There’s always someone who has an idea for a story, albeit a brief one.
The name “Lowell Blanchard” came up in conversation the other day. Here’s the short version of a well-lived life. Lowell had the popular “Midday Merry-Go-Round” on WNOX radio in Knoxville and in the 1960s was John Ward’s sidekick on the early broadcasts of Tennessee basketball.
The late Knoxville Journal sportswriter Ben Byrd called him the “merry imp” of the Vol travel party. He was one of those naturally funny people who was, without a doubt, the life of any party. Anyone who was on a Vol basketball travel party in those days can attest to Lowell’s good humor and his essential goodness.
“He was a great communicator, maybe the most effective communicator I’ve ever known,” Ward said. “He understood people and could converse with anybody, anywhere, anytime. I’ve never seen anybody like him. He made road trips unbelievable with his humor. He was the best.”
According to “Heart of the Valley,” Lucille Deadrick’s 1976 history of Knoxville, Blanchard was the chief announcer at the 1933 Detroit World’s Fair. He also hosted the Saturday night “Tennessee Barn Dance.”
Deadrick credits Blanchard discovering Roy Acuff, Homer and Jethro, and Archie Campbell, among others. He served twice on City Council and was active in community affairs.
Blanchard, who died Feb. 19, 1968, the day he expected to leave Fort Sanders Hospital, cast a long shadow on Knoxville radio history and the life of the city in general.
“He was a genius,” said Bradley Reeves, an archivist at the East Tennessee History Center. “He took the shtick of country music—and it was a shtick—and he made a show out of it. He was responsible for shaping it, more than anyone else. He was good at managing these folks and cultivating talent…. So many came out of Knoxville and became great.”
Monday, May 8, 2017