Soulcrush reunites for show at Songbirds Guitar Museum

For 14 years, Soulcrush was one of Chattanooga’s most popular bands, playing around the Southeast as well as being the house band at Jack’s Bar and Grill on Brainerd Road. Even though they played their final show in 2013, their fans haven’t forgotten them.

“We’re not active on social media, but we do keep a Facebook site,” says Ernie Dempsey, who founded Soulcrush with guitarist Mark Russell. “We keep getting messages on Facebook saying we need a reunion show. So when Mike Dougher approached me for a reunion show, I said let’s do it.”

The reunion of band and fans will happen Saturday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. at Songbirds Guitar Museum, 35 Station St., where Dougher is talent buyer. Playing with Dempsey and Russell onstage will be Mark Gunnells, who is just back from volunteering with Hurricane Irma recovery in Florida.

“Mark Gunnells hasn’t been with us since the very beginning. He used to be with some other bands. Mark is an extraordinary talent. He sang in the Chattanooga Boys Choir, he’s classically trained, has an incredible range and, frankly, I’ve always thought he was a better singer than I am,” says Dempsey.

Soulcrush started in 1999 with Dempsey, Russell, Mark Torsney, another founder, who brought in Brad Colburn on drums and Barry Hogan on bass.

“We started out at Hop’s Restaurant doing acoustic shows much like the ones we’ll be doing at Songbirds. That was really our first paying gig. We played at Flashbacks. The manager there opened Jack’s Bar and Grill and we were the house band. But our primary venue, the place we called home, was Rhythm and Brews,” says Dempsey, which Dougher operated at that time.

“I’ve been after these guys to do a reunion show for years. I’m not sure if my persistence paid off and Ernie got tired of me asking, or if the idea of playing in the coolest venue on Earth was appealing,” jokes Dougher. “The band and I are good friends both in and out of the music world. Good people plus good music equals a good time.”

The old Soulcrush played covers and some of their own music.

“I think a mistake younger artists make is to just play their own songs because they want to get a record deal,” says Dempsey. “But to hook fans on your own music, you’ve got to play stuff they already know — at least that’s how we approached it. That brought people into the fold.”

Four years after splitting, the guys still adhere to that premise — Dempsey says Saturday’s show will be a mix of covers and originals.

“Anybody who loves to have a good time with songs they know and love, and songs they don’t know they love yet, will really enjoy the show,” says Dempsey.

As for himself, he’s anticipating seeing and playing in Songbirds.

“You’ve got all these incredible guitars there, held by some of the greatest players of all time. I appreciate history. There are stories behind those guitars that are so cool to me,” he says.

At press time, the Soulcrush reunion was close to a sell-out. Call 423-531-2473 for ticket availability.

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.

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