Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mm-mm-mm! a Melodious Morning with Music!

Yeah, I know. What should one expect in a city, one of whose nicknames is "Music City USA"?

But this morning seemed to be especially melodious. I was doing my work to the sound of sweeter-than-usual music and song -- and not solely on WSM-AM 650. And this despite the intermittent heavy rainfall. But then again, perhaps the patter of raindrops augmented the melodiousness, do you suppose?

Early in my listening to "Coffee Country & Cody" -- AND Charlie -- Bill's conversation with Jimmy Carter (NOT the former Pres. but rather WSM's entertainment news reporter) covered a certain song's lyrics about biscuits. Both fellows quoted the lyrics to this song, "How Many Biscuits Can You Eat?" and then later a recording of it was aired. I think Bill said the recording was by Stringbean, but there were many recordings of it during the early decades of recordings and radio. I considered the lyrics as well as the instrumentation to be pluperfect classic country music! Plus, the song took me straight back to my boyhood in Boise and my mother's utterly delicious homemade biscuits.

Later, my WSM deejay buddies went from superb old classic country to superb fresh & new. They aired "Whatever 'It' Is" by the Zac Brown Band. I've esteemed this new hit ever since the first time I heard it. It's a standard love song, of a young man's feelings for his lady-love, and his stumbling over his toes, so to speak, in attempting to express those. The chorus goes

. She has whatever "it" is, it blows me away.
. She's everything I wanted to say to a woman
. But couldn't find the words to say
. She's got whatever "it" is, I don't know what to do
. Because every time I try and tell how I feel
. It comes out "I love you". You got whatever "it" is.
In the last chorus, he says "I do!" right after he sings "I love you", it sound so endearing.

But this morning I didn't devote all my listening time to "The Air Castle of the South", nor to WKDF nor Solid Gospel 105. Often when an ad I dislike come on on WSM I'll switch for a few minutes to one of those stations, then return to WSM. And I pretty much leave WSM alone after ten o-clock (when CC & C ends). But this morning when I got into the white Ford Ranger assigned to me for the day and first turned on its radio it was on Mix 93, and I left the first FM band set to this lite (or "easy") rock station. And so I listened to what passes for "oldies" these days, pop rock & roll songs of the Sixties and Seventies. The sort of music I heard and relished on Casey Casem's "American Top Forty" radio show when I was in high school and at the University of Idaho.

And while I enjoyed the music on the Ranger's radio I was doing my job, driving deliveries around Metro Nashville. The deliveries themselves are often a delight; most of our clients are appreciative of our delivery service. The message is in their faces as I hand them the bags with prescriptions, and sometimes on their tongues ans they verbalize the gratitude. One woman to who I delivered this morning was particularly grateful -- which kind of surprised me, since her prescriptions are very expensive (I guess she doesn't have insurance that covers medications). I'd delivered medicine to her a couple times before, and her address is, shall we say, "off the beaten path" even tho' not out in the country. Today she actually requested that I pass on her gratitude for Bradley Drugstore's "mission" (her word) of free delivery, to my boss. Which I did. She also offered to have prayer with me the next time I bring a delivery!

Now, while I was enjoying deliveries around town and songs on the radio, another melody was playing intermittently outdoors. You see, it was raining. The precipitation was seldom falling hard, but when it was I was safe and dry in the vehicle. And I echoed what one of my other clients said regarding the rain: "I'm not complaining". This abundant rainfall over Middle Tennessee is what's keeping it "the greenest State in the land of the free"!

And I appreciate that trait of this State! "Greenest"!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Y.A.S.N.I. for A.D. 2009

Nashville has an alternative rag, printed weekly, called Nashville Scene. I got familiar with it during my earlier sojourn in Music City, 1984-91. In 1989 the newspaper began running an annual contest to complete the phrase "You are so Nashville if. . . ." Right from the start I've greatly enjoyed the completions entered. Many are hilarious comments about local issues du jour, or send-ups about characteristics of Nashvillians (whether the trait is real or stereotypical).

Well, last week's Nashville Scene carried the entries for this year's contest. I was alerted to it by either e-mail or a Facebook post in which a fellow church member expressed dissatisfaction with the entry the rag chose as winner. When I actually got hold of a copy of the issue at a nearby convenience store on Murfreesboro Road and read all the entries, I too was dissatisfied!

The Scene's chosen First Place? "You are so Nashville if. . . your local GOP makes the KKK look like the ACLU." Not very funny nor true.

But, dear reader, compare that one with the one my fellow church member considered the best:

YASNI. . . you're working on a rhyme for "Ahmadinejab" (submitted by Jimmy McCollum). This of course links Nashville as songwriting capital (part of its being "Music City") with the Iranian leader so big in the news of late. As in, you're penning lyrics for a song about our troubles with the crazy Middle Easterner or about the recent oh-so-obviously "thrown" elections in Iran.

Or compare the winner according to the rag with just a couple of the ones I found better, as in funnier, or truer or more apropos:

YASNI. . . you wish Fifth/Third would make up its mind (also by McCollum). "Fifth/Third" is the name of a bank that came into being here during my residence in Texas. Yes indeed! Make up your mind, bank!

YASNI. . . you see nothing wrong with carrying a gun into a bar but believe having wine for sale in the grocery store would lead to more drunken accidents (by Ilissa Gold). This entry comments on how the recent legislative session okayed bearing firearms into such public places as bars, parks and restaurants (so long as the weapon bearer has a permit and does not drink alcohol -- but come on, get real, folks!) -- and yet in Nashville one STILL cannot purchase any alcoholic beverage other than beer in Kroger or Wally-world.

YASNI. . . you carry your gun into Hooters for wings and. . . a soda? (by Michelle Totty). Another of the several comments about the hypocrisy of legalizing guns in taverns and eateries but continuing to forbid wine sales outside liquor stores. And do you see how several entries are humorous, dear reader?

YASNI. . . you tweeted something in Spanish to @ericcrafton just to get on his nerves (by Andrew Cole). This one uses the current rage for Tweeter to make hay with Metro Councilman Eric Crafton's crusade to make English the official language for Metro documents and transactions. I don't do Tweeter (blogging, e-mail and Facebook take up too much of my time already) but if I did, I'd most certainly have done just this, especially after we the voters defeated "English only".

Closely related,: YASNI. . . you wish you lived in Eric Crafton's district so you could run against him, or at least TP his house (by Lucas Leverett). Yeah, I seriously considered this during the "English only" tomfoolery! So this one's SO ME!

Also SO ME is: YASNI. . . you paid for your library fines with a can of corn (by Ms. Totty). You see, the public library had a few days late last year or early this one, when patrons could bring in canned food and have their library fines remitted. And so I carried a few cans down to our beautiful Greek-architecture downtown Nashville Public Library to "pay off" my fines!

And of the half dozen or so that commented on the sudden death by heart attack of beloved Channel 4 News anchor Dan Miller, this one was especially SO ME: YASNI. . . you miss Dan Miller (by Barrett Wallen). 'Nuf said!

I suppose the fact that I encountered several completions for YASNI with which I thoro'ly agreed, and more than one that was me to a "t", indicates that here just under a year of living again in this city, yours truly is once again indeed "so Nashville"!

Oh, and my favorite of all the YASNI completions I've read? The one that took First Place in the inaugural year of 1989.

You are so Nashville if. . . you think our Parthenon is better because the other one fell apart (submitted by Susan Fenton).

After all, only Nashville has a full-scale replica of that classical Greek temple as it looked when new! And I don't really think ours is better; in fact, sometimes I think they shoulda built a full-scale replica of the modern ruins instead, for the Tennessee Centennial in 1897. But I do find it both funny and endearing to think that there might be some native Nashvillian running around with such a consideration about one of our most-recognized and visited landmarks!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Coffee, Country & Cody" live in the morning!

A couple of my blog postings earlier on this blog have concerned deejays Bill Cody and Charlie Mattos, who do weekday wake-up show "Coffee, Country & Cody" on WSM-AM 650. I've also e-mailed the two, fairly often, and thanked them for the delightful wake-up they provide over the airwaves.

Well, Friday I experienced the show (all but the first hour or so) live in person. The two deejay friends of mine were again at the Ford Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I'd been to these live broadcasts at the Ford twice before (including Bill's fifteenth anniversary with WSM, see third post on 25 April post). But it sure was sweet to be able to stay to the end of the show this time!

You see, dear reader, Bill & Charlie have very engaging interviews and even live performances with various guests during the latter portion of the show. It's no different today, except I get to BE THERE for these. One guest they interview is Stan Hitchcock, who's been heavily involved in Nashville's music industry in a variety of ways, and who's published a book "At the Corner of Memory Land and Music Row". Discussion this morning is about the book, and how certain incidents of Stan's life contributed to the document. He signs two copies of the book for Bill and Charlie.

Then we're entertained by a local band of modified bluegrass persuasion, The Randy Kohrs Band. Randy's up front with acoustic guitar and Dobro, with a young lady to his right on fiddle and banjo picker to his left, and a snare drummer (hence "modified" bluegrass) behind. At the back of the band stands a bass man, with a most fascinating-looking upright bass. The body is white, while the neck and the corners/edges of the body are black. I've never seen such an upright bass! They play some great songs!

Later we're treated to the "Money in a Minute" contest. Two guests from the audience get to sit with Bill and Charlie while the two deejays play a "family Feud" type game, using questions about country music. Charlie answers the first question correctly, then Bill wins the next three points (I'm uncertain about answers, except one which is a chestnut.) Charlie scores one more point, but then time runs out with Bill leading 3-2. So his guest, a lady visiting from Florida, gets to go home $500 richer! How's THAT for a vacation?

The ""Coffee Country & Cody" show concludes in an extended interview with James Burton, 2001 inductee into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, but also a guitarist with several country singers. I'm rather impressed with not only his diverse list of performance/recording credits (and Cody may not have listed them all) but also with his tranquil demeanor. You don't associate a "tranquil demeanor" with somebody in R & R, do you dear reader?

Probably the "tops" of my experience this morning is when the show ends. I get my picture taken with my two deejay friends, have Bill autograph a publicity 3 x 5 black & white photo -- Charlie needs to get one of these made! -- and present the two with a photo of yours truly taken at the statue of Chet Atkins at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Union St. just a few blocks north of us. The photo has Chet's statue sitting on a stool picking his electric guitar. I'm sitting on the other stool holding my Yamaha guitar, poised as tho' taking lessons for Mr. Certified Guitar Picker himself. I signed the back with a note thanking the two for providing such great weekday wake-up entertainment and signing off as "avid WSM listener and a would-be C G P.

You know, I do believe that Bill and Charlie and the show "Coffee Country and Cody" weekday mornings on WSM-AM 650 is one of the better things about Music City!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Steve McNair

On Thursday, there was a memorial service for former NFL Titans quarterback Steve McNair at a church on the far north side of Nashville-Metro Davidson County. He was then buried in his native Mississippi.

Ever since he was murdered on Independence Day the expanding information about the background to that murder-suicide has gotten more and more sordid. The young woman who shot him and them offed herself was rather clearly his mistress. Why, Steve, why?

And now, with no supporting citation, comes "news" that the young woman shot him, then herself, because she discovered that the just-retired star QB had yet another mistress! However, no reference is given to evidence to support this conclusion. It's just out of the blue and into print (or onto the airwaves).

And so I ask, "Whence this allegation? Did some friend of hers testify that she'd said this in a phone conversation the day before? Did she leave a note to this effect? Or what?"

Therefore, I shall hold to my supposition that the man had come around to realizing that he needed to do the right thing (for Mechelle and the kids, as well as himself) and had told the young lady that their relationship was over. She couldn't handle it and so offed them both.

But whatever the reason for this tragedy, it does not negate that Steve McNair wrote his public name large on this city when it rather unexpectedly became the home an NFL franchise from out of State. It doesn't negate his prowess as QB, nor that he loved Music City and we loved him. It most assuredly doesn't negate the good things he was endeavoring to do for his hometown (much like Dave Robinson of the NBA is doing for his San Antonio).

On the other hand, whatever the reason for this tragedy, it sure did put a dark shadow on Independence Day Ought Nine, here in Nashville! Lord, have mercy. . . . Lord, please give peace and comfort to Steve's grieving widow, children, NFL buds and his Nashville neighbor-fans!

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Holiday darkened by the touch of death

I probably like Independence Day as much as any red-blooded American. Probably I focus on its original meaning and significance more than many citizens. None of this business of having it be little more than an excuse to frolic outdoors or get drunk on 4 July every year! Nosireebob!

But something sets this holiday apart from others, more than simply its national import and its being the anniversary of the birth of these United States. You see, dear reader, more than one Fourth of July has turned into an unanticipated time of sorrow for me, due to a death or deaths that touched me closely.

It began on Independence Day of 1967 or '68, when I was of junior high age in Boise, Idaho. Two little boys lived across the street for us; my Dad called them the "two wild Indians". Which gives you the picture that these two boys were in serious need of Valium or Ritalin (were they available back then). Late on that Independence Day their mother came to our door asking if we had seen them. They were missing! Soon Dad and I were involved in the search for the little fellas, walking streets of our neighborhood and banks of the New York Canal, a huge irrigation ditch that bordered it. Across the canal lay a golf course which in that era was the site of the July Fourth fireworks show for the city. In past years I'd greatly enjoyed the pyrotechnics -- I really am a fan of them! But that Independence Day was quite surreal, as the fireworks flashed overhead and we continued our search. Alas! a day or two later the boys' bodies were found in the canal. Death had struck on Independence Day. . . .

In 1984, a year of all-around sad remembrance, we were living in Crossville, Tennessee, where I was pastoring a Disciples of Christ church and wife Ellen was expecting our second child. But on the First of the month she was still-born. Ellen remained in the hospital for a few days recovering from the cesarean section. So it fell on me to arrange and carry out the burial of our little Becky, who never got the chance even to utter her first cry. Plus see to the care of our son David. I remember that on the holiday itself I took him to nearby Cumberland Mountain State Park, and we played on the playground equipment there. I even sang a couple of songs from "A Homestead Album", a musical in which I was cast, that was being performed that summer at the Cumberland County Playhouse. I sang a joyful song and even danced a lively dance with our son. But my heart was heavy. Death had struck just before Independence Day. . . .

There is an agitation in my memory-bank, that one of the Independence days I spent in San Antonio (A.D. 2002 to 2008) was likewise touched by a significant death. But who was it? At this point I cannot remember, and I most certainly don't fell right now like trying to dredge it up!

And now this! Steve McNair shot four times, twice in the head, twice in the chest, and a young woman at the scene shot once in the head. Police are speaking of a murder-suicide but not confirming it quite yet. I remember better days for McNair and this city that loved him. Especially the better days of the 1999-2000 season, when McNair quarterbacked the NFL Titans to the Super Bowl, and got us within one yard of winning it! I remember vividly to this day, how when the football team left Houston and came to Tennessee, my arms weren't open to warmly welcome them. I'd heard too many ugly things about owner Bud Adams from Houstonians. And so the first couple of years I was against the team. But when they had that stellar season in 1999 and went into the playoffs, with McNair, Frank Wychek, Eddie George and others enthralling Nashville fans, I too chose to consider that THIS was my hometown's team (granted, at the time I lived in nearby Clarksville, but the team IS the Tennessee Titans) and I needed to get with the program and get behind the guys. I came to esteem the names McNair, Wychek, George. . . and one Christian team member whose name escapes me but whose testimony to the priority of his faith OVER the sport still thrills me.

But NOW the great former quarterback is dead. On Sunday, aboard the bus on my way to church, I perused the Tennessean front page and a couple pages inside, about the tragedy. All my memories of my attitude turnaround in '99 awoke, along with my old esteem for McNair, Wychek, George and that Christian fella. It hardly helps that in 2008 upon moving to Nashville I took right up with my enthusiastic support for the Titans. Even tho' McNair had played two years with another NFL team, then last year retired and started up a restaurant near TSU here. And the current team had such a great '08 -- one I was certain would terminate in a Super Bowl victory, until they were beat at home in the first playoff game. I have to confess, that as I read the newspaper there on the bus my eyes teared up. My heart was heavy. Death had struck on Independence Day. . . .

Again. . . .

Independence Day Ought Nine, in Nashville

For yours truly the celebration of Independence Day actually began the evening of Wednesday the First of July -- see my previous posting. And it continued the very next morning, on "Coffee, Country & Cody" on WSM-AM 650. Bill Cody chose as his "Cody Classic Song of the Day" one by Moe Bandy, "Americana". It's my favorite Bandy song; I've enjoyed and been touched by it from the first time I heard several years ago. Then the show ended at ten with the climactic song off the "This Is My America" project (which all together is three CDs long): Billy Dean singing, with Nashville Symphony and Fisk Jubilee Singers backing him, "Wave On, Old Glory, Wave On" -- what a way to start celebrating the holiday! And it wasn't even the Fourth yet!

Then came the actual holiday, falling on a Saturday in this Year of Our Lord A.D. 2009. The Tennessean printed that in addition to the "headline" show to take place late in the day at Riverfront Park in downtown Nashville, with country-rock star Wynonna, the Symphony & the biggest area fireworks show, many other festivities would be celebrated, including "In God We Trust" with a choir and other performers in the amphitheater of Bicentennial Mall north of Capitol Hill. And that event, so the paper said, would begin at three in the afternoon. So I chose to go there first and then later to the BIG festivity at the river.

However, plans got changed by unexpected happenings. For one, the local mass transit bus company, Nashville MTA, was very confusing about its schedule for the days around the holiday, and as usual the buses didn't run even in sync with what schedule was finally put out. And then word spread among passengers that former star quarterback for the NFL Titans, Steve McNair, and a woman had been shot dead in downtown Nashville.

Why is it that so often for me Independence Day is a holiday whose joyful festivities get darkened by a death that touches me closely? More on this question later.

Anyhow. . . when I finally got to the amphitheater north of our Capitol after four in the afternoon, I found only a handful of folk, a handful of additional vacant lawn chairs, and one man singing in the stage area. Inquiring at a booth set up behind the seating area, I was told that the actual show would begin in the amphitheater at seven that evening, and the man singing was only rehearsing. However, I was also told that there would be some festivities, including a re-enactment, in the food court of the adjacent Farmers Market. So I hied myself over there, and indeed got quite entertained by such groups as a female dance group (dancing in solo, trio and quintet formations) and a great bluegrass quintet. A man impersonating Thomas Jefferson spoke briefly, and I also saw an Abe Lincoln and a woman dressed colonial style -- was she impersonating Betsy Ross or Martha Washington?

Then the emcee announced that because it was quickly fixing to rain outside, the performances scheduled for outdoors would be moved into the Farmers Market Food Court. He mentioned that it would take a little setting up and adjusting, since the featured choir, the Nashville Choir, was quite large (a few hundred voices). So there was a break while this set-up was done, and then the moved-in outdoor performances began.

As did the downpour. Probably due to the threat of rain and continuing rain the BIG show at the river got shortened, and the fireworks went off well before their scheduled time. I think the booms and flashes caught even the "In God We Trust" organizers off guard. But still, we had a very patriotic songfest. Some numbers were done by the entire choir, some by individuals or small groups either by themselves or backed by the main choir. And we got a few more words of wisdom and historical perspective from Mr. J, as well as from Honest Abe himself. He pointed out that several times during his administration in one of our nation's darkest hours he'd called for a nation-wide day of prayer (and fasting) -- which originated the concept of a National Day of Prayer, observed every First Thursday of May. He also read excerpts from his famous Gettysburg Address.

As at Tusculum Hills Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, we military veterans got honored at a certain point of the program. And as during that earlier event, I was quite touched when we vets all stood and were applauded. (I feel embarrassed at such accolades, since I served in peacetime.) I was even more touched when one of the last songs of the evening was "God Bless America". In my memory's eye I again saw the "Lone Star Spectacular" show at Fiesta Texas theme park, where the penultimate song is this very song, sung twice (but it's not Kate Smith's famous recording).

Somehow I managed to keep my mind off the dark local news of earlier in the day. For the most part; it did creep into my thinking a couple of times, and prompted memories of other tragic Fourths of years past. But, thank God, this didn't happen much or dominantly!

Still, this was a different Independence Day here in Nashville, from the one I'd anticipated. Different, but I've learned, dear reader, the wisdom of "Going with the flow"!

Oh, and I did have one final act of observing the holiday. My San Antonio best friend, Joe Tovar, had given me a necktie with an "Old Glory" motif, and I wore it on Sunday the Fifth, the day following and the Sunday nearest the holiday. It still graced my neck when I attended evening worship at Tusculum Hills church, where I'd gone for the Wednesday God-&-Country type program ending in the Gold city concert. A gentleman in the pew in front of me complimented me on the tie, so he walked out with it, not me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gold City l.i.c. in Music City!

For eleven months Nashville has been again my camping spot on life's journey. Yet even tho' it's as much a performance and recording center for Southern Gospel music as it is for country and other genres, I 'd yet to attend a Southern Gospel concert during this current Music City sojourn. My ears had yet to get blessed by the sounds of in-the-flesh four-part harmony glorifying God. This all changed last evening.

Tusculum Hills Baptist Church, well out on Nolensville Road on the south side, held a God-and-Country or Independence-Holiday celebration, which included a covered-dish supper. Following the blessing of our bellies, our spirits got quadruple-blessed, as Gold City sang a concert in the church's auditorium (sanctuary).

For decades Gold City has been one of the premier groups in tradition all-male gospel quartets. Last time I saw Gold City live in concert was almost a decade ago, in Clarksville. All the guys last evening came to the quartet since then. In fact the Tenor, Chris Cooper, was singing his first concert with Gold City! Bass singer Aaron McCune was the smallest of the group; it was weird to hear such a powerful bass voice coming from a shrimp! Gold City's former Bass & manager, Tim Riley, was NOT the shortest member of the previous Gold City I'd seen! Baritone singer for the quartet is Tim's son, Daniel Riley.

Nevertheless, the four I heard last evening still sing the unique Gold City sound. They're still carrying on ministry thru music, combining older Gold City standards with recently-recorded new songs that reflect that same style.

The concert at Tusculum Hills included, for example, such great G.C. classics of yore as "I'm Not Giving Up" and "When I Get Carried Away". Off their most recent album they sang "I Cast My Bread Upon the Waters" with which the concert opened, "For the Sake of My Heart" featuring that new Tenor, and "Ain't It Crazy What Children Believe". Toward the end the quartet did their signature song, the powerful "Midnight Cry".

Probably "Midnight Cry" is generally the group's concluding song in a concert, but since the theme of the evening at Tusculum Hills was patriotism, Gold City also did a new patriotic number "I Love This Land" after having all us veterans stand to be recognized. The song was such a powerful expression of faith and patriotism that the crowd was on its feet before the quartet hit the final note. Then as we began to resume our seats, Daniel urged us to remain standing and to join them in singing a medley of patriotic songs. These included the first verse of "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America". As we sang the latter I contemplated the "Lone Star Spectacular" laser-fireworks show back in Fiesta Texas theme park in San Antonio; that park-closing-for-the-nite show had that song at the end, just before the finale featuring "Deep in the Heart of Texas". And ever time I'd watch the show I''d be singing along on "God Bless America" while my head leaked. It was threatening to leak again during this concert.

Well, it may have taken yours truly a overly-long time to get to a Southern Gospel concert here in Music City. But THIS one was worth the wait! As with so many Gospel concerts in the past, at this one I sensed a taste of what Heaven will be like!