In the spring of 1991 Anne Armstrong and Keith Heishman, fledgling practice chanter students, were joined by Nashville transplant, bagpiper Garry McBride and became the core of what was to become the Knoxville Pipes and Drums. Piper Tom Gordon joined them that summer and David Perkins, Larry Campbell and Chris Riedl joined their ranks in the fall.
Tom Gordon became the band’s Pipe Major with Chris Riedl holding the Pipe Sgt. position and Anne Armstrong serving as Band Coordinator. Early members of the drum corps were Arvilee Grant and Eric Johnstone on snares and Tracy Riedl on bass. Ron Adams served as the first Drum Major. Founding members Anne and Chris are still active members of the group.
Since the Band’s founding under Pipe Major Tom Gordon, other pipe majors have included the late Bob Pennington, Don Cain, and Andrew Payzant. The band is presently under the direction of Pipe major Kyle Tracy Wilson.
From the beginning the band has been encouraged by many members of the Scottish Society of Knoxville and other Scottish organizations in the area. A number or individuals made donations in direct support of the band’s efforts in getting started.
With a generous loan of $3,000.00 from an anonymous donor, the band purchased the kilts formerly worn by another pipe band.
Under a charter, officially presented in 1998 at the Glasgow (Kentucky) Scottish Games by Caberfeidh, the Rt. Hon. John Ruaridh Grant MacKenzie of Kintail, Earl of Cromartie, Chief of Clan MacKenzie, the members of the Knoxville Pipes and Drums wear the ancient MacKenzie tartan.
From the earliest days of the band, members gave free lessons to anyone wanting to learn piping or drumming. In 1994 a beginning practice chanter student who was skilled in that new-fangled invention the “Personal Computer”, designed our first band logo. He combined a white dogwood and a purple thistle over the background of the Saltire to signify the Scottish connection to East Tennessee.
Many individuals and organizations have provided us practice space. From our humble beginnings around Garry McBride’s kitchen table we have moved our practice sessions to Second Presbyterian Church, Graystone Presbyterian Church, the National Guard Armory, the Scottish Rite Temple, Maryville College, Victory Baptist Church, and our “new” home Buffat Heights Baptist Church. We’re appreciative of the vote of confidence these organizations have given us and hope we can continue to be good ambassadors of Scottish culture and particularly of Pipe Band music.