12,000 'Chromies' in the Smokies: Large Cars & Guitars wraps a $40K haul for breast cancer

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Large Cars and Guitars stage overhead view
Overhead view of the stage and surrounding lot at the Large Cars & Guitars truck show this past weekend in Kodak, Tennessee, which featured a laid-back truck show and plenty of music.
James "Tex" Crowley | Texomatic.com

Truckers came together this past weekend with friends from all walks of life to raise more than $40,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer awareness and research at the Large Cars & Guitars truck show in Kodak, Tennessee.

The event, held in the expansive parking lot of a minor league baseball stadium Friday and Saturday, May 5-6, is the brainchild of trucker-songwriter Tony Justice, conceived in part to honor his wife, Misty, and her own victorious battle with breast cancer. The event was sponsored by a veritable host of partners, including RoadWorks Manufacturing, the Bennett Family of Companies, and Howes.

Massey Motor Freight stage at Large Cars and GuitarsThe Massey Motor Freight Stage at the event was graced by national acts Aaron Tippin, William Michael Morgan, Robbie Hopkins and Tony Justice himself. Other acts included Taylor Barker, Steve Molanders, and others.

Having almost doubled in size and scope since the inaugural 2022 show, the event boasted 175 trucks and, according to Justice, 12,000 attendees. 

Reflecting Justice's own passion for trucking, music, and altruism, the event felt like a combination between Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic, a celebration of survivors, and one of the finest displays of old iron you'll see just about anywhere. 

This sharp 2000 model 379, dubbed 'Hollywood,' won the principal honor of the truck-show portion of the event, the Kids' Choice Award. Driven by Jason Akers for J.L. Gate Co. of Greensburg, Kentucky, the truck hauls high-quality horse and cattle panels.This sharp 2000 model 379, dubbed "Hollywood," won the principal honor of the truck-show portion of the event, the Kids' Choice Award. Driven by Jason Akers for J.L. Gate Co. of Greensburg, Kentucky, the truck hauls high-quality horse and cattle panels.

Justice, the progenitor of an online revival in trucking music, is a bona fide digital phenom. With streams in the tens of millions, his own tour bus, and annual download revenues north of six figures, Justice occupies a position as an indie artist attained with little to no support from terrestrial or satellite radio. His followers measure in the hundreds of thousands, and call themselves “Chromies” -- the trucking-music equivalent of Deadheads, maybe.

Not bad for a 53-year-old gearjammer.

Justice's role in the wider zeitgeist of trucking saw Rich Guida of the Howes company wax philosophical. "Tony is a catalyst,” he said. “The community was there. You've got the camaraderie, the shared stories. [But] something magical happened during the pandemic. People started taking trucking mainstream because of the whole supply-chain situation. [And] this all goes beyond just truckers. When you think of all the people trucking affects -- office personnel, support staff. We're all here helping each other. Now it's got its own inertia. And Tony's in the center of that. He's the definition of humility."

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Sometime during our conversation, Aaron Tippin's tour bus had rolled in and parked right next to Tony's. Later that night, Tippin would sing his anthems of the working man. Then after the light show, Tippin rejoined Justice on the stage for their online mega-hit "Brothers of the Highway" for the penultimate song of the night.

[Related: Aaron Tippin and Tony Justice: 'Brothers of the Highway' session report from Nashville]

"The Last of The Cowboys," followed by a fireworks show sponsored by Bennett, put a bow on the evening.  

Perhaps the most revealing account of what makes Tony Justice Tony Justice, though, occurred the Thursday before the show. I’ve kept thinking of Rich Guida's musings about the Chromie phenomenon. It was all that, for sure, but there was something else to it. Here was just an average truck driver, a man who wasn't too good to curse, but a man not too proud to pray. Maybe Tony Justice embodied, more than anything, the great American middle -- the working stiff just trying to hold on to some vestige of pride and decency that the winds of political, technological and economic change seem to be eroding every day. 

Despite predictions all week of a rainout, prayers were offered at the Howes VIP dinner Thursday night after a day of set-up. Somehow on Friday, the forecast shifted, and the rain held off. "The Good Lord blessed us. The show exceeded all of our expectations," Justice noted. "You put that in your article."     

Tony Justice with Robert 'Boogie' BarnettTony Justice (left) with right-hand man Robert "Boogie" Barnett

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