Teardrop Inn – from church to dive bar to Gospel Hangout

Back in 2009 there was a bluegrass song released by Tommy Webb called Teardrop Inn, which became quite popular, especially in Kentucky and West Virginia. It’s a modern day bluegrass murder ballad, about a cheating husband, Bobby, who was caught by his wife at the aforementioned establishment with a certain Tina, and fell prey to his wife’s mariticidal intent.

The song is based on a true story about a legendary dive bar and exotic dance club, located in Kermit, WV, which has quite a story of its own. Initially a Church of God meeting place, it became Sweetie’s Teardrop Inn after the church moved on, and developed quite a reputation for seedy entertainment and low down drinking.

Sweetie was well known to the locals, and ran the club until it was closed a few years ago.

But those who remember it as a church can now rejoice in news that the building has been reopened as The Gospel Hangout, run by John Messer as a gospel music hall and learning center. They hold concerts on Saturday evenings, and offer gospel music instruction for youngsters as well. Messer also plans to build a recording studio on site at some point.

Bluegrass fans who have never found themselves in Kermit still know the name of the Teardrop Inn, and we reached out to Tommy Webb about the song’s enduring appeal.

“I wasn’t at the Teardrop Inn back in its hey day, but we have heard so many stories of that bar. Everyone who knew Bobby and Tina have their own version of what happened. It’s a true story as far as I know, and it’s just a once in a lifetime song that everyone could relate to, young and old. I felt so blessed to be able to record it at the time.

Songwriter Mike Wells had sent me a demo, and Teardrop Inn was the first song. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it, and called him and said I was definitely going to record it. It’s still our most requested song to date, and I love to watch the reactions of people when we are on stage and they are singing along . They are so serious looking, it’s just amazing to watch, and I will never get tired of it. I just feel so blessed to be able to record a song that touched so many people.

I would like to thank my producer, Ron Stewart, and my banjo player/tenor singer, Chris Goble, for without them, Teardrop Inn would not have come out the way it did.”

Sounds like a happy ending for the former Teardrop Inn, though less so for Bobby and Tina.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.