Jimbo Whaley

The Sevier County community is magic, and the annual Jimbo Whaley and Friends Concert is a prime example. This event happens every spring in Pigeon Forge, and the story behind it is one reason why living here and visiting the area is so special.

Made up of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and some unincorporated and smaller communities, Sevier County is home to just under 100,000 residents and a temporary home to the millions of annual guests who visit the Smoky Mountains.

What makes this community so magical? The landscape and abundance of attractions make this area a great place to live. However, our people are the number one reason why Sevier County is so wonderful! Sevier Countians know how to come together, and this is when our heritage of hospitality shines brightest. To witness this magic, attend the Jimbo Whaley and Friends Concert this spring.

Let’s learn more about this community event and the story behind it.

Meet Jimbo Whaley

Jimbo Whaley is a fixture in the Sevier County community. He inherited his love for music from his family’s voices singing out in church. Additionally, his grandmother’s brothers sang on the Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round show in Knoxville, TN.

Local radio station WNOX broadcasted this iconic lunchtime radio show from 1936 1961. As part of the Burchfield Brothers group, Jimbo’s great-uncles performed alongside legendary artists such as Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins, Archie Campbell, and dozens of other stars who eventually made their way to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. This platform sent humor and “hillbilly” music like bluegrass, country, and gospel pulsating into regional businesses and homes. It inspired a whole new generation of entertainers like our local girl Dolly Parton.

Jimbo’s natural talent gave him a start, and his Sevier County roots took him to the next level. While working in the Smoky Mountain tourism industry, Whaley found himself in an impromptu bluegrass band with fellow pals Mike Guinn and Kipper Stitt.

“I was volunteered to be in a bluegrass band by Mike Guinn. Mike was working for Mainstay Suites and I was with Hampton Inn. The American Bus Association was in Milwaukee that year, and the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism was planning a dine-around for the event. They wanted music but didn’t have it in the budget. We joined together with Kipper Stitt from Dolly Parton’s Stampede, and we practiced every day during lunch. We played in Milwaukee and it was terrifying,” Whaley joked.

The group led to the formation of Pine Mountain Railroad, and 6 months later the band was opening for Charlie Daniels at Pigeon Forge’s Patriot Festival. The crowd was 20,000 people large! The group eventually grew into one of the most popular bluegrass bands in the country.

How the Annual Jimbo Whaley and Friends Benefit Concert Began

After following God’s voice to spend more time at home, Whaley left Pine Mountain Railroad and self-produced a solo album. As he planned his CD release party, he hoped to use the occasion to also help the Sevier County community. That first event saw 400 guests. Due to its initial success, it morphed into an annual fundraiser and grew every year.

Fans now know the event as the Jimbo Whaley and Friends Benefit Concert. It’s a show that brings community members together and blesses a different local charity each year. The concert has outgrown numerous small venues and Whaley now holds it at Country Tonite Theater in Pigeon Forge.

“Country Tonite has the best lobby and a professional sound and lighting system,“ Jimbo praised. “Jeff and Laura Taylor love Sevier County and they roll out the red carpet for the community. They’ve been fantastic to work with me for years.”

This venue allows for more tickets, which means a local charity will receive a larger donation! Sponsors also contribute, making this fundraiser a community-wide effort of Whaley and his team, local businesses, and the attendees.

How Whaley Selects a Charity

Whaley considers a few different qualifications when selecting which charity his event will benefit. He ensures that the organization’s mission and funds stay in Sevier County. He also visits the organization to see its team in action. Previous charities selected by Whaley include Paint the Mountains Pink, Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries, Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic, and Isaiah 117 House. This year’s charity is Sevier County Food Ministries.

“This year I went down to see Jim Davis at Sevier County Food Ministries, and it was a madhouse. Watching the volunteers and seeing the amount of work that goes into giving people food and things they need was so impressive to me,” Whaley explained. “I can’t imagine not being able to get food for my family. While we want to raise money, awareness is just as important because we will never run out of the need for food. I’ve loved Jim and have known him since high school. He is the perfect man for that job.”

Ticket sales and sponsorships contribute to the overall amount raised. During the event, Jimbo will announce the total figure raised so the audience can celebrate with him. Jim Davis, director of Sevier County Food Ministries, is appreciative of the upcoming donation and the county-wide support his organization receives.

“Sevier County Food Ministries is thrilled that Jimbo Whaley and Friends has chosen us to be the honorees and recipients of this outstanding event,” Jim Davis explained. “Our community is extremely supportive, and this is a great way to have a little fun too.”

Sponsors of the Jimbo Whaley and Friends Benefit Concert

There are four tiers of sponsorship available to local businesses. Sponsors gain visibility in the program, but Whaley explained that the real reason why local businesses participate is because they love this community.

“I couldn’t do it without my sponsors,” Jimbo said. “Five Oaks Tire and Service Center is my main sponsor and has been since our second year.”

Other sponsors include Citizens National Bank, Clearwater Drilling Company, and Kellum Creek Business Solutions. The program books are provided by Smoky Mountain Navigator.

What to Expect at the 2024 Concert

Jimbo Whaley and Friends Benefit Concert at Country Tonite Theater in Pigeon Forge

The first-class venue and high-quality entertainment make the Jimbo Whaley and Friends Benefit Concert one of the most notable Sevier County events of the year. Whaley spends an entire year preparing for the show.

“Putting the setlist together is the hardest part. I’m very particular about what emotion I’m trying to get. I start by writing down every song for the first set. During the first set, I know everything that’s about to happen on stage,” Jimbo explained. “In the second set, we do a lot of gospel songs. I let God plan that set, and it doesn’t take me near as much time.”

This year’s special guests include Gary “Biscuit” Davis, Abbey Tungett, Scott Carris, Turner Whaley, Roger Helton, Dr. Eric Littleton, and Olivia Whaley. Also slated to join the show are the Sevier County High School Concert Choir and local favorites Locust Ridge. Other friends will join the performers on stage, and there may be a few surprises too.

Whaley divulged that he always tries to do something nobody expects. One year, Marty Rabon of the country band Shenandoah surprised the audience. Jimbo has a few tricks up his sleeve for this year’s event, but he is keeping those plans under wraps.

“I always invite a very special lady from Sevier County,” Jimbo said. “I’ve not been lucky enough yet but if she ever shows up, boy won’t that be fun!”

Purchase your Tickets for the Benefit Concert at Country Tonite Theater

Jimbo Whaley’s full tour schedule shows many local performances including this year’s concert on March 23 at Country Tonite Theater in Pigeon Forge. With a total of 1,500 tickets available, this event will sell out. Purchase in advance to guarantee entry. The remaining tickets will be available at the door. Seating is general admission.

Jimbo and his lineup of performers are excited to see the audience again this year.

“It’s like eating at Frank Allen’s,” Jimbo explained. “You’ll know just about everybody in the room.”

Don’t miss the chance to be a part of this exciting event! Residents and Sevier County visitors will come together for an evening of music while supporting one of our area’s most important charities. Purchase tickets here and show extra support by visiting the event’s local sponsors.

We’re looking forward to the 2024 Jimbo Whaley and Friends concert. Will we see you there?

Authored in Appalachia || Amy Morton