“There are certain ‘whistle sounds’ that an organ can make but my pastor forbids me to play a whistle during the service,” Tim Daugherty quips. “He told me ‘no train sounds’ when I first started there.”
Born in Chattanooga, Tim was brought up around music. His father Steve owned Mountain Music Instrument Store in Red Bank, which he recently sold. Tim’s mother Susan died when he was a newborn. “I don’t remember her at all,” he said.
Tim says, “I give my dad a lot of credit for giving me my love for music, first bluegrass and then more of sacred church music. I worked at his shop a few Christmas holidays. He sold banjos, ukuleles, dobros - pretty much every stringed instrument you could think of.”
Growing up around music, Tim was taught to play the mandolin when he was a young boy.
“I took lessons from a man in Hixson when I was eight years old. I played at the Mountain Opry up on Signal Mountain every Friday with my Dad and we also played at nursing homes. Then I picked up the guitar and I eventually picked up the banjo.”
Tim was raised in a Catholic church and the first time he heard a pipe organ it left an impression. “I thought, ‘Wow, I would like to play something like that’. My dad suggested taking piano lessons so I took lessons from Shirley Harper twice a week and for two years learned how to play the piano and started playing in church. My music teacher at St. Jude School told me I should start taking organ lessons so that I would know how to play the organ.
“At about age 14 I took private lessons from Jerry Mansfield, in Dunlap. He would come to St Paul’s Church and teach me the basics of what each button did, what to do with your feet and what everything sounded like.”
Tim’s first job was working at an assisted living retirement center, Parkwood Retirement Apartments across from Memorial Hospital, and serving meals to residents. He also entertained them by playing the piano twice a week.
Tim said when he was very small he may have wanted to be a police officer but that even early on he knew he wanted to be a church organist and play a big pipe organ. “That was my desire when I was learning to play music.”
Though his passion for pipe organ’ brought him to his career, he also has another strong passion. - trains.
“I have loved them my entire life even before music. When I was five or six my dad gave me a toy train that you ride on. From there, I would get model trains that you put together, I just loved them. We used to put coins on the track and let the trains run over the coins. Dad helped me build a huge model rail road when I was 10 years old. I grew up with eight brothers and sisters, but I was the only one that cared about the trains. We used to go to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum when I was a little boy. He would drive me over there just so I could watch the trains in action,” Tim professes.
When Tim was younger, his whole family used to go to Hilton Head for a family vacation. Growing up with five brothers and three sisters, it was not hard to ‘lose track’ of Tim when they were in Savannah and Tim spied a big caboose on display.
“My family all piled into a passenger van, but I wandered off to look at the caboose and they didn’t realize I was not in the van. When I finally came out, I noticed the van was gone. They had traveled for about 30 minutes before they knew I was left behind,” Tim laughs.
As he got a little older, his love for trains wasn’t as important to him and his mind was on school. He went to college at ETSU in Johnson City for two years.
“For the past five years I have gotten back into it – more of the historical aspect of trains. Chattanooga is really rich in railroad history!” Tim exclaims. “I have researched where old stations used to be, what tracks went where or what was abandoned. I am a Rail-fan to where I will just park a car and figure out what train is about to come in. I have been on several train trips across the Southeast,” he declares.
Some of Tim’s favorite spots to Rail-fan are Coffey's Cliff and Dalton at the Dalton Depot.
Tim attends about two or three railfests a year, one in Chattanooga and one in Roanoke, Va. “It is basically a weekend where special steam excursions are held and where railroad fans come from all over the country to take part in presentations or take photos of restored passenger cars. I have gone to about 10 so far – it’s a major passion of mine,” Tim asserts.
On Facebook, Tim has displayed photographs of his HO Scale Model Railroad that he began building two years ago in his dad’s basement. An HO scale is the most common scale used in building the tracks, the models or the engine. In one photo, he has an MP1500, which is a small local Southern switcher engine.
“It took a lot of time and concentration. It took me a year and a half to build the layout. The passenger platform where the train pulls into the station - I found on eBay with ‘Chattanooga’ on it and I said, ‘Whoa, I gotta have it!’” Tim says.
Tim’s HO scale model is basically patterned after Chattanooga and the Southern Railway. “I have several of my locomotives and passenger cars that I had when I was a little kid on the layout and some buildings that I had built when I was kid. My dad’s friends will be over there and he will call me to come over and run it and blow the whistles,” Tim laughs. “Several people have come and looked at it. It does take a long time to build something like that and it is nice when others appreciate the hard work that goes into it.”
Tim is the senior organist at St. Peter's and Paul Catholic Church downtown. “That is the actual church I went to with my dad and siblings when I was younger. I used to turn around and just look at the big pipe organ in the church and thought ‘wow that looks great to play’. Twenty years later I am actually playing the112-year-old Kelgin pipe organ every Sunday. Of course, the organ has been updated since then, but it is the original build of when it was installed,” he says.
There are traditional pipe organs in which the air controls the valves, the bellows and the notes to the pipe and then there are digital organs in which speakers are in the wall and the organ is connected to wiring that produces a sound to a computer which causes the sound to travel to the speaker. Many churches use temporary methods with screens, keyboards and bands and have taken their organs out because their style of worship has changed.
Tim is grateful to play and be a part of a traditional church. “I enjoy playing every single Sunday; it has been a dream come true. It’s just an honor to get to play an organ that I used to love and cherish as a child. That is exciting to me. In my opinion, a pipe organ has a distinct, individual sound. The pipe builder spends months and months creating a pipe that produces certain sounds; digital organs can’t really get the exact tone as a pipe,” Tim states.
Pipe builders can build a certain sound such as a trumpet or a flute or a bell. “You can play just about anything, so there is a certain love or attraction to the actual pipe that the organist is looking for and the pipe builder can make that,” he says.
“I have learned over the past two years what every button on the Kelgin is going to sound like when it is played. And every Sunday I try to give the congregation a variety of what I know the organ can do. I do have a major passion for pipe organs,” Tim expresses.
Tim went on an organ tour of England and Scotland in 2010. “I have always had a love for the United Kingdom. I love the history of the UK, I have a love for the royal family and two years ago I saved enough money for the organ tour. People from all over the country were all going to tour the famous churches and cathedrals of the United Kingdom for two weeks. For me, that was a dream come true and one of the highlights of my life,” Tim proclaims.
He says, “Churches will call me to substitute for their organists who are out of town. I help out First Presbyterian in Dalton - they have a very large pipe organ in their church. I play for funerals and weddings and will sub for other area churches. I have probably played for about 20 churches. Ten years ago, I was playing at a wedding and I was leaning on the organ bench to look for the bride to see when she was ready. The organ bench gave way and I fell off and landed on my back. It was a pretty big drop and it made a loud boom. It was embarrassing - everyone was laughing and I could barely move, but I got through it,” Tim said.
Tim keeps an eye open for opportunities to experience. “Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church has one of the largest organs in the U.S. I have studied their church and their organ many times. I have never been there, but it is one of my plans,” Tim vows. “The largest is the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia at Macy’s. I did get to play that one three years ago - that was a treat.”
Tim’s girlfriend Mary Jones is supportive of his interest. “We will just pile in the car and go chase trains. She has been on a couple of trips with me. One of the great things about Mary is she is very flexible and respectful of the passions in my life and she does like to take part in it. She enjoys it, but she also enjoys the things that most girls do so I try to be just as supportive. I recently went with her to look at dresses. I went dress shopping …because I care about her.”
When Tim and Mary first began dating, Mary tapped into Tim’s interest right away. “She made me a cake that she baked herself of a train on tracks – it was the neatest thing,” Tim says. “She has given me Christmas ornaments, books on railroads, hymnals and she goes to the 9 o'clock mass with me every Sunday just because she enjoys hearing me play and that means a lot to me just knowing that she is there.”
Mary says, “Anytime we are near a train track he has to slow down and check it out to see if a train is going to pass by. If he sees one, we will almost always stop to watch it. A lot of our dates or free time is spent going to sit at railroad tracks just to watch the trains or riding the train at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.”
“Tim's love for music,” Mary says, “is one of the best things about him. He has a great mind to just sit down and play, not always needing the music. I did not ever really hear a lot about pipe organs but after being exposed to them, I see what appeals to him. They make beautiful sounds and when he plays his face lights up.”
Mary sees the giving side of Tim and his heart for others. “Tim is a special person,” she says. “He has been through a lot in his life but is always thinking of ways to make others happy. I think it's amazing that he loves the things that he does. He definitely has an old soul and that is rare to find in younger generations.”
Tim is respectful of his mentors. “The best thing is that I am doing something that I love and can give back to the community with all the hard work of the teachers that have taught me and the pastors and music ministers that I have worked with,” Tim says. “It puts a smile on my face that I can help people to worship and enjoy the music that I am playing.”