The holiday season is here and Salvation Army bells are ringing and bright red poinsettias are popping up everywhere. It’s beginning to sound and look a lot like Christmas.

With all the things to do at this time of the year, it was tough to catch a live band last weekend. Oh, there were plenty of shows, but sometimes things just don’t work out the way you plan.

That’s why The Buzz takes a turn this week to tell the story of a local legend, Tom Bettini. He’s the bassist for the hardest workin’ rock band in the Tri-Cities — Tragically White. This gusty trio played last night at a benefit at Nashville Sound and will play for two nights this week end at Taps on Roan Street in Johnson City.

There are lots of successful performers that got their start right here in the Tri-Cities. Tom just happens top be one of the only guys I know who has two platinum records on his wall and lives in Kingsport.

Now if you like tall tales, fishermen have nothing on musicians. Sometimes the only fringe a player takes with them after the lights go down are the stories you get to share later on down the road. Musicians have an opinion on most everything, but most specifically they love to talk about bands, concerts, gear and anything musical.

Tom Bettini is 43 years old and proud of that fact. His parents raised him front of a record player and he graduated from Dobyns-Bennett, played in dozens of bands early in his career and hit the road with Jackyl around 1985.

You might remember Jackyl and its front man Jesse James Dupree. He wielded a chainsaw on stage and used it to play blues solos as Tom and the band backed him up.

The band shot straight to the top with MTV performances, an endorsement by Beavis and Butthead and a spot at Woodstock II. Their names are in the Guinness Book of World Records for having played “100 shows in 50 days.” If you really want to see the impact of this band, do a key word search on

I’ve had the chance to get to know Tom a little better over the past few weeks. He lives down the street from my best friends and we get together often and talk about music and the local scene.

Sometimes I wonder if he still yearns for the fame and fortune, but recently, I’ve discovered that this guy simply loves to play music and that’s one of the reasons why you owe it to yourself to hear the new band, Tragically White. He’s got a great life here in our little town, a home, a wonderful wife and a band with excellent chemistry.

This past week, we spent some time talking late into the night about his tours with Aerosmith, ZZ Top and others. The one thing I wanted to know was if he could describe to me his most memorable experience from his years in the moon tan of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.

Tom is one of those intense alpha males that will look you directly through the center of your eye and deliver a precise, animated answer, and he said, “Dave, there are two things that stand out in my mind more than anything.” He stopped to make sure that he put them in the right order and continued.

“When you walk out on that stage, they strap that guitar on your shoulders and it feels like … a big gun, that’s the first thing. But when they turn off the lights, for one nanosecond, there is this … eerie silence, and when I turn up the guitar before all of those screaming fans … for one moment, I know what Godzilla felt like!”

There’s an infectious spirit about Tom Bettini. I’ve said it before that this guy is probably the most entertaining performer to watch on stage. He’s a left-handed bass player who gives every breath and heartbeat in his performances, regardless of the size of the audience.

Music is a cultural binding force. The songs we share color our lives and I’m convinced that there are plenty of great performers appearing each and every weekend here in the Tri-Cities. This weekend, after you’ve finished your holiday shopping, be sure to mingle with your friends and drop in on Tragically White and witness one of our home grown legends that’s proud to call the Tri-Cities home.

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This week’s buzz topics…

  • Toys for Tots — Get the scoop on area holiday benefit performances…
  • Register to win a hard disc recorder from Jeff’s Morrell Music
  • What’s happening at

This week’s best bets for live music…

  • The Here, Horace and Les Honkies More Tonkies at Rafters on Friday…
  • Tragically White at Taps on Friday and Saturday.

    David Cate is new media director for the GoTriCities Network. E-mail him at