I had the privilege of living in Louisville for almost seven years, right before I landed here in Philly in 2004.  It was our family’s home and the birthplace of our youngest son Max.  I am very glad that I spent time there.
Louisville is a very difficult place to really describe… it’s a lot like other rust belt towns – Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or my home of Cincinnati – except that it has this unique Southern charm that really sets it apart.  As my wife is fond of saying, the town was built on whiskey, horses, and tobacco, so it has a real sense of wide-openness that makes you believe anything is possible, good or bad.  I sensed from the start that the music scene in Louisville was very special indeed, and my time spent there certainly confirmed my suspicions.  I’m fond of telling this particular story: one morning  in April of 1999, a little over a year after I had arrived in town, I had just gotten off the air at WFPK, then housed in the city’s public library.  My “office” was also the music library, and I came in after my shift to find this long haired, bearded kid shuffling through the cd stacks.  I had never seen him before.  I asked him – you know – “what’s up?” (or something like that), and he turned around and said he was sorry to barge in, that there was nobody at the front desk so he just came on back.  “My name’s Jim”, he said, “and I wanted to give you a copy of my band’s cd.  My number’s on the back”   As he turned to leave, he also said something to me about how we didn’t have enough Led Zeppelin cd’s in the library, which actually made me laugh.  After I got settled, I went ahead and unwrapped the cd and put it on.  I think I was on the phone with him before the first track (called “Heartbreakin’ Man”) was even over asking when I could see his band play live.  It was that good.  The kid was JIM JAMES, and his band was called MY MORNING JACKET.
It wasn’t just MMJ that turned me into a believer in the Louisville music scene… the talent just seemed to pour out of every possible musical nook & cranny. (I urge you snoop around and look some of these names up): jazz vibes man DICK SISTO (father of actor JEREMY SISTO, and one of my favorite conversationalists ever),  my dear, late friend TIM KREKEL – an outstanding country-rock songwriter, all the great Louisville-centric alt bands of the 80’s & 90’s (SLINT, BASTRO, SQUIRREL BAIT, KING KONG, etc.) who’s tentacles and influences stretch out to today, my man RICK HARPER (“Rickenharper”) who’s one of the great unknown pop songwriters, or EL ROOSTARS – Louisville’s ROLLING STONES – who I spent many fuzzy nights raving to up and down the many watering holes on Bardstown Road.  Original NRBQ members TERRY ADAMS & the late STEVE FERGUSON were from the ‘Ville, too, and they played in town quite a bit.  For the size of the town, the music talent pool was enormous.  There was ALWAYS something good to see & hear, every night of the week.  Even the karaoke talent was outstanding.  The recently closed Ear X-Tacy record store was the best record store I’ve ever been in.  Keep in mind that I’ve been gone from there for a decade now, and I’m absolutely positive that there’s plenty more new talent that’s come along since.
The Louisville music audience was probably the most striking thing about the scene.  Extremely loyal, fun-loving, ready to try new things… I never expected the audience in this town to be so active.  The town has plenty of great “corner bars”, but it also boasts a level of cultural sophistication that was very refreshing.  It’s one of the smallest U.S. markets with its’ own ballet and symphony.  The city’s parks are plentiful, huge, arty and beautiful.  The museums are all extraordinary, given the town’s size.  And the food!  Plenty of great barbeque and soul food, the best fried chicken restaurants anywhere, and an unbelievably diverse selection of mid to fine dining establishments that were truly unique, quirky, and fiercely independent.  A few incredible hotels downtown.  I often tell people… you want a cheap, easy short vacation?  Spend a long weekend in Louisville.  I’m serious.
HUNTER THOMPSON was a native of Louisville.  I think he’s the patron saint of the town.  I cherish my time there and miss my many friends I made.