Perfect Pitch

Julius Blue plays at Bill Jones Music. | Photo by Nathan Sparks.

A dive inside Knoxville’s own Julius Blue and the influences that brought his talents to life

Julius Blue is that kind of musician you admire. Not only because he plays five instruments, sings, directs, and scores music for film and tv, but also because he has perfect pitch. You can sing something and without sitting down to a piano, he can tell you the notes. He’s an incredible musician.

Perhaps it came from his musical upbringing. His mom, uncles and aunts, grandmother, just about everyone around him sang in choirs and churches. And it had an influence. I know this because Julius is my brother.

But being blood related is not why I chose Julius this issue. I chose him because of the influence he’s had in our region as a musician. If you’re pursuing music in East Tennessee, you know Julius. He’s likely played on one of your tracks. And if you’re a lover of local music, you know him well, too. You’ve seen him on stage. The man is a musician through and through.

“Hearing our mom and her siblings and everybody just singing, playing the piano,” he tells me, “I could just hear them in the other room and it just moved me.” He adds that, like me, he felt further moved to pursue this passion when he stepped into church and witnessed the beauty of the music it held.

Julius would wake up as a kid and play drums on the bed, a hint to what he would pursue first in his musical endeavors.

“Before the six o’clock service, we would get back to church early and I just would mess around on the instruments. Somebody would be praying, but, you know, if I had a chance to get on and play, I would Mom and Dad sort of picked up on it.” The drumset came that Christmas. The rest of us were electrified by the sounds he made.

Drums eventually became piano. It was the Baldwin organ that our mom and dad bought for the family home that would spark his interest in the keys. “I remember them saying, ‘Nobody touch this. Nobody play this. This is for decoration.’ But from time to time when they weren’t around, I would just turn it on for just a few seconds and I just remember hitting the key of C,” he says. “And I don’t know, something was just ringing in my spirit.” And when the organ at church evolved to a keyboard, the notes of Gary Williams hit his new interest home.

I can vividly remember coming home one day in elementary school to a pitch black house and venturing down the hallway only to find Julius sitting on the floor with his keyboard, headphones in, just playing. “By that time, once Mamma discovered I was picking up on it, she would encourage me to learn songs by certain artists, but the catch was we didn’t have a CD player or a tape player. I didn’t have anything to sit and rewind. I’m just playing it from how many times I’ve heard it played and just trying to see if I can find the notes.” Enter perfect pitch.

Fast forward to after high school, and you would find Julius taking lessons from the jazz band instructor at Pellissippi State Community College. By the time he got to the University of Tennessee, he was off and running. And after he graduated, he quickly made a name for himself in the industry. He’s traveled the world playing with some incredible artists, both mainstream and gospel, artists like Grammy award winning artist Dorinda Clark, a major influence on his craft.

“She doesn’t pacify,” he says. “When she grabbed the mic, she’d go, and I felt like that really opened my eyes to a whole other thing of not just playing, but being able to perform.”

Julius would go on to perform with so many artists such as Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Donald Brown, The Boogie Knights, Emily Wyrick, and, well, me.

In fact, if you’re eager to see this true musician at work, join us in Asheville on March 23 or here in Knoxville on May 11. Details at We will see you there.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.