Harley-Davidson, and if you know anything about Harleys, you know this: They’re loud, a
couple thousand pounds of chrome and steel that sound like they run on testosterone and blood from
If you’re a Harley rider, you’re a loyal foot soldier to the brand. If you ride another kind of bike, you may
very well detest the enthusiasm Harley owners have for their particular machines. And if you don’t ride
at all, you may think that going to see music and hang out at a place affiliated with Harleys sounds like a
very bad idea.
Ray Wylie (seriously; check him out; “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” is a classic, but his
contemporary material is just as good) thought so as well, the first time he and the boys traveled to
Maryville to play there. That was years ago, he told me a while back, and he half-expected the “stage” to
be the back of a flatbed trailer overlooking a gravel parking lot.
“When we were getting close, I told my road guys, ‘If this looks sketchy, just keep driving!’” Hubbard
told me. “But we pulled in there, and everybody came up to greet us, and the audience had smiles on
their faces, and they were really happy we were there. They were whooping and hollering, and I knew
they weren’t jiving! It’s a very special gig and a very special place, and that’s why people keep coming
back. Some of these bands play there the first time, before their records come out, but even when they
get big, they keep coming back.”
It’s true. Just ask Paul Smith, the concert manager of the venue. You may have heard of Sturgill Simpson
and Chris Stapleton, who have in the last several years headlined the Civic Coliseum and Thompson-
Boling Arena in Knoxville. And you might know celebrated singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, who recently
did a two-night, sold-out stand at The Bijou Theatre, also in Knoxville. But on their way up, all three
played The Shed.
“You never know which one is going to make it big, or at least when,” Paul told me recently. “We try to
gather a large pool of up-and-coming artists and give them a chance. One of Chris Stapleton’s
appearances was with The Jompson Brothers in 2013 as an indoor show, but tickets were only $5! I
could list hundreds of artists who have grown over the years and made multiple appearances before
making it to the big time.”
The great thing about The Shed? There’s live music there every weekend, and every weekend through
the end of March, the shows are inside in what’s called The Smokin’ Monkey Lounge. (Sidenote: There
is, unfortunately, no simian on the premises. The Smokin’ Monkey is Alan Mann, a tophat-wearing
emcee who’s a fixture at most shows.) It’s a venue with a great vibe, and most of the shows are free.
(Another side note: MC alum Chris Hennessee ’97, who has made a career as a guitarist for Jamey Johnson
and is a respected singer-songwriter in his own right, plays there March 4; tickets are $15 for that one.)
When it comes to our indoor venue, we provide a wide range of acts from local favorites to breakout
national artists, with a full bar and restaurant and the space to give people a chance to get up close with
the artists or lean back at one of our tables in the back near the fireplace,” Paul said. “You still hear the
music piped through our entire facility and video of the band on stage, so there’s not one bad seat in the
In April, the music moves outdoors to the covered pavilion, where the lineup consists of everything from
tribute acts to classic rock bands like Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd and Guns ‘n’ Roses to a
smorgasbord of genres featuring famous names in Southern rock, classic rock, country, Americana and
The outdoor shows are ticketed ones, but trust me: You get your money’s worth, because it’s a primo
venue with a professional sound and lighting system. The food’s pretty swell, too, and did I mention it’s
an all-ages place?
All ages … and all types of folks. You don’t have to ride a Harley, or even a motorcycle.
“There is no judgment on who walks through the doors of our establishment, and we welcome all,” Paul
said. “I believe we are providing a space for everyone to enjoy music. There aren’t a lot of venues in the
East Tennessee area that can provide such an intimate setting with the artists, even with our outdoor