The Swank Pad's "Best of Knoxville"

I've lived in Knoxville pretty much since 1982. My taste is for the funky and quirky, for the things that are perfectly Knoxville, and timeless. Some of the things I love would make some people uncomfortable, but if you are interested in the off-beat path and the gritty, real and interesting things, and of course, the vintage modern, you'll want to visit these places.


Brother Jack's building on right, after his father's passing, first opened it in the 1946.

"One of the more enduring businesses of Mechanicsville was operated by Charles Andrew Jackson. Better known as “Brother Jack,” He came to Knoxville from Harriman. Tennessee in 1900 when he was six years old with his father, a wrought iron worker who traveled to various cities with “rolling mills” in search of work. In 1922 twenty-eight year old Brother Jack started the Jackson Meat Market in the Floyd Building at the comer of College and University. He had earlier learned the art of cutting meat at a butcher shop in the Old Market House.

His business was so successful, he and his father built the Jackson Building at the corner of University and Dunbar in 1923. That building which would later be known as the Delta Hotel was a mercantile operation patterned after the popular Sands Store for railroad men on Magnolia Avenue. The meat market and grocery store were on the first floor. The upstairs section featured a well-stocked clothing store that appealed to the black and white railroad men who lived in the area.

After the death of his father and having health problems, Jackson sold the business to Leon Nance and moved to the country for recuperation. In 1946 he moved to another location on University Avenue with a new idea. He had developed his unique barbecue sauce and had invented “The Pig Burger.” His slogan “Brother Jack Feeds the Soul” caught on and people came from miles around to feast on his burgers, ribs and shoulder sandwiches. He died at age 93 in 1988."

Knoxville has its own barbeque tradition which is perhaps the best there is. I was introduced to Brother Jack's barbeque around 1986. I used to hang out with Tip Jackson on Thursday afternoons waiting for the first pigburgers to be ready. For a long while I was there every Thursday, and often Friday and Saturday too. I got to know him and Eugene "Jeep" Jackson and his son Sonny. I had a lot of great nights down there listening to Marvin Gaye and Tip drinkin' his Old Charter and Jeep with his gin. Those were great times. But, that was great barbeque. I'll grant that the health department never went in there and would have given him a zero score, but I also knew Tip was a retired butcher and knew how to handle the meat like the pro he was. There simply was nothing like his sauce, which was his Dad's sauce. When his dad died and he got pneumonia at the funeral and ended up not cooking any longer, it was a real loss. A number of years later I tried Sarge's barbeque and knew I tasted a familiar flavor. And I found that Sarge's name was Jackson too! And then he closed. Recently I discovered that old familiar flavor again at the only great barbeque in Knoxville, Dixson's.

You can get the original Brother Jack's Barbeque Sauce HERE.


What I am talking in terms of shopping is vintage, mid-century and modern. Antique stores and shops. Not a huge amount to pick from, but there are some good ones.

Bars, Dives and Nightspots

Other Attractions

A cruise down Magnolia Avenue is scary and cool. There are a lot of vintage motels and shops along there. In the evening, some of the neon glows and the Pizza Palace sign is incredible. You can squint and see the heyday of the motel. You may also see prostitutes. Clinton Highway has some of the same appeal, all the way into Clinton where the drug store is another great little dinner. Chapman Highway has many remaining motels as well, but they are generally plain, but intact and open.

Memories Theater in Pigeon Forge has an incredible salute to Elvis. Lou Vuto is really the best. I suggest you skip the warm up show. Arrive late and just enjoy Lou. You'll know why Elvis was such a star. He made a believer out of me.


Knoxville and the surrounding area has a couple of really unique radio stations. They are unique because they have been true to their audience for decades, they have real DJs who play the music they love, not what is handed down to them by some corporate office, and they are true to their roots.

Two good ones are WLIL AM 730 and WKVL AM 850. Country as it is supposed to be. Some crappy new stuff here and there, but lots of old stuff and really obscure classics.

Good music, hell, music period on AM radio is just hard to find. But it is usually good stuff.