Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Meeting the Mind Behind the Hi Tone Cafe: Brian “Skinny” McCabe

Photo: Brian Skinny McCabe Facebook

You’ve been to shows and events there, you may have even seen him around the venue, but here’s your chance to get to know Brian “Skinny” McCabe of the Hi Tone.

Photo: The Hi Tone Facebook

Leading up to his permanent stint at the Hi Tone, Skinny worked as everything from a dish washer to a general manager. However, it was always his dream to go into small business ownership.

If you haven’t heard of it, the Hi Tone is a long-running Memphis music venue that also features a cocktail lounge. You can catch a show most nights of the week.

After learning about Skinny and his role as the owner of the venue, be sure to check out their event calendar for a show to attend.

Choose901: Tell me about your background and what led to your decision to go into business ownership.

Skinny: I had worked all the way up from door guy to general manager in the industry, and that was the max-out level. I learned every facet of the industry I grew to love. I’ve been a dishwasher, a booker, a merch girl, cook, stage manager etc. I even started a short rap career just to see what it was to be on that side of things.

Photo: The Hi Tone Facebook

C901: Specifically, why did you decide to take over the Hi Tone? Tell me a little bit about what the Hi Tone looked like before you took over. How have you taken the Hi Tone to that next level?

S: I had been searching for properties to do my own thing with when I got a call that Hi Tone was for sale. It pretty much looked and still looks the same. I didn’t and still don’t want to change much of the aesthetic and charm that so many have come to know and love. I basically just mostly focused on the infrastructure and operations to make it as fluid as possible.

C901: Tell me a little bit about your Crosstown-area location. What do you think about the recent development in that area. Do you think that the Hi Tone helped facilitate that growth?

S: I wouldn’t say that we take credit as I think it is a community effort.

C901: How has the growth of Crosstown affected you and the Hi Tone?

S: We haven’t seen that much change, but are ready to welcome anyone in that wants to check us out!

Photo: The Hi Tone Facebook

C901: Owning a business is among the most challenging professions, how have you been able to find success in that venture?

S: Trying to be a multi-use facility. We are trying to entertain as many different demographics as we can. You may catch a rap show one night, metal or country the next!

C901: What is something you’ve learned while owning the Hi Tone that you wish you could go back and tell your younger self.

S: Accept the things you cannot change.

C901: What is it like to own a venue in Memphis, a city known for its musical heritage? How do you think owning a musical venue in Memphis differs from owning one in a different location?

S: It’s awesome! It’s frustrating, rewarding and annoying – all at the same time. I would hope that other cities aren’t so over crowded with competition.

C901: Do you think that Memphis has helped facilitate your business?

S: Being a part of the Memphis Convention & Visitors’ Bureau is a good help. Memphis does a good job of supporting our own which I think is beautiful.

C901: Was owning a venue and bar always your dream? If not, what did you see yourself doing before you got into entrepreneurship?

S: It was, and now I’ve achieved it. I don’t know what the next step will be.

Photo: The Hi Tone Facebook

“Memphis does a good job of supporting our own which I think is beautiful.”

-Brian “Skinny” McCabe

C901: What does Choose901’s motto, “Now is the time. Memphis is the place,” mean to you? Going off of that, do you think there is an exigency for growth in the local music scene right now? If so, how are you using that to your advantage?

S: I think that Memphis is seeing a creative boom right now, and that motto embodies it. Whether it be music, art, food or whatever – the scene is really cool to be a part of, and everyone needs to take advantage!

C901: You recently opened the Atomic Tiki. How has that venture differed from the Hi Tone? Why did you decide to try something new? Do you see yourself expanding again in the future?

S: It differs in that we have a full restaurant and no live music. I’m wanting to bring something cool that Memphis didn’t really have. We’ll see how this goes….

Photo: The Hi Tone Facebook

“I think that Memphis is seeing a creative boom right now, and that motto embodies it.”

-Brian “Skinny” McCabe

C901: What would you say to other individuals interested in starting their own venues in Memphis?

S: Shave your head in advance because you’re gonna pull your hair out. Best of luck!

Follow the Hi Tone on Facebook for updates on shows.

Check out their website for a calendar of events.

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