Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wow! Music "in your face" -- again!

Monday I got yet ANOTHER treat here in Nashville, that involved music. It really IS getting to be music "in your face", but I'm hardly complaining!

This treat came about because two Saturday's ago I had given my neighbor Shag a ticket to the late Grand Ole Opry show the prior Saturday in exchange for him taking me there with my ticket. He'd won admission for two to a taping of "The Marty Stuart Show" of RFD-TV. So he returned the favor and invited me to come along.

Wow! What a treat! Folks, it's fun being in the audience for a television taping, especially when it's a small, intimate studio. And such this was, North Star Studio on Dickerson Road just south of Briley Parkway. Shag wanted to be certain and get there on time, so we actually were the first audience to enter the building. We had to set up chairs and sit and await admission to the recording studio. One of the next to arrive was attired in boots, Levi pants and jacket, white button-down shirt and white cowboy hat. He was Rob McNurlin, a singer-musician from the Ashland, Kentucky, area, on his way back from a trip to Memphis. Wow! taking a "road break" to be in the audience for a TV taping! Other early arrivers were Diana and her father; she reminded me in appearance of a young Patty Loveless.

Once we were about fifty or sixty and were past the announced start of the taping, we were admitted into the studio. To the left and back was a studio backing that resembled a den or library in a mansion. Straight ahead is our show's backdrop, sort of like a barn interior, but with the wall crowded with country music, cowboy and rural items: lots of fancy boots (like stars would wear on stage, NOT for field work!) pictures of various famous old country music artists (e.g. Flatt & Scruggs), Nudie jackets, a wagon wheel and lots of American flags and red-white-&-blue bunting. (Does Marty love America and traditional country music, or what?)

I'd seen Grand Ole Opry member Jim Ed Brown enter thru the hallway earlier (performers of course were admitted in as soon as they arrived, even if not performing). Now I got to greet him and reminisce about how I'd chatted with him at the door to his dressing room backstage at the Opry House back in the 1990s when I worked at Opryland. WSM deejay and Opry emcee Eddie Stubbs, who would emcee this taping, was conversing with another audience member. When they finished I introduced myself to Eddie and identified myself as the listener who, when he began at WSM in the '90s and had a delightful Saturday morning show, I often called in requests, sent e-mails and labeled him "o fount of country music info". (I'm not the only person in awe of his encyclopedic knowledge of country music.) I sure was good to speak with Eddie and shake his hand!

The morning episode's taping involved Marty Stuart and his wife, fellow Opry star and the "Rolls Royce of Country Women" Connie Smith, Eddie as emcee, guest Kathy Mattea and Lee Roy Troy and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band (first Lee Roy solo and afterward with the Band). Kathy delighted me by singing my favorite hit of hers, "Eighteen Wheels". Her other song was one she'd done on the Ryman stage when I was at the Opry a few days earlier, and it's one that's pushing to replace the other as my fave, "The L & N Don't Stop Here Any More". It employs a standard theme of country music and especially bluegrass: the demise of a coal mine or coal town. I think it touches my heart especially because I know the L & N Railroad, which used to run thru Nashville and Clarksville (and of course Louisville, the "L" in the line's name). But alas! as the song says about the coal-mining town, so is true of C'ville and Music City. It don't stop here any more!

I was completely taken with Lee Roy; he wears farm clothes, plaid shirt, bib overalls and a farmer-type hat, and he has a friendly face. The jug band was likewise attired, and yes, one did carry and play a jug! I didn't know anybody even played them any more! They were also on the second episode's taping that afternoon. I ought to tell that Kathy was wearing jeans and a jacket, both brown, and her hair was loose, not held by hat, headband or other piece. Marty wore a black suit and neck scarf (in the style of the early-mid 1800s). His band, the Fabulous Superlatives, were similarly attired but sans neck scarf. Eddie almost looked out of place wearing a suit and tie; nevertheless, he looked sharp, and distinctive! And he really wasn't out of place; I myself wore a dress shirt and necktie, and for the afternoon taping so did half a dozen other fellows in the audience (a couple had on full suits).

After a lunch at a nearby Wendy's, where Diana and her dad also dined, we were back in the studio for the second taping. Guests on this taping were a new group, the Quebe (KEE-bee) Sisters, from Fort Worth. They were a trio of female singers with a couple of male instrumental accompanists. They sounded absolutely terrific, sort of a country Andrews Sisters! I found myself hollering out "Fort Worth, I luv yew!" (That's a slogan that was popular when I lived there in Cowtown.)

In the A.M. I'd hollered to Ms. Mattea during a quiet lull, "Kathy, I love you!" I wanted to holler the same to Connie, but refrained since I didn't know how hubby Marty might take such. And my noise was nothing to Shag's; he was downright rowdy when he'd holler!

Both sessions included a Gospel song. The morning's was a quiet, reflective number, so we were asked to NOT applaud even at the conclusion. The afternoon's was a lively one, so we got to clap. And I loved it that for both songs every performer gathered on the set to sing. And for the afternoon's Gospel song, Eddie broke out his fiddle and played it! This reminded me of his early years as emcee on the Grand Ole Opry, when occasionally he'd get out his instrument and go center stage to accompany whatever artist or group was out there at the moment.

This TV taping was terrific! I had a wonderful time!

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