Red's Cafe Mural in Downtown Sevierville | Visit Sevierville


“Red’s Café” is a nostalgic mural depicting a former Sevierville, Tennessee eatery that was a favorite of young Dolly Parton.

Located in historic downtown Sevierville on Bruce Street, the artwork features a young blonde child enjoying a burger at the counter.

It was painted on a wall adjacent to The Appalachian patio by Ben Harrison (who currently uses Zaxerl as his artist name) and Seth Bishop of Smoky Mountain Mural Co. The work was completed over the course of two weeks, with some weather interruptions, during early autumn of 2020.

The theme was selected by Sevierville’s downtown development committee after it had invited artists to submit proposals. Once the committee members agreed that Seth and Ben were the artists to commission for the project, there was some back-and-forth discussion to finalize the design. “We worked to figure out which story needed to be retold,” says Austin Williams, who chairs the board of the Sevierville Commons Association and is a developer who owns several buildings downtown. “That led to Red’s Café. And if somebody was going to be sitting at a counter eating a cheeseburger, we thought it may as well be a little girl that may or may not be Dolly,” he jokes.

Artist Seth Bishop remembers that the idea to feature Red’s Café in the mural was first suggested by Carroll McMahan, Sevierville historian.

Red’s Café
A man named Paul “Red” Clevenger opened Red’s Café in Sevierville in 1946, the same year that Dolly was born. The menu offered a variety of short-order items, but burgers were most popular. The eatery thrived through the 1960s; it closed in the early 1970s.

At Dollywood, Red’s Drive-In is a nod to the original Red’s Café. The popular eatery, which opened in 1995, is in the theme park’s Jukebox Junction area.

The Painting
The mural perspective is from inside the diner, looking out the front window. “We played around with a couple different ideas,” says Seth Bishop. “I’m always interested in composition. I thought it would be cool seeing it from the inside out and ran with that. I didn’t want to do anything too straight on and preferred a sideways profile for some depth. It plays with the 1950s styling, has geometric shapes, straight lines, an oval curve. I wanted to keep some exposed brick and have the design sort of drift without a clear edge. It’s sometimes tricky but an interesting puzzle to solve.”

“Seth and I had seen an open call to submit mural ideas to Sevierville,” recalls Ben Harrison. “The application criteria specifically said not to include Dolly Parton. Seth and I submitted five to seven different designs. Then they got back to us and said, ‘We like your style, but can you do one with Dolly Parton in it?’ They’d decided that they wanted a mural of her that would have special meaning to locals, not be run-of-mill, with a special retro feeling. They mentioned Red’s Café and we submitted a couple different design ideas until nailing down the one they wanted.”

For reference, the artists consulted photos of the original Red’s Café. “There aren’t a lot of photos of Red’s Café and those I found were super blurry and black and white, so had to take some creative liberties,” says Bishop. A friend’s eight-year-old blonde daughter helped model.

Explore More

Read more about Dolly Parton’s connections to Sevierville here.

Find out about Seth Bishop’s “The Pines” mural here.

Discover more of Sevierville’s featured artists here.

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