If it hadn't had been for the mysterious "Guv'nah," one of Knoxville's most beloved and acclaimed bands might not have existed. Because, for the members of the Southern rock outfit The Dirty Guv'nahs (The Dirty Guvs for short), their path towards a musical career was one made possible at first by chance, and then forged through hard work.
Six years ago, the members of the band were nothing more than acquaintances through a mutual friend (the aptly named Guv'nah), brought together to play a one-time gig at a benefit concert. They had no idea that in only a few short years, with the line-up of James Trimble on vocals and guitar, Justin Hoskins on bass and guitar, Aaron Hoskins on drums, Chris Doody on piano, Cozmo Holloway on guitar and Michael Jenkins on guitar, they would have three albums and festival slots at Bonnaroo, SXSW and Wakarusa under their belts.
"The Guv'nah helped us all get to know each other and we had an opportunity to play a show..." said Trimble, who, like all of the other members of the band, had career goals outside of music (his goal being medicine, more specifically pediatrics). "He suggested some more guys for us to play with as a band and, me, thinking this was a one-time thing, said 'Great, bring them on.' And to this day, it's almost the exact same line-up from that beginning stage.
At first, they had a surplus of guitarists, no bassist or bass (they eventually went out and purchased one) and no drummer. But from those initial practices at a home in the West Hills neighborhood, the Dirty Guvs started to take shape.
"The first couple years, we played five to ten concerts a year," Trimble said. "Most of us were still in school, or had just graduated and were working different side-jobs. But we just kept at."
For about three years, the band toured around the region, building up their fan-base. But music was always more of a side-project, until 2009, when the band performed for the first time at Bonnaroo.
"I had been to Bonnaroo as a festival attendee before, but I had no idea what to expect as an artist," Trimble said. "We just had such a good time, getting to play and get to know other artists... I really came out of that experience knowing that I was going to do whatever it took to make a career out of this. I felt a sense of purpose."
And with that sense of purpose, the band has soldiered on, releasing three albums: "The Dirty Guv'nahs" (which was released before their show at Bonnaroo), "Youth Is In Our Blood," and "Somewhere Beneath These Southern Skies." With each album, the band's sound has progresses, as they have grown and evolved as musicians, with their most recent release as the penultimate example of that change.
"We took more time with this album, because it's what we do full-time now," Trimble said. "It wasn't written and recorded in between classes and day jobs... It's a more mature sound. We keep our Southern roots, but we put a lot more thought into each of the songs."
What makes the Dirty Guvs' new album so impressive, however, is that it was paid for solely through fan donations at Kickstarter.com.
"I remember when we set up the site and set the goal at $20,000," Trimble said. "And with Kickstarter, if you don't meet your goal, you don't get any money... We were thinking it would just be so embarrassing if we didn't raise a lot of money. But we made it, and it was like that show at Bonnarroo, it was proof that this music and this art that we were creating has really connected with people."
One of those people that the band has connected with is Kathleen Carlson, a senior in history.
"I think they're a great local band," Carlson said. "They opened Bonnaroo this year and they're going up...
"I just want more people to listen to them, because I know, like me, that they'll love them."
No matter how far the band goes, Trimble and his bandmates will never forget that first show, and how different their lives are now because of it.
"We were really just thinking that this would be an amazing story for later in life, you know, the one time we played a rock show," Trimble said. "But now, after 150 stories like that later, we're doing this for a living."