Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wind-down to Ought Nine here

Today & tomorrow and Ought Nine will be history. No more "Ought n" years. At least for 90 years - & I don't think I'll still be around for THAT. In fact, way things are going, nobody & nothing will be around in 90 years. Unless Jesus returns, which I'm trusting He will! And, well, when He does, history itself will be "history"!

But in the meanwhile, the story (history), and the news (history in the making), and the blogs (remarking on history, at least my blog), go on. . . .

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Xmas & Xmas Eve in Nashville

"In Nashville." I certainly was not planning on being in Music City for the holiday, but rather with family to the northwest in Clarksville. However, things didn't work out for this to happen. Could have seen this as a real bummer - a "bum-end" as my son remarked! But I refused to let the change in plans bring me down.

The result was a very memorable Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.

On the former day, I travelled by bus across town to my church, Eastwood Christian (Disciples) of our Christmas Eve worship. I carried my guitar and some villancicos (carols in Spanish) and Christmas sheet music with me. Just in case the Pastor wanted me to do something musical during it. He had expressed this several days ago when I still planned to go to C'ville. It turned out that no, he had the whole service arranged. But no problem! I was quite happy to simply participate in the celebration as an attendee and nothing more. Participate as one in a full house, I must add -- we were standing room only!

We had terrific music as it was! Beginning with the Pastor, Jay Hartley, on bagpipes, his son Joseph on recorder, Stuart Duncan on guitar, etc. The order of worship was a traditional "lessons (i.e., Scripture readings) and carols" format, followed by the Lord's Supper with us going forward in the central aisle, partaking by intinction (dipping a piece of the loaf into the cup and then eating it) and then acquiring a small candle (with anti-wax protector for the fingers) and proceeding up the outer aisle. With so many people, we didn't have quite en'uf candles, and in addition to lining the walls we stood all along the central aisle and packed the chancel (choir area)! The candles got lit and the artificial lights turned down as we all sang "Silent Night". After the benediction we sang "Joy to the World" to cap off this celebration of the coming of the Word of God into our world, in the flesh of the one born to a virgin and using a feed trough for his first cradle.

I had eaten little during the day, and this left plenty of room for a post-worship supper at Emily Nourse's home. Emily and her mother Margaret are members of Eastwood who used to live in Corpus Christi, Texas, and have been on cursillo-style retreats (the mom on Walk to Emmaus & the daughter on Chrysalis). Margaret's other daughter and her husband and a cousin were also at the worship and walked with us to Emily's house for the dinner. The other daughter (an alumna of San Antonio's Trinity University) and her husband had made tamales by hand earlier in the day -- and when I learned of this before the worship started, I remarked, "Oh, una tamalada! Had I known I'd have come over early and helped out!" (This despite the fact that I know nothing about how to make the traditional comida mexicana de Nochebuena y Navidad.)

While los tamales were heating up along with Spanish rice and guacamole was being made, we sipped on a delicious Spanish wine. It was neither dry nor sweet, but a combination or both, and very tasty.

After supping on this Mexican-style Christmas Eve meal, I pulled out my guitar and played a couple of villancicos and Emmaus songs while I sang los villancicos and we all sang the Emmaus songs. Then we wrapped up with "Feliz Navidad", the well-known Jose Feliciano Christmas hit. Everybody (except me, accompanying on guitar) did a dance around the dining room to this. I'd not seen this before but it was delightful to watch!

Then, when I arrived back at Mercury Court and went to the community room to check my mailbox, I saw that one other resident was there watching TV. I saw the credits for "White Christmas" and at first considered that I had just missed a broadcast of my favorite Christmas movie. (I'd forgotten that back then credits were rolled at the start of the flick, not at the end, as now.) But the fellow told me that no, it was just starting. So I "popped a seat" and watched the whole show. I found it significant that it ended about 12:30 AM on Christmas Day -- I usually do not stay up to midnight on Christmas Eve night.

Despite the uncustomary very late hour of going to bed, I awoke about my usual time and after lying there for awhile I decided to see about going to a Christmas Day service somewhere. While I lived in San Antonio I had attended worship on Christmas Day mornings at either San Fernando Cathedral or at Christ Episcopal Church. So I went to Christ Church here (also Episcopal, a cathedral of that denomination). Sure en'uf they were having a worship there, so I walked around for awhile (seeking in vain a place where I could get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate) and then returned to the historic church for worship.

The rest of the day was a quiet one, of riding around on the bus, talking to family over my cell phone and listening to Handle's "Messiah" on my CD player. Late in the afternoon I opened my few presents; they were all nice and much appreciated. After listening to the Friday Nite Opry on WSM-AM 650 I turned in for the night - at a much earlier, more normal hour than the previous night!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Sun. - 4th Advent Sun.

This past Sunday was the Fourth Sunday of Advent, for those Christians who use the church calendar (or "liturgical calendar"). Being the Sunday before Christmas eve and Day, some also refer to it as "Christmas Sunday.

Either way, it was a wonderful Sunday for yours truly. Wonder weekend all around, as I got to spend Friday evening & much of Saturday with family, in Clarksville & on the road to the Nashville International Airport (BNA). The latter was because son David & his wife Allison (and grandchild to be born in April) were to catch a plane to Lincoln to spend the actual holidays with her family (we TN Grahams had our turn last year). The late afternoon was spent at church, in "dress" rehearsal of choir's music for the special Sunday.

So, as you can guess, dear reader, the beauty of Sunday commenced at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). All the extra songs sung were simply glorious! These included opening with choir director Julie Duemler singing a series of recitatives from "Messiah" (Handel's), leading into the whole choir singing "Glory to God" from the same. (Lyrics for all these sections of "Messiah" are Luke 2:8-14.) Later in the service we sang a special arrangement of "Silent Night", which I had reported on in an earlier post.

After this awesome Worship -- a spiritual feast indeed! -- we adjourned to the Fellowship Hall for dinner. Here was more food, this time of the material kind. Earlier, I had learned about Buche de Noel, a French pastry of Christmas-time. Dieta Duncan, who had via Facebook taught me what this is, gave me advance warning the evening before (at rehearsal) to go to the dessert table first (rather than the main food table). There was indeed a Buche de Noel made by her, resembling in appearance a Yule log. So I cut me a slice, selected a seat at a table and set it down there before getting in the main food line. The French pastry Yule log turned out to be "heavenly", as I told Dieta.

Santa Clause also paid us a visit, for the enjoyment of the many kids of ECC(DC). And even I got a present of sorts, for Bob Frech told me he had a spare ticket for the Vanderbilt women's basketball game later that afternoon at VU's Memorial Gym. So the enjoyment of the day continued, transferred to a different locale in Music City. The women were hosting the women's basketball team from Tennessee State University. The ladies from across town proved to be no challenge to Vandy's gals, as the latter never trailed and led 52-20 at halftime. I greeted Charlie Mattos, who in addition to being Bill Cody's sidekick on WSM's weekday morning show is broadcast announcer for the VU women. I showed him my Christmas tie, which he enjoyed a lot.

Final score was VU 84, TSU 47. Since the VU team had scored over 75 points, we all (I was with Bob and three other Frech family members) turned in our tickets to the Taco Bell just down West End toward downtown, to receive free hard tacos of the beef variety. Not my preferred type of taco (soft chicken is that), but still - free!

Later, after spending a little time in the Vanderbilt Library, I went to First Baptist Church in downtown Nashville. Earlier in the week I'd read on a half size flyer that the church would host a Fourth Sunday (Xmas Sun.) evening program of music involving a very large choir and a somewhat small orchestra (both of these being church members?). It was a delightful service, which included a couple excerpts from "Messiah" (one being of course "Hallelujah!") some new Christmas music and familiar old carols, which we the congregation were encouraged to sing along. And afterward there was fellowship and food downstairs in First Baptist's fellowship hall. The food included a treat I hadn't seen in years: cannolis! Shall we call these pastry delights a smaller Italian answer to the French Buche de Noel? Yum, yum!

And so a thor'oly delightful Sunday was, you might say, sandwiched between two church services full of music, followed by delicious food. San Antonio may know how to throw a party at the drop of a hat for any reason, but Nashville itself -- the Buckle of the Bible Belt -- knows how to celebrate this most special time of the year! And yours truly appreciates both the food and the music (food for the soul)!

Merry Christmas to you, dear reader.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nashville Emmaus Xmas Party

First, before going into the Emmaus community's monthly gathering/annual party, I wish to affirm something. Xmas. This is shorthand for "Christmas", of course. Some unknowing folks of the Christian faith object to it, on same grounds as their opposition to the greeting "Happy holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" or otherwise taking Christ out of Christmas. I disagree. You see, in Greek, the original New Testament language, the letter "X" (called "chi") is the initial for the word xpistos ("KRIS-tos") or Christ, the "anointed one" or 'messiah". Indeed, in early Christian art a common symbol was Chi-Rho, that is, the "X" combined with the "P" (called "rho"), the first two letters of the Greek title! So dear reader, use of Xmas isn't eliminating Christ from Christmas but rather emphasizing Him!

Now that this affirmation is out of the way, to the party!

The Nashville Emmaus Community, like all Emmaus communities or fourth-day groups, has a monthly gathering. The one in December is held at The Upper Room headquarters (aka the UMC Board of Discipleship building) and is a Christmas or Xmas fellowship as well as worship gathering.

Saturday evening was the gathering for Ought Nine. I was there, along with my guitar. We started out in a fellowship or meeting hall downstairs, with lots of potluck food and a guitarist (not yours truly!) picking carols to provide background music as we dined and chatted around tables decorated in the spirit of Christmas and that of Emmaus.

Then we adjourned upstairs to The Upper Room Chapel for worship. We two guitarists led the congregation in singing two well-known and beloved carols, and then we went into worship according to one of the Methodist orders (which is basis for the Emmaus worship order found in the "purple book"). But this time we sang the "Sanctus" and the "Lord's Prayer" while we two guitarists played. This was a neat addition; I loved it! And while folks were coming forward during the Lord's Supper to receive the elements by intinction (i.e., taking a piece of the loaf and dipping it in the cup and partaking), we played as series of more carols. The entire service was very moving and season-appropriate!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Saturday evening session at Station Inn

The Station Inn is a well-known name here in Music City a.k.a. Nashville, for live acoustic music, particularly of the bluegrass genre or the Americana Music genre. It doesn't look like much from the outside -- kinda could fit on the stage of the Ryman or of the Grand Ole Opry House? -- and not much more impressive inside. I.e., it's very intimate. But I've been there a few times, including back around 1990. Found it to be a likable place to go for live music!

Well, I was there Saturday nite, after work. You see, dear reader, the Nashville Bluegrass Band was performing one of their rare concerts in their namesake city! I'd wanted to experience these guys live in concert ever since I got acquainted with their fiddler, Stuart Duncan, who with his family are active and cherished members of Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) - my church. Stuart's wife Dieta had informed me of the NBB concert at Station Inn, and I was most grateful. It was a terrific performance, as the group lived up to their Grammy-earning talents. Stuart especially impressed me on the final number before they took a break. His sawing on the fiddle with the bow was so vigorous and enthusiastic and crowd-enthusing, that afterward I asked if he needed some ice cubes to cool down the bow!

Best of all, when I entered the building and mentioned to the hostess why I was there (the church membership connection) she informed me that several ECC(DC) members were present. And not just Duncans! Steve Walls and his son Nathan were among those ECC folk also present. I sat at a table next to Steve and swapped occasional comments with my buddy. This commentary and story-swapping continued as he drove me home after the end of the concert.

What a delightful evening of music in Music City! And experienced along with fellow shurch members, in "The Buckle of the Bible Belt"!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stille Nacht (Silent Night)

Last evening (Wed. the Second) choir rehearsal at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) was of course all Advent-Christmas carols and hymns we'll be singing the next few Sundays. we finished up with an awesome rendition of "Silent Night". It starts out unison singing of first verse, then repeats it in the original Deutsch (German), then wraps up with the final verse (in English) with a soprano descant. According to the score this last verse can be sung with the congregation accompanying on the melody.

Now, three times in the past week or so on the radio I've heard reference to "Silent Night" and how it got composed and sung the very first time. In brief, in the 1800s for the Christmas (Eve) worship at the church in Obendorf, Austria, a mouse had rendered the church organ inoperable. So Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr composed the carol and introduced it to the congregation using guitar as accompaniment.

This history of "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night) charms and moves yours truly, especially the detail about guitar accompaniment (me being a guitar picker from way back). So I feel that I've been blessed thrice over the airwaves -- and Xmas isn't even for three more weeks!

Perhaps this is an explanation for why, as we rehearsed the carol last evening, I truly felt transported up to Heaven! Into the very presence of Abba! Right there with He whose birth on a silent night ('til the angels came to the shepherds!) is lauded in this carol!

Thank You, Lord!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving '09 in Music City

Ought Nine's Thanksgiving weekend here in Nashville was memorable & wonderful!

It began on Thanksgiving Day with breakfast at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) in East Nashville. This potluck breakfast is an annual tradition of my church. And one which I greatly appreciate!

Pastor Jay led a brief worship (or devotional time) following the breakfast. We sang three traditional hymns for Thanksgiving. These included "Now Thank we All Our God", the English translation of Nun Danket -- it's originally a Dutch hymn. Then Pastor Jay's meditation was a story from Frog & Toad. Of course, he invited any kids present to come up closer so they could see the pictures as he read. He did a terrific job reading the story!

I saw Susan Mc Bride during the breakfast, and remembered that she had posted on Facebook about regular walks in Centennial Park with friends. I asked her when did they do this; she replied that it varied. But the exchange got me considering that I go over there today and walk. It wasn't particularly ideal weather for walking: cold and a bit blustery. Nevertheless, I went and walked. I circumambulated the park's pond, Lake Watauga. Then I circumambulated The Parthenon. Then, as I continued wandering around the park I considered the buildings of Nashville, and which might be my favorite.

You know, dear reader, as I get older and consider such listings (of my fave of this or my fave of that), it get harder to firmly choose just one fave! So it is with Nashville's public buildings. Certainly the ones in the running for tops will include The Parthenon. But then there is Kirkland Hall on the Vanderbilt University campus -- it's the original main building and still the administration building, done in red brick Italianate style with a very tall clock tower. OR it could be Furman Hall on the campus near Kirkland, because that was where the Latin American Studies department was housed, along with languages, when I studied for my M.A. at Vandy. It's a grey stone edifice in typical collegiate Tudor Gothic style. OR there's the Tennessee State Capitol building -- the most beautiful of all state capitols in my book.

I came to no conclusion as to which is my Number One favorite building in Nashville. But I did go home to rest for about an hour. Then I was off to Thanksgiving dinner. I was given a ride by fellow church choir member Steve Walls, who was contributing some delicious stuffed mushrooms to the feast.

The Stuart Duncan family, members of my church, throw a dinner each Thanksgiving for anybody in the church who would like to be there. I think the also invite Stuart's musician friends. Stuart is fiddler in the Grammy-winning Nashville Bluegrass Band. Naturally then, we had music to feed the soul and for which to be thankful. Even as we had food to feed the belly and be thankful! For Dieta Duncan, Stuart's wife, is an excellent cook. She even bakes communion bread for our weekly Lord's Supper at church!

So, even tho once again I didn't get to spend this special holiday -- Pastor Jay confessed that it's his favorite -- with family, it was a sweet and memorably day anyway.

Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A whole week of Music in your Face

Last week, 16-21 November, was a week very, very full of music and music artists here in Nashville. Is it any wonder it's nicknamed "Music City"?

As I related in my previous post, the week began with hearing conversations between WSM staff and Steve Wariner and then Charlie Daniels. Wednesday was the expectantly nice rehearsal for the Eastwood Christian Church choir.

But I suppose the highlight came at the end of the week and involved a live performance rather than radio listening or a singing rehearsal.

Saturday evening I went to the Nashville Symphony concert, "Tangos, and Ravel's Bolero". I was a bit late entering Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, but still heard almost all the tango selections. But I was there to experience "Bolero"! This will seem odd to any of my Lambda Chi Alpha brothers who were initiated in the 1960s of 1970s in our chapter house at 720 Deakin Avenue in Moscow, Idaho. The night I became a full-fledged Lambda Chi I got to listen to "Bolero", on a vinyl disk in poor condition, for some 14 times! But this didn't cause me to loath the 14 minute long instrumental piece (unlike my frat brothers). And much more recently I had heard a live rendition of Ravel's piece at Fiesta Texas, as part of the last new show there before I returned to Tennessee. But THAT one wasn't by a full orchestra.

So when it was time for the solo snare drummer to commence his steady beating of the rhythm base for "Bolero" I gave him and the entire orchestra my rapt attention. I was somewhat amused that as the piece progressed, instruments steadily entering the performance and the volume increasing, I had recollections of that night 37 years previously when I had listened to it so many times. But my mind was more fixated on the beauty of Bolero's structure; I felt like I was getting swept up into the music while it gained in power!

A side interest was watching Giancarlo Guerrero conduct the symphony. There was very little of the arm gesturing one associates with a conductor. As another patron said afterward, it was more like the conducting consisted of his head movements or body language. This is probably due to the song being built on that snare drum foundation. If the orchestra has a drummer who does his part accurately, there's little need for much gesticulation by a conductor!

Whatever. . . the Nashville Symphony did an excellent, wonderful rendition of "Bolero"! The last note had hardly faded and the applause begun before yours truly leapt to my feet for a standing ovation!

And I heard the strains of "Bolero" flowing thru my mind all the way home that night. I don't remember now, but they probably punctuated my dream before the next dawn!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Steve Wariner and Charlie Daniels on the airwaves

Early on Monday evening I was doing my usual, delivering prescription medications for Bradley Drugstore, and listening to WSM-AM 650 on the Ford Ranger's radio. Monday evenings WSM deejay Eddie Stubbs generally hi-lites songs recorded by members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. On THIS show he treated us to an in-studio live interview with Steve Wariner. Steve isn't yet a member of the Hall of Fame, but he IS on the Opry cast and quite an accomplished artist.

Earlier this year Steve produced a CD album called "CGP: My Tribute to Chet Atkins". It was the focus of conversation between Eddie and Steve. At intervals a song would be played from it. And of course Steve shared anecdotes of his years as a protegé of Chet. "CGP" is an acronym created by Chet, standing for "Certified Guitar Picker" which he attached first to himself and then to four other highly talented instrumentalists -- including Steve Wariner himself.

All of this was quite delightful to listen to as I made my deliveries. But the hi-lite HAD to have been when Eddie played "Producer's Medley" and he and Steve commented on it. The piece is an instrumental montage of hits by various artists (not all of the m considered "country") which Chet had produced. It features "The Three Bells", "Java", "Let It Be Me" and about five other songs, with Steve playing the guitar on all of them. The resulting medley is awesome! I caught myself saying, "Wow!" several times while I was listening. And when it was over, Eddie made his signature remark, "Any questions?" Whenever he says this, he's anointing the song he's just presented as being a real classic, a true diamond highly polished.

Well, the delights of radio listening of Monday evening continued on Tuesday morning. On WSM's wake-up show "Coffee Country & Cody" (AND Charlie Mattos, I might add!) Charlie Daniels was a late (final hour) in-studio Guest. He spoke with Bill about a new Christmas Album CD he's releasing. They played a couple of songs from the album, including an instrumental rendition of "The Christmas Song" (my favorite pop or secular song of the holiday).

Now, Charlie Daniels isn't a country singer I get enthusiastic about, and never has been, even tho' I like his "Devil Went Down to Georgia" and a couple other hits of his. But listening to him speak about this new Xmas album, and hearing excerpts from it really warmed me to the man! This album is a terrific project, almost up there with the Chet Atkins tribute album featured on WSM the evening before!

I tell you what, dear reader! San Antonio may have brung out the "party animal" in me with its constant festivals and celebrations of cultures and life in general. But Nashville is just about as powerfully affecting me and my deep love of song and music!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A fine football day in Nashville

Well, I finally got to do it again! Attend a Vanderbilt University Commodores football game. While I was a graduate student at the University I probably attended most home football games, and in the years before and after probably attended one or two a year. But today was my FIRST since I returned at the end of July '08.

Yesterday while contemplating what all were possible on a rare Saturday off from work, I got a wild hair and decided that I'd go to the game, stopping by the Lambda Chi Alpha house on the way. The Brothers were having a "tailgate party" on the from lawn, as were the other Greek houses nearby. The sun was bright and warm but the air wasn't hot. It was "chamber-of-commerce weather", for sure!

Football Saturdays on the Vandy Greek Row are certainly different from what they were on the Idaho Greek Row! For one thing, most of the LCA Brothers (and other "frat rats") were wearing dress shirts and neckties; some also sported blazers or suit coats. However, a few of these with shirts and ties also sported Bermuda-type shorts and/or sandals! Strange.

Also, they had a couple of games going on: a bean toss and a game involving knocking empty beer cans off poles with a Frisbee. One of the Actives (undergraduate Brothers) talked me into a challenge at "beer bat" (I think it was called). This involved taking a slim hollow plastic bat with the large end removed, filling it with a can's worth of beer, chugging it, then dancing in a circle in the same spot (to the count of five, if I remember correctly), then trying to bat an empty beer can. Well, the dancing in a circle almost did me onto the ground -- whew! such dizziness! -- but I stayed upright and then actually hit the can tossed at me. This really seemed to please the Actives!

Nobody seemed anxious to head over to the stadium, Dudley Field, even after the game had been under way for a quarter hour, so I excused myself and walked on over. When I inquired at the nearest gate about whether there were tickets available for sale, one of the ticket-takers offered me an extra that an earlier attendee had given him. So I got in for free!

Just after I got into the bleachers the Commodores kicked a field goal (I could have caught the football had I made a little effort to move a very short distance and get my hands up but just didn't feel like it), to trail 3 to 7. On their next drive they added another field goal, and with little over two minutes left before the half scored a touchdown, to lead 13 to 10!

Halftime activities included an "appearance" by "The Beatles" for about a verse and chorus from one of their smash hits of the Sixties, and recognition of band seniors who had just played their final halftime show. Later in the second half, a champion bowler from VU was recognized, too.

But the Kentucky Wildcats pretty much controlled the second half, and beat my 'Dores 24-13. Even with the final score, I still felt good about being there at the game. I mean, the weather was so perfectly football-type weather. And participating in the Lambda Chi Alpha "tailgate party" had been such a fun prelude!

All in all, a fine football Saturday here in the "Athens of the South"!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nashville's Walk of Fame

Across the street (Demonbreun St.) from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum -- also across the street (Fourth Ave. S.) from the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall -- is the Walk of Fame Park. On the sidewalks of this park are stars which represent well-known folk -- many but not all of them country music artists -- who have been significant to Nashville.

Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) the third induction of new stars into this Walk since I moved here. It was also the third time I've attended, and the FIRST induction with "chamber-of-commerce weather"! Indeed, last November I went to my first induction only because Martina McBride and Randy Travis were among the five being inducted.

This time around the inductees were Dolly Parton. Charlie Daniels, the late Ernest Tubb, the late Tootsie Bess and Kid Rock. The last-named was controversial, but at least we got him over with & outta the way first. The last inductee (first on my list) was introduced by the Governor himself, Phil Bredesen. Seems Hizzoner and Dolly have done some photo shoots together for some ad, which involved our Governor "cutting the rug". I think I'd like to see this!

It was fun to be there for the induction ceremony, with Bill Cody hosting and various folks introducing each inductee before the inductee (or a family member for the deceased) spoke.When E.T. was introduced by Little Jimmie Dickens and his star accepted by his son E.T. Jr., I remembered how E.T. was the one of the so-called "Four Pillars of the Opry" with whom I was familiar before I attended my first Opry show back in the early Eighties. I can still remember that evening, when my Lambda Chi Alpha Brothers (who were at Opryland Hotel for our General Assembly) and wives or girl friends sat there and enjoyed the oldest live radio show. I remember that when E.T. had other artists performing during his half hour of the show he'd gesture with his outstretched hand for the audience to applaud and applaud louder for the stars. Probably E.T.'s biggest enduring contribution to Nashville is the Ernest Tubb Record Shop -- the original on lower Broadway near the Ryman (and near the Walk of Fame) and a branch out in Music Valley.

Probably about that time I first learned about Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and its role as a sort of "green room" for the Ryman Auditorium across the alley during those years that the Grand Ole Opry played in the Ryman. And since I moved here in '08 I've learned how many a singer or songwriter sort of got a first step up thanks to the honky-tonk and its owner Tootsie Bess. So her influence on the music-life of Music City is quite evident!

Charlie Daniels and Dolly Parton both came from elsewhere to Nashville, to make a name in Country music, and have lived near the city and contributed to it in many ways. Therefore, as they received their stars they got much applause. And lots of the audience wanted to get photos or autographs from them; I doubt few succeeded, but I didn't stick around to see.

You see, this being the Second Sunday of the month I wanted to go to Vine Street Christian Church for its monthly Second Sunday evening program. This is a potluck supper at five, followed by an alternative worship. This time for worship we didn't even go to the sanctuary upstairs above the fellowship hall. Rather, KK Wiseman, who leads these Second Sunday worships, took us into the adjacent kitchen. There the bulk of the service involved taking the raw ingredients for making bread, mixing them, kneading them and baking the resultant loaf. During the process, KK repeatedly read verses from the fourth chapter of Philippians; she also drew out lessons from the process. And once the bread was baked, we had the Lord's Supper, which is always an element in these Second Sunday evening alternative worship services. I felt blessed, and that I'd really learned something!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hooray, Saints! Hooray, Titans!

No, this isn't about TWO teams in the NFL. "Saints" carries a very different meaning here.

You see, Sunday was the First of November, and thus was All Saints Day in the liturgical calendar. At Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) worship on the Sunday nearest 1 November is altered to allow for recognition of congregational members who have died in the past year. Members' family and friends are also recognized. This is done by placing a stand at the front of the sanctuary, and after the sermon a few words are said and then as each deceased member's name is read a white ribbon with a bell on the end is carried from the main door down the center aisle and Hung on the stand. One additional ribbon with bell is hung while individuals call out names of significant others who have died in the past year.

The choir sings a powerful song titled "Death Shall Not Destroy My Comfort", rather British song arranged by Mack Wilberg. This year we also sang a second anthem just before the ribbon ceremony, "Heaven's Choir" by Pepper Choplin. Our choir director, Julie Duemler, had recently been introduced to this new piece and shared it with us at rehearsal a few weeks ago. We all liked it but didn't want to give up the other anthem, so we sang two!

After Worship I rode the bus across town to the Green Hills neighborhood along Hillsboro Pike. I often go to the Kroger there for Sunday dinner, but that had to wait for two other activities nearby. One was paying my cellphone bill at a Verizon store on Hillsboro. The other was the grand opening of a new piano store by ECC(DC) member Grand Houston. Grant had actually stood beside me in the choir as we sang earlier during Worship, but then had hastened to his new store to ready for the opening festivity. When I entered I saw three men there: Grant, another fellow choir member Steve Walls and a third man new to me (but apparently an old friend of Grant's). Several people came in afterward, including Pastor Jay Hartley and his family. I was impressed that Grant had one of the pianos playing, not with somebody's fingers tickling the ivories but from an i-pod. Grant even took the i-pod from that grand piano over to two upright pianos, connected them both and got both to play simultaneously!

After hanging out at the new piano store about three quarters of an hour I went on over to the Green Hills Kroger for a full meal -- Grant provided snacks like cheese, crackers and small fruits along with champagne, but "I live to eat" as somebody might say. Having purchased my usual salad bar meal and a Sierra Mist, I sat down in the small eating area. It has two large TV screens, which were on to an NFL game.

A few minutes after I sat down and began eating one of the store employees came over as if to change channels. I'm not a wild fan of either team in the game being showed, but I feared he'd put on car racing or something else boring instead, so I asked him not to change the one screen I was watching. But he did -- to the Titans' game! This was just starting, and was being broadcast from here in Nashville. It's always nice to see the landmarks of Music City on the TV screen during a Titans home game, and this was no different. Plus, the up to this date winless NFL team started out looking really good. The offense scored a field goal as I watched, and the defense seemed to be handling the visiting Jacksonville offense well. So I left happy in the knowledge that the Titans just might snap their season-opening losing streak.

And so it was. I found out later that the Titans won 30-13. Hooray, Titans! Perhaps the saints we remembered this Sunday the First of November were looking down with favor upon Nashville's hometown team! in which case: Hooray, Saints!

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Br-r-r!" & baked Alaskas are both back!

Yesterday morning presented the first frosty lawns here in Nashville, I noticed while taking the bus to church. Looks like the typically terrible Tennessee winter is having an atypically early start this time around!

This morning, another frosty one, "baked Alaskas" were back on the buses. Yeah, I know that the real baked Alaska is a dessert. But the (sub-Saharan) African-American majority here in Nashville, or at least the young to middle-age females among them, in cold weather generally like to wear parkas with hoods up, which makes them resemble Eskimos. And so I call the resulting image of an African face framed by faux-fur hood, a "baked Alaska".

And ouch! what happened to the NFL Titans yesterday! Right after church I returned home and entered the community room to watch some of the televised game between the Titans and the New England Patriots. The game was in Foxboro and was it snowing! The field was already covered with snow, with more falling, almost in blizzard fashion. And the home team was unleashing a blizzard of scoring against the Titans! Five TDs in the second quarter -- an NFL record. Final score Pats 59, Titans zip. Ouch!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A "Super" spiritual weekend

This past weekend consisted of several hours of my being in a church building or on property. And I enjoyed every minute of this! Or to put it better, I was blessed - so-o-o-o blessed!

It began early Saturday morning, when before dawn I was riding the bus to Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) to help out with the annual yard sale. Tables were already set up with items for sale on them, so I strolled along the front driveway and browsed. I saw several items which I considered purchasing. But then I chose to practice self-discipline: I'd wait 'til just before the closing down of the sale and if an item I'd liked was still available, I'd consider that the Lord was allowing me to have it and I'd then buy it. Most of the items I wanted the most were gone, but I still went home with a few "treasures". These included "Bleachers", the only John Grisham book I've read and one of my favorites of the books I'd read back in San Antonio as member of a branch library's book (reading & discussion) club.

Saturday evening I attended my first Candlelight for a Walk to Emmaus since leaving San Antonio. Bill Burleigh, who's director for Operation Sand Down Nashville, picked me up; he already had a couple other passengers. He drove us to the IHOP in Hermitage, near the church that's the location for the Walk. It turned out that a couple of the others had lived in Texas (I think one might have been a native Texan). We got to comparing and arguing good-naturedly about Texas barbecue versus Tennessee barbecue. We also discussed fajitas over the IHOP fare that we were actually eating.

Then we went on over to HErmitage UMC for "Candlelight" for the Men's Walk to Emmaus #162. Some of the details of how Candlelight is done here are different from Candlelights in Texas, but the overall concept is identical. Therefore, it was good to be present for this event!

Sunday morning Eastwood Christian's worship included an arrangement of "Blessed Assurance" as choir anthem. Since I had missed two straight Wed. choir rehearsals I chose to "sit out" this anthem. As the choir sang it I had conflicted feelings. On the one hand I felt that I probably could have sung with them after all, and I was missing singing with them. On the other hand it was such an overwhelming blessing to be out there in the congregation listening to our gifted choir!

Associate Pastor Michael Lehman did the communion meditation/invitation. He remarked about the "Great Communion" joint worship last Sunday afternoon on World Communion Sunday. HE pointed out what I had missed: that there was precious LITTLE real fellowship and communication between persons of the various congregations and denominations represented. Then he called for us present this morning to pass the sign of peace to others, especially persons we didn't know or know well.

Wow! if this wasn't the Spirit at work, then I don't know what it was!

This being the second Sunday of the month, I went out in the evening to Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples) for their second Sunday dinner and worship. It was my second church dinner of the day, since Eastwood held a dinner right after morning worship. I sure was glad that my VA dietitian, Debbie, who's a Vine Street member and usually attends Second Sunday, was out of state. Had she been there and heard me confess to already having been at another church dinner the same day, I'm sure she would have glared at me!

For the worship, upstairs in the main sanctuary, KK Wiseman did something different -- which is par for the course at the quite alternative worship. She actually preached, about grace but that's the end of the story and we have to go thru the middle of the story which is sin. One hears very little about sin in today's sermons, at least among congregations of mainline denominations. And I think this cheapens the value of the divine grace which is so frequently the topic of sermons. So I appreciated KK's words about sin (she actually didn't use the three-letter word often, but clearly it was what she was talking about).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A week of anniversaries

This first full week of October in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine is a week of anniversaries, or birthdays if you will in some cases. The commemorations commenced on Sunday the Fourth, which being the first Sunday of October was World Communion Sunday. It was a year ago on WCS that yours truly chose to join Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Since the Lord's Supper is such a highly meaningful element of the Christian life and worship to me, it made sense to put my membership into Eastwood that Sunday.

But this is a very minor anniversary, even for the day. You see, dear reader, two hundred years ago a former Presbyterian preacher on the American frontier, Thomas Campbell, published the "Declaration and Address (of the Christian Association of Washington, PA)", a document that was a strong call to Christian unity and the end to denominationalism and divisions separating the earthly Body of Christ. The "Declaration and Address" stands as one of the initial and pivotal documents for the Restoration Movement that spread along the frontier during the 1800s. This movement, to return the body of Christian believers back to its original New Testament simplicity and unity, developed into the current Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ (non-instrumental) and Christian Churches (independent). More about Campbell and the document can be found at

In 1909, the Centennial of the "Declaration and Address" coincided with a general assembly of Restorationists in Pittsburgh, and was remembered by means of "The Great Communion", a mass worship service around the Lord's Table. Last year, just as I was moving into Nashville from San Antonio, the World Convention (of Restoration denominations) was being held right here in Nashville, and I attended the closing worship on my first Sunday afternoon here. It was mentioned that A.D. 2009 would be the Bicentennial of the "Declaration and Address" and that rather than attempting to gather a significant number of members of the three denominations in one location in a second such "Great Communion", there would be various gatherings on World Communion Sunday.

And so this afternoon of WCS brothers and sisters from the Disciples, the Churches of Christ and the Independents were invited to gather at West End Church of Christ, a very large church about a mile out past Vanderbilt University on West End Avenue. I found out thru my Pastor that there would be a joint choir (or mass choir) as part of the worship, so I went early in the afternoon to lend my voice to this. I was delighted when I entered the building, to discover that T.J. McLaughlin, choir director at Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples) just a little further out the avenue, would be our director. It must have been a unique experience for him to be conducting rehearsal with no other instrument than a pitch pipe. But apparently that was a concession that had been made, that since we were in a Church of Christ building we'd be singing a cappella.

However, after a couple of addresses about this day and this significant worship gathering -- all the speakers made some mention of the document whose bicentennial we were also celebrating -- the special anthem by the joint choir and the partaking of the open Lord's Supper by all present, a local Disciples congregation of French-speaking members of African descent, did two concluding songs, in French. The first was strict a cappella, but the for the second they employed a pair of conga drums! I had to wonder if THIS were not the very first time any musical instrument of any type had been played in this sanctuary!

But praise be to God, for even with drums the song was heart-felt praise. And I certainly do hope the non-instrumental brethren present were accepting of it!

And praise be to God for our Supper of unity, remembering a milepost-timepost for a historical document calling for unity.

Celebrating THE legend and pioneer radio station

Monday evening I was involved in my final delivery run or two for Bradley Drugstore, and as usual on Monday evenings I was listening to WSM-AM 650 radio and deejay extraordinaire Eddie Stubbs. Ever since Eddie came to Nashville and the station back in the 1990s I've admired his love for real, traditional country music and his inexhaustible knowledge about every detail about every country hit song.

This evening he displayed a slightly different facet of his knowledge. For on this 5 October he took time to call attention over the airwaves to this date being the birthday of the very radio station for which he is deejay. He even remarked that it was about this very hour, "the 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock hour", of 5 October 1925 that sound began to be heard via the airwaves that a new station was broadcasting from Nashville. Thus was born a station which has become legendary in broadcasting. The station's call letters came from the slogan of National Life & Accident insurance company, which was "We Shield Millions". National Life got "sold" on the benefit of having a radio station (of its own) for advertising purposes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Indeed, WSM became so prominent in broadcasting and so influential in not only broadcasting but also the development of "hillbilly music" that later was called "country and Western", that it was also called "The Air Castle of the South". And its broadcast tower, south of Nashville and close by IH 65 south, became a landmark. It's rather distinctive, since it looks like a very elongated pyramid atop an inverted, equally elongated pyramid.

So, here's a "Happy 84th birthday, 'Air Castle"!" from yours truly.

Friday Opry of "Birthday Bash Weekend"

The world's longest-running live radio show (oldest show of ANY sort, I do believe) is celebrating its birthday (or anniversary if you prefer) this weekend. The Grand Ole Opry began 84 years ago, in a studio of the National Life & Accident Company's headquarter building here. And actually it started later in the year 1925 -- "officially" according to Opry archives -- but since the station that carries the show, WSM-AM 650, began broadcasting early in October, the powers that be choose to celebrate in early October.

Thus, on the Friday Nite Opry there was mention of the "birthday", and even a birthday cake. And as the 1990s country song goes, "I watched it all on my radio". Or at least as much of the show as I could, out of the car radio when wasn't out of the car making a delivery for Bradley Drugstore. The show commenced with John Conley, whom I've always liked since he became a singing star and Opry cast member in the early 1980s. Soon I'd be hearing from Patty Loveless, who joined during the late '80s. Just about the time I moved to Nashville last year she released an album, "Sleepless Nights", and now this evening she sang a song off her newest album, "Mountain Soul II". (But alas! I heard little of her performance on stage over the airwaves, since I was involved in an "involved" delivery to a nursing home.)

I was rather impressed with the prominent display of the love affair between the Opry and our nation and especially our military. Jimmy Dickens commented, after emcee Eddie Stubbs verbally noted the presence of another WW II veterans group, how much he had enjoyed his many trips overseas to perform for active military in theaters of combat and how soldiers were the nicest audience. During the final half hour, Eddie introduced an active-duty Navy man who had done duty in Afghanistan, Iran (covert?) and Iraq, and had just returned to the States. He got a standing ovation from the in-house audience.

And then after Montgomery Gentry, the duo who are the cast's newest members, came out and sang their latest hit "There's One in Every Crowd", plus "Back When I Knew It All", not only was a birthday cake rolled out on-stage, but a "tame" bald eagle was carried forward for the audience to admire!

I love this show! May the Grand Ole Opry show have many, many more birthdays/anniversaries!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ray Price - live in concert, 2d time around!

If the reader will go to my other, earlier blog, "Glen Alan's San Antonio", to 24 September A.D. 2007, you will read about how "I died and went to Heaven" when I went to a Ray Price concert. He sang at Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas, and I was present along with my "baby" brother Patrick.

Last evening I got to experience the great legendary country singer a second time live in concert. He performed at the Acuff Theater, which is close by the Grand Ole Opry House, out where Opryland used to be. I'd received a discount coupon while I stopped in briefly at "Coffee Country & Cody" -- AND Charlie -- Friday morning at the Ford Theater. I was glad to get the discount, and even more appreciative when thanks to Nashville MTA I had to take a taxi part of the way.

I bought a good seat, near the middle about 15 or so rows back in the Acuff Theater. (This actually put me closer to the stage and the performer than when I'd been at Floore.) Eddie Stubbs, Opry emcee and WSM deejay, came out to commence the show, and then Ray Price's band, the Cherokee Cowboys, did about three instrumental selections. Well, they weren't strictly instrumental, since Ray's son came out and sand the lyrics, but the emphasis was clearly on the instrumental aspect.

Then Ray himself came out, and opened with "San Antonio Rose", followed by greetings and then a medley that began with all of "Crazy Arms". This start of the concert impressed me, because it was exactly the same as the Floore concert. And I'd assumed that that night (back in '07) the legendary singer had commenced with "San Antonio Rose" as acknowledgement of the proximity of the city to the venue. But I suppose Ray starts all his concerts this way, wherever.

The song selection may have been similar. And Ray himself was as strong in his stage presence as ever -- despite being 84 years old and this being only his fifth concert since having been in the hospital. But I was quite aware of differences. This evening we were indoors; the Texas concert had been outdoors. This evening the band was attired in dark suits and ties (with white shirts). Very few men in this Nashville audience sported Stetsons (possibly only myself and the gentleman to my left). However, as I was leaving after the concert it came to me that there was another similarity between the two concerts: most of the audience were my age or older -- folks who would have been around when the songs Ray sang were current hits. Younger folks don't know what high quality singing they missed out on!

But Ray didn't just sing songs that are immediately associated with himself; he also sang a couple of songs from other artists. There was one by Hank Williams, with whom Ray had worked in the couple of years preceding his untimely death. And the song that charmed me most (other than "Crazy Arms") was one Ray dedicated to his audience and fans before he sang it. It was Gladys Knight's hit "You're the Best Thing (that Ever Happened to Me)". He also made various comments during the concert that expressed his love for and appreciation of his fans. I like singers who do this!

The concert finished up with not one but two encores, and thunderous standing ovations. And Eddie Stubbs told us that when he could get up to the lobby and the concession (product) table, Ray would be signing CDs and he would keep signing until all who wanted it had his autograph. Wow! what a trooper!

Since I'd had to spend my money on a taxi ride I couldn't purchase a CD and get an autograph. So I consoled myself by sauntering out the door and seeking out the Grand Ole Opry Museum. It was not in relationship to the Acuff Theater or the Opry House in exactly the manner I was remembering from my years of working at the former Opryland. But the Museum was still there! I walked over and was surprised that despite the late hour and the schedule painted on the doors, it was still open! I didn't have sufficient time to view teverything inside, but from just inside the doors what I saw was exactly like I remembered it. This brief moment inside the Museum evoked vivid memories of my employment time at Opryland. Plus it was great to know that not everything out here had been annihilated when the park died!

Likewise, it was great to know that a great voice like Ray Price could still bless us with a live performance. I felt like my cherished memories of the earlier concert in Texas got truly doubled in worth, by this eveing's concert!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Boat ride to a Cherokee feast

Yesterday evening I got to do something I get to do all too seldom: go out ON the water via a ride in a boat. And I'm not certain that I've even BEEN in a houseboat before, out on the water. But what a ride! Ahoy, matey!

You see, the Nashville area Lambda Chi Alpha alumni held our monthly get-together Wednesday; one of the Brothers graciously invited us onto his houseboat moored at Cedar Creek Marina on Old Hickory Lake (a reservoir formed by a dam on Hadley Bend of the Cumberland River), north of Mt. Juliet (which is east of Nashville just over the Wilson country line). This houseboat includes a "front room" (or living room/captains post), behind which and a little lower is a kitchen-dining room, and stairs lead down from that first room presumably to sleeping quarters. Narrow outdoor passages along either side of the boat connect small deck areas at prow and stern; from the hinder deck a ladder leads up to a larger deck area, and from there a second ladder heads up to another deck, partially sheltered by a forward canvas roof under which are built-in seats looking both forward and backward and the steering wheel and controls for the craft. Seven of us Lambda Chi brothers enjoyed this craft and its journey upriver (or "up-lake"). We included boat owner and captain Paul Lyle, Alex Davies who usually arranges the monthly meetings, Tom Hoy who is High Pi or alumni advisor for Gamma-Delta Zeta (our chapter at Vandy) and with whom I rode from Nashville, and our driver Fritz Haimberger.

An aside: The LCA brothers I've named all graduated from VU -- and I hold an MA from Vandy -- but Bro. Paul is a UT alumnus. There WAS some "trash-talk" and rivalry words this evening, but all in good-natured fun. Nobody was about to get TOO harsh about Bro. Paul's alma mater; after all, nobody wanted to swim to get back home!

This evening presented a nearly perfect environment for the boat trip! The sky was blue clear, the air a pleasant autumn warm -- I removed my suit coat (I was the only one garbed in suit & tie) -- and being past summer we encountered little boat traffic on Old Hickory Lake. Bro. Paul entertained us by playing hit songs of the Sixties and Seventies off an ipod thru the boat's p.a. system. He pointed out to us that the reservoir is really very shallow except at the former riverbed. In fact, we passed a rather broad segment of lake where several downed tree trunks and limbs lay mostly above water! Almost all the shoreline had trees, and occasionally we saw houses and other man-made objects.

Of special interest to myself and Bro. Tyler (alumnus of Western Kentucky Univ.) was Boxwell Scout Reservation on the south shore of the reservoir. Bro. Tyler spoke of earning his Scout sailing merit badge there, on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. And my son David spent a week during at least one summer in the 1990s camping there with his troop from Clarksville (I was there, too). Since we were passing Boxwell, I pulled out my cell phone and gave David a call; when he answered I informed that I was floating past the scout camp even as we spoke.

David said, "Boxwell? No way!" To which I replied, "Way!" and proceeded to fill him in on the context of my statement. Then he made me doubly glad that I had called, because he told me that he and Allison had heard the baby's heartbeat during a recent visit to the doctor! So, when I hung up the phone I regaled my fraternity brothers with my impending grandfather status (most of the seven are in their early-to-mid twenties, so I excuse them that they didn't display much in the way of congratulations or interest).

The boat passed under the Highway 109 bridge, and looking back down-river ("down-lake") to the West we could see a brilliant sunset sky. Against this was silhouetted the superstructure over that part of the bridge which carries the road high up over the former riverbed. I took a photo of this, to add to earlier ones I'd taken of the shoreline and of my Lambda Chi brothers on the boat.

Just past the bridge Bro. Paul turned his houseboat to the right and into the south shore, where he docked us in a marina close by Cherokee Steak House. An eighth LCA alumnus who hadn't been on the ride joined us there, and we had supper. The food was delicious and the ambiance delightful. We had a great time eating, conversing and getting better acquainted and occasionally throwing glances at an MLB game on the TV up in the corner next to us. During the chatting I discovered that Bro. Paul worked for radio stations WKDA and WKDF, and thus knows my fellow church member Cindy Francis (Lovelace) very well. Small world, one might say!

If you, dear reader, get opportunity to travel around the Nashville-Old Hickory Lake area, and want a very good place to dine, I heartily recommend the Cherokee Steak House to you.

Then we walked the short distance back to the docked boat and began the return voyage. Even tho' the night air was quite cooler, we all had jackets (and me my suit coat), so we all were on that highest part of the upper deck, toward the front, where the steering wheel and controls are. We continued our chatting, generally in pairs, and listening to hits of the Sixties and Seventies, while luxuriating in the soothing sensation of the boat moving along thru the water. Too soon, almost it seemed, we were back at Cedar Creek Marina, said our farewells -- and our thanks to Bro. Paul -- and drove to our respective homes.

What an utterly delightful evening of brotherhood, in motion on the water and dining around the table! I can almost feel song lyrics coming on! Must be because this happened so near Music City!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let's lasso some tomes, fellas!

Today I got to see, meet & greet my favorite saddle-pals, in a library. Hence, the title for this post.

You see, dear reader, the downtown Nashville Public Library is hosting a series of musical entertainment events in the library's courtyard. It's called the "Summer Series" even tho' this didn't commence 'til August and today's concert plus the remainder fall during Fall (pun intended). Hence, "tomes".

Today's performers were a quartet of fellas whom I heartily applaud for promoting, preserving and enhancing the music I grew up listening to: cowboy songs! Hence, "lasso".

They are Riders in the Sky, Grammy-winners from the cast of the Grand Ole Opry show, who last February performed with our own Nashville Symphony in the Schermerhorn Concert Center. Ranger Doug and the other three did a sort of prelude by being on "Coffee Country and Cody", the weekday wake-up show on WSM-AM 650 (which of course broadcasts the Opry). I was glad they did this, as I listened while driving and delivering prescriptions on this delightful sunny day. Bill Cody and his "sidekick" Charlie Mattos are often a bundle of laughs all on their own. So are Riders during their performances. Put the two groups together and you've got what we listeners got this morning: not just a bundle but a riot of laughs! And of course the announcements that the quartet of cowboy crooners would be at the Library, and that the album recorded during the concerts with the Symphony had recently been published and is now available.

The guys mentioned that they'd also performed during last year's "summer series" at the Library, and apparently it was on a day that set the record for high temperature here. There were jokes about the perspired appearance of the four, especially Joey the Cowpolka King.

But today's weather couldn't have been better for being outside! And Riders did a standard mix of classic old cowboy songs, their own compositions and humorous commentary. In addition to their album with the Symphony their Grammy-winning album recorded for the movie "Toy Story 2" came into play. To the great delight of the many kids present. (I should mention that the courtyard is surrounded by the building's second floor, which houses books and activities for children.) Shortly after they performed with the Symphony I had read Riders in the Sky as being a performance group oriented to kids. Well, if so then I guess I like the four so much because they bring out the "kid" in yours truly. And if that's so, then so be it!

Fellas, let's go lasso some tomes!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Music, Music, Music! here & there

This weekend, and part or all of the week leading into it, have Music City, a.k.a. Nashville, hosting the "Americana Music" convention. In fact the Americana Music Awards show was last evening in historic Ryman Auditorium.

"Americana." It's a fairly new name for a musical genre. I think I may have heard the term used while I was living in Texas; may even have encountered it during my previous residence in this state. But I've been almost immersed in it, sort of, since I moved to Nashville just over a year ago. WSM-AM 650, home radio station of the Grand Ole Opry show, will occasionally announce over the airwaves, that it's about to do some song "from the Americana files" of the station.

"Americana." I'm not exactly certain WHAT type of music this is supposed to be, other than I've heard that "roots music" used as a synonym. But this isn't much help, since I know even less about what "roots music" is! My initial deduction was that "Americana music" was some sort of a penumbra or an "aura" around out-right country music. That is, it encompassed country plus elements of other musical genres which either contributed to it or were influenced by it.

I did hear Eddie Stubbs, WSM's amazing fountain of all knowledge about country music (of the more traditional styles), comment about "Americana music" on his show one evening. I sure do wish I had written down notes about what he said! But from what I remember of his remarks, plus comments during this week on "Coffee Country & Cody", the station's wake-up week day show, I'm thinking it may be closer to a definition to say that it's any and all music produced IN these United States and performed by singers and/or musicians born in the USA. I don't know. . . perhaps "Americana music" is whatever the user intends by it!

But I do acknowledge that what I've heard on WSM or elsewhere that's labelled "Americana music" I like. But then again, I'm quite eclectic in my musical tastes. You, dear reader, will read much more on my blog here about country (and Western) music and Southern Gospel music than about other genres. The same's true on my earlier blog ("Glen Alan's San Antonio"). But please do NOT think for a skinny minute that I don't imbibe of many other musical genres and find them nearly as refreshing to my listening ears as C & W or So. gospel! I rejoice whenever I'm at a live outdoor jazz festival. . . I delight to sing the traditional hymns of the faith. . . I revel in a symphony orchestra's performance. . . And what I'd give to shake hands with Bach or Handel!

So, "Americana music", may you have a satisfying get-together here in Nashville.

And while we here are engrossed in this "Americana music" and hosting its convention, up to the north and east of us in Louisville they're hosting the annual gathering of a much older genre: Southern gospel music. It's called the National Quartet Convention. This used to be held here in Nashville, but just as I was getting captivated by SGM, Louisville lured the NQC away! Oh, well; perhaps that's all for the better for my wallet.

Southern Gospel is not only much older than Americana -- next year (2010) will be its centennial as an identified musical genre -- it was developed and identified right here in Tennessee, at Lawrenceburg, in 1910. And of course, with Nashville having so many publishing houses and already being the home of the Fisk Jubilee Singers (whose primary singing was spirituals) this city took an early prominence in the development and spread of Southern gospel. On that basis alone I believe it would only be right to return the NQC to Music City!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nine-Eleven. 9-1-1. Help!

My title for this derives from an editorial column printed in the Clarksville, Tennessee, daily newspaper shortly after 11 September A.D. 2001.

Yes, yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the terrible attack on these United States, when shadowy, little-heard-of terrorists of Islam took this country by surprise and shook us to our core. In Clarksville I'd just watched the movie classic "Stanley and Livingstone" on AMC or TCM early that morning and was channel-surfing. I kept encountering images of one of the World Trade Center towers in smoke. I stopped to find out why -- and watched the whole thing unfold. The attack on the second tower. The attack on the Pentagon. The crash in a Pennsylvania field after passengers on the fourth jet fought back against the terrorists and foiled their evil designs. The present on that date was far darker than the "darkest Africa" of the movie I'd just watched!

And the war goes on. . . .

Here in Nashville early in the morning I heard mention of the anniversary on the radio (WSM-AM 650). And later I read references to commemorating events that were scheduled to happen around the city. Too bad I didn't learn of these 'til after the fact -- I'd have like to have gone. But I did remember, and mused on that terrible day often thru'out this day (that is, yesterday, Friday the Eleventh).

Just this afternoon I read a business markee near Vanderbilt University, that said "remembering 9-11 / God bless the USA" or similar. During the days following that dark day, and around each anniversary since, this phrase is to be read all over the place.

"God bless the USA."

And I have to wonder, how dare we? How dare we ask the Almighty Holy One to bless a country that decades ago kicked Him out of public classrooms and displays on public property? How dare we ask the Holy One on high to bless a nation whose people have descended into all sorts of moral filth and an attitude of "anything goes"? How dare we ask God to bless an unholy people who murder thousands of unborn children yearly and who are quickly bowing down to everything that the homosexual agenda demands?

No wonder that Mohammed's disciples hate the West. No wonder their front-line soldiers attacked this country that terrible day in Ought One.

"God bless the USA"??? Truly rather, let us fall on our collective national knees and cry out with repentant tears, "God have mercy on us, a nation of vile sinners!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Catching up on "stuff"

Wow! I've been away from posting on my blog for several days. Perhaps a reason is that lots has been happening lately. Most of which doesn't merit a post here. But still, here's what has occurred that may be of interest. . . .

I had to work Saturday -- two days prior to the Labor Day holiday -- but didn't mind at all. And indeed, my final run in a white Ford Ranger for Bradley Health Services turned into a delightful evening journey south of Nashville, to the Cool Springs area (Brentwood-Franklin), Spring Hill, and Columbia. On the way I was listening to bluegrass on WVRY and WSM. By the time I made that delivery in Columbia I was into NCAA football. First, it was the Governors of Austin Peay State U (in Clarksville, where years ago I was an adjunct instructor). The Govs began their home opener in splendid fashion, pouncing on a miscue by visiting Newberry College's team, to score a TD with only sixteen seconds passed! They continued to play well (to eventually win 34-23). But after a half hour of that game I switched to the station carrying my beloved Vanderbilt Commodores. My Black-and-Gold team was also opening at home, against Western Carolina. And the 'Dores were even more powerful than the govs, winning 45-0! Topping this all off a couple days later was discovering that my undergrad alma mater, the University of Idaho, had won their opener, too! A conference game on the road, at New Mexico State! Opening wins and road wins had become rare happenings for the U of I Vandals! Perhaps all three teams will do well this NCAA football season of Ought Nine?

Last Sunday was a rather quiet day at church, Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). However, I got to read the Scripture reading for the Sunday, Mark 7:24-37. Reading aloud the written Word of God is one way I particularly desire to contribute to a worship service. Especially when, as in the reading for 6 Sept., the reading is from one of the Four Gospels, reporting the teachings and deeds of the living Word of God.

Did I describe church as "quiet" on this past Sunday? Well, perhaps, but still we had a pretty fair attendance for the eve of Labor Day. And our Associate Pastor, Michael Lehman, who delivered the sermon, preached with the passion that he always seems to display, and which I always appreciate.

Labor Day itself was an absolutely beautiful day to be outside. During a delivery for Bradley Drugstore the previous Saturday (or Fri.) I had to stop at MetroCenter Teachers Tower. While I awaited the elevator I read a notice that the place would have a fish fry on Labor Day, and it read like anybody was invited to partake of the low-cost feast. I remarked about the fish fry to the resident to whom I delivered the prescription, and she all but invited me, as she raved about the tastiness of the fish. So I hied myself to MetroCenter Teachers Tower in mid-day. And true, the fish, breaded and fried on the spot, was de-e-e-elicious! The weather too was delicious, perfect for enjoying a fish fry outdoors.

In the days since the holiday I've been getting better acquainted with a new next-door neighbor at Mercury Courts.. His name's Michael and he had just been released from serving a prison sentence. As I got better acquainted with him I kept thinking of all the inmates I had come to know thru volunteer service in Kairos Prison Ministries in Texas. I think Michael and I will become great friends as well as good neighbors!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"An Intimate Evening" . . .with Rhonda

No, dear reader, get your mind outta the gutter. I wasn't having a torrid affair last evening! No, indeed, the specific Rhonda and I were in a crowded theater, well lit. And anyway, the intimacy wasn't between the two of us. . . .

Confused? Want to know more? Here it is:

I attended the live broadcast of a show on WSM-AM 650, called "An Intimate Evening with Eddie Stubbs" His guest this time for the monthly show was bluegrass singer and instrumentalist Rhonda Vincent. I first heard of Rhonda about twelve years ago, on "Front Porch Fellowship", a show presenting bluegrass gospel recordings on Solid Gospel 105. At once I considered that "that lady can SING!" After a few years I heard her singing a general bluegrass song on "The Air Castle of the South". I was a tad bit disappointed, since up to that moment I'd considered that Rhonda sang only bluegrass gospel songs. However, since then I've learned that most bluegrass artists and bands -- from "the Father" Bill Monroe onward -- sing a mix of gospel and so-called secular. Also, I heard Rhonda several times guesting on the Grand Ole Opry show -- singing general bluegrass or gospel.

Then I moved to San Antonio for six and a half years. Just in the going there I feared I was leaving all bluegrass behind. Not true! There IS bluegrass to be had in the Lone Star State. But the genre is not as common as here in the Mid-South. And as I wrote to the host of "Front Porch Fellowship" upon my return a year ago, there wasn't much "Rhonda Vincent for the listening pleasure!"

Thus, upon my move here last year it was great pleasure to again hear her guesting on the Opry, frequently! Then twice earlier this summer I missed opportunities to experience live in person this woman whose talents I so admired over the airwaves. So when I was given free admission to the 2 September edition of "An Intimate Evening with Eddie Stubbs" I was almost beside myself with excitement! Once I clocked out from work at mid-day yesterday my focus was on the Ford Theater of the Country Music Hall of Fame and getting myself ready to be there. Yes, that means I donned a suit and tie, not for a date with Rhonda but rather to show my esteem for her talent.

But hold on a minute! The MTA bus that should have picked me up on Murfreesboro Road and then dropped me off at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Demonbreun outside the Hall of Fame just before seven (showtime) never came by. I wasn't about to wait an hour for the next bus, so I started hoofing it. Fortunately, after over a mile of walking along Murfreesboro I caught an unexpected in-bound bus of another route at a cross street. So I only missed about the first half hour of the two hours of "An Intimate Evening".

Now, if there was any other "downer" to this dream coming true it was that Rhonda didn't perform live for us. Most of the show is simply Eddie interviewing his Guest. At occasional commercial and news breaks the Guest will sign autographs and pose for photos, and the return to on-air will feature one of the Guest's recorded songs. But no live singing or picking.

However, the extended dialog is absolutely delightful. Eddie seems to know how to bring out the personal -- yes, intimate -- from the artist without nosy probing or stepping out of line. You come away from the show, whether there in the studio or listening on the airwaves at home, with a strong feeling that you know the Guest as a down-home person, like your next-door neighbor.

And Rhonda? She shared with us much about her background of being born in a musical family that would tour and perform widely from their home in Missouri. Indeed, brother Darrin is now the second half of the name Dailey & Vincent. Plus she spoke some about life on the road, and incidents in the tour bus. But what caught my attention the most were her frequent expressions of gratitude to her fans and her delight in mingling with us at outdoor festivals and other concerts.

After the show ended I went down to the floor or stage, to get my picture taken with both Rhonda and Eddie. This was another reason I dressed up; Eddie always wears a suit and tie, and Rhonda was fetching in fancy white pants and a maroon-ish blouse with huge pleated cuffs that flared out from her lower arms. I managed to let her know that this "Intimate Evening" was a dream come true for yours truly -- real after some 12 years! I also wished her the best on recording an upcoming all-gospel album which had been mentioned during the interview.

After all, my first experience of Rhonda Vincent was a couple of years of hearing her bluegrass gospel recordings on "Front Porch Fellowship". So, Rhonda, take that Good News and sing it to the world!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Incredibly "Chamber of Commerce" weather!

Nashville has been blessed with an unusually agreeable summer in this Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine, weather-wise. There was abundant rainfall until August and adequate during this past month. But it seems that after nearly every rain front has passed thru, there has been notably lower humidity, as well as lower than typical temperatures. Music City even set a record low "high" for the day about a month or so back. That is, on that date the temperature didn't even rise to the lowest previous measurement!

Can you say, "Cool"?

This past weekend, the final one for August of Ought Nine, plus the past two weekdays seemed like we'd ascended to the summit of this "chamber of commerce weather". Night-time lows in the fifties, day-time highs in th upper seventies under clear blue skies emptied of the typical high humidity by a front that passed thru toward the end of last work week. It was simply a blessing to be outdoors at every opportunity and every excuse!

"Papa" sounds good!

. . .and the grandchild hasn't even been born yet! Let alone learned any words, "Mama", "Daddy", "Grandpa" or otherwise!

So, what leads me to the "Subject/Title" of this posting? Well, as soon as I got word that we Grahams were to get a new member of a new generation, I spread the word, including at Mercury Courts, where I live. One of the Urban Housing Solutions staffers who works in an office next to the computer lab is Gina. And every time Gina sees me in the lab (usually when I enter and passing her open door I greet her), she'll say, "Hi, Grandpa!"

Well, that sounds good to me!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Excursion to Bethany Hills

Saturday my current "church family" of Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) held an all-day retreat at Bethany Hills the Disciples of Christ church camp west of Nashville. Now this wasn't a "formal" retreat, as in a day of specified spiritual learning and development. It was rather quite informal and unstructured. Messages from the church about it stated for instance that "start time" was ten in the morning, but folk could arrive any time. Also, bring your own lunch. Dinner would be provided at six, and a closing worship at seven.

I got a ride there with Steve Walls, a tenor in the church choir, whose SUV was filled with youth in addition to us two adults. We chatted about the beautiful weather -- cool and low-humidity for an August day in Tennessee -- and the beautiful green tree-covered hills west of the city. When Steve turned his SUV into the lane leading down into the campground I was surprised. It was pretty much as I remembered it from my last visit, except for a large bell prominently placed between the entry lane and the main lodge. But the memory of Bethany Hills was FRESH, as tho' I'd been there just last summer, not some time in the late 1980s! Later I determined that the freshness was possibly due to having taken my teenage children in the late 1990s from Clarksville to an Independent church campground nearby.

It turned out that we in Steve's SUV were about the first to arrive -- setting aside that a few ECC(DC) members had spent Friday night in the camp. I think a total of close to fifty folks of all ages ultimately participated in the retreat at Bethany Hills. Most of the day was spent in relaxing, impromptu activities of the sort one might do at any camp out in the woods. Steve and I, for example, after lunch joined with about half a dozen folks in a nature hike up the hill past the pond. A couple of the hikers were quite knowledgeable about the flora we encountered. On our way back we encountered a beautiful butterfly. Prentice and I both took photos of this lovely creature. Dear reader, please take a look at Prentice's photo!

Also, I broke out my guitar that I'd carried to camp with me, and played a few songs on it (more for my own pleasure than to deliberately entertain anybody). Another item I broke out was my swim trunks, which hadn't seen use since I left San Antonio. Despite having not been to see the VA podiatrist for my follow-up to his having "liberated" my left big toenail, I chose to go ahead an immerse the said nail-less and recuperating toe in the pool water. After all, the water's sterile from all the chlorine used in it. Right?

The weather continued to be fresh and clear until late afternoon, when it began to cloud up. I didn't expect any rain, since it hadn't been in the forecasts for the weekend. But once we all went into the dining hall for supper, and everybody was seated and eating, the sky opened up. A quick warning was hollered to everybody in the hall, that if their vehicle windows were open to go roll them up. Steve was one of those who had to run thru the pouring rain to do so. When he returned he affirmed that the interior of his SUV hadn't gotten wet much at all.

And certainly his guitar hadn't been moistened! It was up in the great hall of the lodge, beside mine. You see, the two of us had been asked to bring our instruments to provide accompaniment for the closing worship. In fact, he and I had tuned up our guitars and practiced the two suggested songs when we first arrived in the morning.

The rain hadn't lasted long, but it had been a true "gully-washer" as they say in Texas. So the worship, which had been planned for the outdoor amphitheater on the bank of the camp pond, got moved into the great hall. There was a call for strong boys and men to move the tables therein and set up rows of chairs. Per standard Disciples of Christ practice for any worship, a communion table was set up for the Lord's Supper. The Supper is the central element of Disciples worship, indeed is in all worship services of the three denominations who came out of the Restoration Movement.

The layout of the Table for the Supper was so simply and yet focal, that I felt moved to take a photograph of it. I had carried my camera to the camp for the express purpose of taking pictures and already had several.

And so we gathered in that great hall, under that high ceiling with the Table of the Lord front and center, and worshiped our Creator and Savior. We sang two songs, as Steve and I strummed out guitars. The opening song was "Here I Am, Lord" and later we sang "Leaning on the everlasting Arms". Young John Hartley, the Pastor's youngest son, played his violin for an instrumental offering. Our ECC(DC) choir director, Julie Duemler, also sang a cappella just before communion. Both Associate Pastor Michael Lehman and Pastor Jay Hartley read scriptures and offered meditations (or mini-sermons if you will). And both were in a manner profound reflections on the Christian life in the context of the church camp we'd been blessed to enjoy this day.

And then it was time to depart in the darkness of dusk and return to the city and the "real world". But refreshed in spirit by the experiences of the day out in the country at Bethany Hills camp!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Three Nicknames, (re)visited

I've mentioned, back in my earliest postings, how Nashville has two other nicknames beside "Music City". Actually, thanks to my good buddy Bill Cody of WSM-AM 650 I now know of a fourth. It's "Rock City" and apparently derives from the prominence of limestone in this area.

Setting aside this fourth, last Sunday afternoon you might say that I experienced the three nicknames all in one ride on the bus! After worship I had gone as usual to the Kroger in Green Hills for Sunday dinner -- they have a terrific salad bar, and a good dining area inside the store. When I finished eating, I got on the bus to go downtown. And in effect I rode thru the three nicknames (or slogans).

First came "The Athens of the South". I had told in the earlier posting of how Nashville came to have this title or nickname, and how it continues to support it by such means as abundance of classical Greek architecture in many public buildings. I probably omitted that the classical architecture is found even in several of the city's churches (Gothic and Romanesque are comparatively rarer). On 21st Ave. South at Acklen Ave. stands Belmont United Methodist Church, in classical Greek splendor. I had been past this church numerous times, but today I pay conscious attention to those Ionic-order columns along its front and remember all the other churches that have these or Doric-order columns upholding a classical Greek gable. And just a few blocks further along 21st Ave. the bus passes thru Vanderbilt University. Vandy is of course just one -- albeit the most academically prestigious and famous -- of the many institutions of higher ed in this town. Indeed, I still remember the first time I looked at an inset map of Nashville in a Rand McNally atlas and being impressed with all the mortarboard symbols locating the various higher ed campuses! Thus yet another reason for the "Athens" nickname!

Just past 21st and Grand Ave. the bus bears to the right and away from the Vandy campus to head downtown. But at Grand I look to the right and see headquarters buildings of the United Methodist Church, including an older one of classical architecture that houses The Upper Room (the magazine offices AND the chapel). Several blocks further along the bus route we pass the buildings of the Baptist Sunday School Board, headquarters for the Southern Baptist Convention. All these denominational buildings are visual reminders of another nickname (or slogan), that of "The Buckle of the Bible Belt".

And even tho' the bus I'm on doesn't go along or across Music Row nor past Ryman Auditorium I end up getting a visual reminder of this third nickname of "Music City". You see, dear reader, when the bus turns to go along the block in which sits Music City Central, the MTA bus terminal, we pass a young man walking along slowly, holding and playing his guitar, with the case slung along his back. Such is a common sight in this city, where so many young (and some not so young) people come to try and make it big in music.

Let me remind you that the music isn't solely country music either. Indeed, when the historical truth is told, the nickname goes back before the Grand Ole Opry started broadcasting or Roy Acuff and Fred Rose founded the first music publishing company in town (to publish what was then called "hillbilly music"). I've found out that when the Fisk Jubilee Singers made their first European tour they sang so well for Queen Victoria that Her Majesty commented that, "you must be from the Music City!" And Nashville had orchestral groups long before the Opry began putting country music out on the airwaves.

Indeed, as rural folk began to stream into Nashville to SEE this radio show they loved so, and as the Opry spawned the country aspect of the music production efforts, native Nashvillians were less than welcoming. After all they wanted their city to live up to the educational and cultural implications of being "Athens of the South". Those "country bumpkins" with their hillbilly music detracted from this. Supposedly.

However, along came Sarah Ophelia Colley, an alumna of Ward Belmont, a most prestigious "finishing school" for young ladies of high society; she became famous as country comedienne and Opry cast member Minnie Pearl. After she married Henry Cannon, descendant of a Tennessee governor, they moved in next door to the Governor's Mansion. Thanks to her (and perhaps others?) a bridge began to be built between the "hillbillies" at the Ryman and the Row and the cultured high-society people out at Belle Meade Country Club.

And so my impression is that now most Nashvillians live comfortably with all three of the nicknames (or slogans) for their hometown. I know I've come to like 'em all equally well! (Granted, I'm not a native -- but I've lived in or near Nashville several years of my adult life.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fraternity Alumni & a Former Chancellor

Tuesday evening the Nashville Area Lambda Chi Alpha Alumni held our monthly get-together, at Bricktops, a pricey restaurant on West End a couple blocks past Centennial Park, and I was there. I'd truly regretted being unable to attend last month's meeting, which was a pool party -- I haven't donned my swim trunks and hit the water since before I left San Antonio. Well, I heard many positive reports about that missed pool party as we gathered in the bar area prior to our seating time of 6:45. I had tho't (as had other Brothers) that the time was 6:30, and I made sure to be particularly early and thus ended up being first to arrive at Bricktops.

When we were seated it was at several tables. I made a suggestion to Bro. Alex Davie, who sets these shindigs up, that we try having them in places with a party room, so we can have less distraction from the general crowd & more communications among ourselves. Anyhow, for the time being I sat with three Brothers I remembered from the June gathering., and then a chair was added to the open end of our booth for a late-arriving Brother. He was wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and pink necktie, and was the only Brother thus sharply attired. So obviously he was just arriving from work, and when I inquired what his job was, Bro. Rob Bigelow informed us that he's a lawyer. All five of us had lively and entertaining conversation around the booth. Among other things we discovered that Bro. Bigelow was one of the earliest initiates for the Gamma-Delta Zeta (chapter) at Vandy when the national fraternity decided to reactivate the zeta back in the 1990s. And one of the older Brothers at the table was at his initiation as an alumnus! Later Bro. Rob served a couple years as alumni advisor for the VU chapter. I think I want to get to know this comparatively young alumnus Brother! (Especially if I end up in court some day, Heaven forbid!)

Earlier in the afternoon, on my way to the LCA gathering I went to the Vanderbilt Library to return a couple of books this (Masters-level) alumnus had checked out and to acquire a couple of books about El Cid (medieval Spanish warrior, leader and national hero), a historical person whom I greatly admire. On my way out of the library to continue the jaunt to the fraternity get-together, I espied one of the several Vanderbilt periodicals near the door; its cover featured Alexander Heard, the University's Chancellor while my wife Ellen was a student at Vandy. At first I considered that his being the cover story meant he was Speaker at the Ought Nine Commencement -- but quickly I realized that the photo's age spoke against such an assumption. (Not to mention the unique VU tradition that only the sitting Chancellor speaks at VU Commencements.)

And then I saw dates under his name. Two years connected by a hyphen. Former Chancellor Heard had passed away.

I never met the man, and I don't remember Ellen speaking much about him. But what little she'd said endorsed what I'd already read about him. My first printed source on the Chancellor remains my favorite book by James Michener -- which isn't a novel. Shortly after the May 1971 shooting and killing of students at Kent State in Ohio, Michener published a tome entitled "Kent State: What happened and why". In the book he analyzes the widespread campus unrest of the 1960s and into the '70s and how some campus CEOs mishandled the unrest, but a very few took care of it wisely. And in that handful of names he praises, is Vanderbilt's Alexander Heard!

What little additional information I acquired up to and during my own years on the campus as a grad student (Heard had retired by then) only enhanced my respect for this wise gentleman and academic leader. The article in this Vandy periodical I'd picked up added even more accolades. The library system at VU, which in my wife's student days had been called the Joint University Libraries (due to sharing among adjacent institutions that later either became part of VU or ceased to exist), had been renamed (by my VU grad-student days) the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries because the retired Chancellor and his wife contributed to the libraries' endowment.

University campuses, especially tree-shaded ones like Vandy, and libraries are locales of fond visitation for yours truly. So, dear reader, I reckon I shall always hold in high esteem the (now) late Chancellor Heard. May he rest in peace!

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Coffee Country & Cody" AND Charlie!

Such is the title yours truly would give to the weekday wake-up show on radio WSM-AM 650. The actual name is in quotations, but I insist on giving Bill Cody's side-kick Charlie Mattos his due. Without Charlie the show wouldn't be such joy for the listening ear! Without Charlie, who would Bill make amusing comments about or to? Who'd he carry on stimulating conversation with? And who''d run the show in Cody's absence, as he was just now for a ten day vacation up to last Wed.?

Well, during the truly "Coffee Country & Charlie" show's ten-day run, Charlie gave me tickets for the show's broadcast from the Ford Theater of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Friday 7 Aug. And I was there "with bells on", or any rate with a necktie on. The recently returned-from-vacation Bill wore the "Regis look" of monochromatic shirt and tie, both black.

Charlie had been announcing that guests would include Hall of Famer Ralph Emery, who among other things was WSM overnite deejay, then host of eponymous wake-up show on WSMV-TV 4, then host of "Nashville Now" on TNN, and 1970s-1980s country singer Razzy Bailey. I enjoyed these guests, especially Emery, whose Channel 4 wake-up show held me as fan during the late 1980s. But better still was Gary Bonnett. I hadn't heard of this young man before Friday, but he made quite a positive impression on me. (This is becoming a regular feature of C C & C; Bill & Charlie introduce somebody new to me as their interviewee and I proceed to get impressed.)

Gary Bonnett is a young man from a very small town in West Virginia, whom Bill had met during a major country music event way out West a few months ago. The young man came out wearing a charming smile and holding a guitar and accompanied by a young lady vocalist. During the show Gary sang three songs that he himself had written, and all of them were quite good! It also came out during his conversations with host Bill that Gary had taken seven years to get thru Marshall University in his home State, and not just because of the "distraction" of a budding career in songwriting and country singing. For in response to 9-11 Gary had joined the Air Force and served our nation in Afghanistan and Iraq (he gave me these details himself while we spoke one-on-one during a break). So I most certainly wish young Mr. Bonnett much success in his music career!

And then there was The "grudge match" of the "Money-in-a-Minute" game. Team Charlie had won the first match in June, Team Cody the second last month, which I had witnessed since these are played during the sessions in the Ford Theater. Each team consists of one of the deejays, along with an audience guest who's chosen just before the game. These folks just sit there while Bill or Charlie attempt to answer country music trivia questions posed to them by one of their WSM bosses. I was strong in supporting Team Charlie, but alas! the first round was a shut-out by Bill (and his silent partner). Team Charlie got a couple of points in the second round, but this wasn't nearly en'uf, as Team Cody won handily. And his accompanying guest received $500 cash on the spot.

The game is very much in fun (setting aside the seriousness of the winner receiving 500 greenbacks). The show itself is very fun, with Bill AND Charlie. Great to listen to every weekday morning and even better to be there in person when they do broadcasts from the Ford Theater ( or other "remote" sites).