Thursday, December 23, 2010

Music of the season in Music City

Still strong in my memory is my introduction to the concept of a radio station sending out exclusively Christmas or holiday music over the airwaves in December. It was station WENO - AM 760, right here in Nashville in 1990. A few months later WENO -- first Music City station to broadcast only Country Music (and not WSM!) -- introduced me to Southern Gospel Music. (Alas! like most AM stations it's fallen to the "talk radio" format.)

While I lived in San Antonio I looked forward every year to listening to Mix 96 (KXXM) airing Christmas music. And now that I'm back here in Nashville I've been greatly enjoying the cheerful holiday tunes, on Mix 92 (FM 92.9, WJXA) and on "The Fish" 94 FM. An interesting detail about the latter station is that it's contemporary Christian music, but the December playlist has been as much a mix of secular and sacred songs as the former station broadcasts.

So, well, I've heard several times such cherished classics of the season as "Joy to the World" by Mannheim Steamroller and "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. TSO's hit has a fascinating story behind it, set in war-torn Sarajevo, and was on the playlist for "Holiday in the Park" in Fiesta Texas theme park (S.A.). The instrumentation and rhythm so affected yours truly that I came up with a sort of choreographed conducting set of movements, as tho' I were actually directing TSO. Probably I got plenty of weird looks from Fiesta Texas guests whenever I'd do this!

One other song I learned at Fiesta Texas that alas! I've only heard once (maybe twice) is Amy Grant's "Welcome to Our World". But on the other hand, "How Many Kings" serves a a nice substitute. And there's always Karen Carpenter sweetly singing "Merry Christmas Darling" or another song of the season.

A couple of "new" (to me) Christmas songs have blessed my listening ears. One is a duet medley by Bing Crosby and David Bowie titled "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth". Now THERE's a duo one wouldn't expect, dear reader, the old king of big-band crooners and a rock star! But it's a beautiful song! The other newby is "O Holy Night" recorded by Martina McBride. She sings the song BEAUTIFULLY!

Thru Yahoo I've accessed an on-line list of the top thirty holiday songs, culled by a Paul Green from a Nielson Soundscan list of 200 most popular.

Dear reader, enjoy the music of this season! And have a blessed time as the old year ends & the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eleven commences!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jimmy Kelly's is lost -- or I am!

Last night (Thursday, 2 December) the Nashville Area LCA Alumni had our monthly meeting, at a place called Jimmy Kelly's. As is typical of our Alum-Brotherhood functions, the food was delicious and the fellowship terrific.

Once I found the place.

The name was known to me from my previous residence in Music City, 1984-91. I had a picture in my memory of it being somewhere close to the intersection of 25th Ave. No, with Elliston Pl. and West End. Very near Centennial Park.

The e-mail invitation I'd received gave the address as 217 Louise Ave. A glance at Google indicated that it wasn't exactly where my memory was telling me, but not terribly distant. Nor terribly distant from where I was -- a library on the Vanderbilt campus -- as the time approached.

So I left the stacks (actually the terminals, as I was working on-line), got in my "new" Integra (new to me, but year 1995) and drove to the area between West End and Church near Baptist Hospital. I searched and searched the night-darkened streets in vain.

And then I remembered that it was supposedly off Elliston Place, not Church! So west I drove, and made a guess as to where Louise was. Over a half hour later and a stop at a drugstore for directions (but nobody knew) I finally found Jimmy Kelly's! I realized that I'd actually passed by it earlier, because there was no lighted or well-lit sing.

So it was after 7:00 when I sat down with my Brothers in the Bond. But from then on it was a wonderful evening. A few of the alumni even brought their wives with them -- lately our get-togethers have generally been open to "significant others".

We were seated upstairs, in an elegant room that had a fireplace (unused, alas), some large formal portraits on the wall -- including the best known painting of Commodore Vanderbilt himself -- and white cloth tablecloths and black cloth napkins. Apparently Jimmy Kelly's free appetizers are dollar-size pancakes (or pones) -- and these were de-e-e-e-elicious!

I think I could have made a meal out of just eating those little cakes. But that would have been dull, you know. I did have baked salmon along with a salad and baked potato. Yum, yum!

So what threatened to turn into a disaster of an evening jaunt turned out okay in the end. And NOW I know exactly where Jimmy Kelly's is!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

CMA Awards - Music City's Night to Shine

The annual CMA Awards Show here is to Nashville what the Oscars show is to Hollywood (& by extension L.A.). It's Country Music's and Music City's NIGHT to SHINE.

And shine we did last night, Wednesday, 10 November. Which, BTW, on any calendar year the Tenth of this month could legitimately be called "Vets-e'en" since it's the eve of Veterans Day. Remember, dear reader, to "Thank a Vet" for her/his vigilance in serving our nation in the military and guarding our borders to keep the peace within these United States.

Back to the music. . . .

Wednesday is rehearsal night for the Choir of Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and I haven't paid great attention to nor viewed on TV the CMA and other award shows for some years. But THIS Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Ten is different. A Facebook status notified us that ECC(DC) member and Nashville Bluegrass Band fiddler Stuart Duncan would perform during the show, at two specific times, the first being 9:30 local time. Choir Director Julie Duemler also notified us at rehearsal. So even tho' I'm always reluctant to leave Eastwood right after rehearsal, I did scoot back to Mercury Courts in timely fashion.

Only one resident was watching TV in the community room, and he didn't mind me switching channels to the award show. Just in time! Within only a minute or so they started a segment honoring Loretta Lynn for her 50 years of singing. Miranda Lambert began singing Loretta's signature song "Coal Miner's Daughter", then Cheryl Crow joined her onstage AND THEN Loretta herself came out to make it a trio. I cannot blame the camera crew for focusing on such notable singers of the female persuasion; the instrumentalists got short shrift. I only saw a bit of Stuart over a feminine shoulder now and then.

Just a few minutes later -- naturally after a LONG commercial break -- actress Gwyneth Paltrow played acoustic guitar while singing the title song of her up-coming movie "Country Strong". Vince Gill assisted her up front with electric guitar and his stellar tenor harmony. But blonde and beautiful Paltrow was the star of the moment, as she sounded like a true Country singer! Her performance prompts me to seriously going to see the picture show when it is released.

And on this song the cameras seemed to show more of the instrumental accompanists; I saw much more of Stuart and his deft fiddling. One could hardly call what he does so well "sawin' on a fiddle", you know! He and the other backing musicians were clad nicely in retro suits and ties, in a "men in black" motif.

When Tim McGraw came onstage to announce the final and highest award, he too sported a "men in black" look - only with addition of a sable Stetson! My favorite singer, George Strait, wasn't even nominated this time (he hasn't released a notable song in the past year or so). So I was rooting for Brad Paisley to win Entertainer of the Year. And sure en'uf, Tim said Brad's name as winner! Hooray for Brad Paisley - he's earned it & it's really overdue.

Brad was endearing in his acceptance. When he first walked onto the stage, with a white Stetson, he had sort of a swagger - but quickly it became evident that this was not due to arrogance but rather his being deeply humbled and moved by this honor. First thing he did was quote his hero, Jimmy Dickens, who often says at the end of his performances on the Opry, "If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, it had help getting up there". He likened himself to that turtle, just as Jimmy does. And in the closing moments of the awards show Brad thanked all those who helped HIM "get up on the fence post". He started with a nod to fans -- and not simply HIS fams but all Country Music fans, calling us "the most amazing, loyal fan base in the world."

Do I need to add that I was very glad I saw that half hour of the CMA Awards Show? Yes, I was very, very glad!


Notice about dating of postings

Dear reader, please don't be misled by the dates on my latest two postings. It used to be that if I composed a posting on, say, a Monday and saved it as a draft, finished it on Tuesday & posted it, it would be dated the Mon. date.

Apparently no more, here on Blogspot. The "Hum-dinger" posting actually was started on Mon. 25 Oct. Then for some reason I didn't get back to finishing it 'til yours truly went to finish up my draft of "Purple". "Hum-dinger" focuses on events of two weeks EARLIER than does "Purple". Which means that if you're reading my postings from the top -- the latest to get "published" -- you're reading the two said posts in REAL chronological order, not the usual order of latest to older.

Hm-m-m-m-m! I kind of like that arrangement. Lover of history & biography that I am, one feature of blogs and other on-line on-going Websites that I've been unhappy about is that as you read down one of these you're going back in time -- reverse history if you will.

Oh, well. . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hum-dinger Homecoming weekend

The past weekend (Fri. pm 22 to Sun. 24) was quite an eventful one for yours truly. Particularly in the matter of sports and of Homecomings.

First up - on Friday evening my favorite MLB team made history. The Texas Rangers beat the Yankees 6-1 and thus won the ALCS title and their first-ever entry into the World Series. In the franchise's fiftieth year. And in Game Six in Arlington! I was so-o-o-o happy for Nolan Ryan, phenomenal former pitcher who retired as a Ranger (1993) and now is President and co-owner of the team.

All three of my university alma maters played their Homecoming games on Saturday. That's about as rare a Fall Football Saturday for me as is one on which all three teams come up winners. (THIS occurred one of the Saturdays back in September.) I'd have loved to have been able to go to Moscow for Idaho's Homecoming; I always considered the Vandals Homecoming Parade thru little downtown Moscow to be the best of such parades. And the Vandals handily defeated New Mexico State 37-14. Go Vandals!

And in Fort Worth, Texas -- in the same county as Arlington, where the Rangers had just won ALCS, and don't think I wouldn't have wanted to be in Tarrant Country to see BOTH! -- TCU's Horned frogs put the hurt on Air Force Academy. With 30 first downs and their accustomed 500 + total yards, the Purple and White won 38-7. Air Force can get some credit: they're the first team to score a TD on the Frogs in four games!

But alas! it wasn't such a sweet Homecoming Game here in Music City out on West End Avenue. After being tied 7-up with South Carolina at the half and well into third quarter, the Vanderbilt Commodores fell , 21-7. Small consolation for we who bleed Black and Gold: at least the 'Dores showed up for the game. They were glaringly "absent" a week earlier in Athens, Georgia, in losing to the Bulldogs 43-0. Which was Georgia's Homecoming game by the way.

However, I didn't attend the game but rather a little of the pre-game Homecoming activities. Already being in the Vandy neighborhood on an errand, I chose to then drive over and check out open house (or "tailgate" party) at Lambda Chi Alpha. Kensington Ave. was blocked off, so I parked in the alley behind the chapter house. First, I was surprised to find nobody in the back yard, and upon entering almost nobody inside. This was disconcerting; I almost always enter by the front door. However, I was quickly apprised that the Brothers for the most part were on the front lawn. Shortly after joining them out there I noticed that several golf carts were lined up on Kensington, some already decorated to participate in the parade. And straight across the street stood tables from which freebies were being given out. I sauntered over and received a Chik-Fil-A sandwich (still hot), a bottle of water (still cold) and a plastic lei (Black and Gold). Later I also acquired a necklace of gold beads and one of black.

While enjoying this impromptu free lunch (or "tailgate" party, if you will) and casual chatting with Brothers and their dates, I kept an eye out for other alumni. Indeed I saw Bro. Robb Bigelow, with his two kids. Bro. Robb was one of the first Lanbda Chis at Vandy when National chose to revive the long-dormant Gamma-Delta Zeta. As an alumnus he served as High Pi (Alumni Advisor) for a few years; he works as a lawyer here.

The Homecoming Parade consisted of the VU Marching Band leading a series of golf carts decorated in somewhat float fashion. Lanbda Chi Alpha entered one, with Hawaiian or tropical adornment. The use of golf carts amused me: it was so typical of a "rich kids' school". You see, Alamo Heights High School, where I substitute taught and which serves an "old-rich" area of Bexar County (San Antonio), used golf carts to convey the Homecoming Court onto the field of Orem Stadium. Now AHHS is a public school and has a mixed student body as far as fiscal status goes. But there are plenty of students from the "old-rich" families, which I suspect fosters a stereotype in neighboring school districts that AHHS is a "rich kids' school".

In the same way, although Vanderbilt students cover a spectrum of family income (e.g., my wife as an undergrad at VU came from a rather modest home in Tampa), ask anybody and they'll voice the opinion that most Vandy students are wealthy. So the golf carts struck me as fitting. Fitting the stereotype, that is!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Purple invasion!

Saturday afternoon (6 Nov.) yours truly witnessed sort of an invasion of Nashville by an unexpected horde of Purple People Eaters. Yeah, there were plenty of blue & orange Gators fans in town, watching Florida chomp down on Vandy's Commodores, over there off West End Ave.

But no, I didn't attend VU v. UF. I was off 21st Ave. So. on the opposite side of the campus. The locale was a small old building behind San Antonio Taco Co. (the original café), housing a new business, bbq beach bar & grill (their lowercase spelling). I went there because I'd discovered (thanks to a sister at church) that there was to be a special TCU area alumni gathering there Saturday afternoon to watch the TCU Horned Frogs football team - #3 in BCS poll - play #5 Utah Utes in Salt Lake City. Gathering was to begin about 2 PM, with kick-off at 2:30.

Well, I walked in right about kick-off time. Two fellows wearing purple sat at the counter in the small front room of bbq beach. But I quickly noticed that down a short stairway in the back (or lower) room was quite a crowd, and lots of purple. Indeed, when I entered I might have been the only TCU alum or supporter who DIDN'T sport any purple garb!

But I doubt anybody out-roared me as we happily watched our Purple & White horde eat the Utes for lunch!

For being ranked #5 the home team certainly didn't show much offense or defense. Meanwhile the Horned Frogs scored a TD on their first possession, and led 20-0 at close of the first period, and 23-0 at the half. This was the Utes' first suffering of a first-half shut-out!

Several visual details kept leaping out at me as I watched. First, the Utah team's uniforms were U-U-UGLY-Y-Y! ! ! Apparently school colors are black and red; the uniforms had very little red, lots of black and LOTS of a species of cammo. To go along with the cammo, the back shoulder area didn't have the player's name but a characteristic, such as "DUTY" "HONOR" "COUNTRY or "COURAGE". Kin of militaristic, eh!

The black motif or school color filled the stadium bleachers, too, as msot Utah students and many others in the crowd soprted black shirts and other midnight apparel. Apparently the Utes had called for a "Blackout Day" to boost their spirits against the visiting Texans.

And yes, there WAS a contingent of Texans in the stands. Seated in a section tucked away in a corner of the stadium. Ah! but the TV cameras swept that section a lot in the final quarter, as it was obvious that the visitors would be victors. Even after the Utes managed to score a TD. For six straight games no team has scored more than a TD against TCU!

And so final tally was TCU 47 and Utah 7.

While the Horned Frogs were handily putting a stop to Utah's home winning streak at 21, I was happily mingling with the purple-clad "horde" here in bbq beach. Even tho' nobody among Nashvillians whom I knew to be TCU alumni attended the party, not everybody present was a stranger to yours truly. Why, Ryan, a friend of Michael Lehman's whom I had met a while back (Michael's ordination, probably) greeted me by name. And one of our interns at Eastwood CC(DC), Andrew entered the festivites along with his girlfriend Allison. Andrew wasn't wearing purple either, which made me feel better about my lack of the school color. Of course he isn't an alumnus of TCU. . .

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lovely Anthem this Sunday: "The Apple Tree"

This Sunday, 31 October, we in the choir at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will sing an Anthem titled The Apple Tree. The song fascinates me. I like to sing it & it's not difficult to sing.

But what fascinates me most is that the lyrics go back a long time and their theme. Jesus our Lord is compared to an apple tree!

Quite a contrast to the popular supposition that the forbidden fruit tree in Eden was an apple tree. Despite Scripture never giving what fruit it was (or if it was even any fruit now found on this Earth), so many, many times I've heard or read about Eve starting trouble by "eating the apple". This is just one of many items that popular culture has wrong about things in the Bible. (Another is that Jesus had long hair or anything else in appearance that set him off from his disciples.)

So it's refreshing to sing of the apple tree in a positive spiritual context. With joy I look forward to singing it this Sunday! Here are the lyrics, as found in a New England hymnal of the late 1700s:

1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

4. I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A terrific Thur. p.m. "Station Inn Session"

Late yesterday afternoon I tool a break from job searching and so on, to take in some live music -- not a difficult thing to do here in Music City USA. I hied myself down to the Station Inn. I've mentioned this little "dive" (outside appearance) near downtown in several posts, a couple of which have it or the live music within as main topic.

Radio station WSM-AM 650 hosted its fairly new show "Station Inn Sessions" with Mike Terry as deejay-emcee. Upon my entering, he smiled as he caught sight of me. It was good to see one of my WSM buddies again, as I hadn't been to a "Station In Session" in some months. (There's usually one monthly, but recently some months didn't include a live radio session at Station Inn.

However, THIS session was worth the wait and effort to be there! You see, dear reader, featured artists were Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. This Bluegrass band had been guests of Eddie Stubbs on his "Intimate Evening" show a few months ago, in the Country Music Hall of Fame souvenir store. (The usual venue for Stubbs' show, Ford Theater at opposite end of the building, still wasn't completely repaired from May's Great Flood. Despite the literally "intimate" setting in the store, Doyle and his group provided a quite delightful evening of live Bluegrass - including a superb a cappella Gospel number (see my posting of 13 July for more).

Well, this evening at Station Inn they performed in just as intimate a setting. And they gave us just as delightful a concert! Perhaps even MORE delightful. Doyle et al. certainly had the crowd stirred up. But then again the audience at these Sessions typically IS "stirred up" - not solely due to Mike Terry urging applause and other noise!

The only regrettable feature is that this concert only lasted an hour, not counting Mike's interview with Doyle Lawson for about half an hour or so before start of the live music at six. During "Intimate evening" the show went two hours. But then again, Eddie Stubbs conducts much more interviewing and much less live music. So probably we heard more last evening of live pickin' and singin' that "high lonesome sound" than did the crowd at Eddie's show!

About midway or so thru the hour the six fellows put down their instruments and some of them sang a cappella another Bluegrass-style Gospel song (not the "Zion Medley" of the earlier show). Then picked up the instruments and did another Gospel number, plus a couple more standard (not Gospel) Bluegrass offerings. They ended one with little more than five minutes left 'til seven (start time of "Opry Country Classics" on WSM). This one was so rousing that we gave them a standing ovation. Then with Mike's egging we made noise for an encore. Mike requested "Blue Train". This apparently is an Old Bleugrass standard. But let me tell you, when the tenor stretched up toward the stratosphere on the stretch-out of the words "blue train", it was awesome! I can't say it was ear-piercing, but as they held out that high note I could imagine somebody listening onsome old-time radio, the big floor-standing kind with lots of glass tubes in the innards -- and this extended not breaking the glass!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Big Band and Big Birthday!

Yours truly has TWO items to share as this Fifth of October in the Year of Our Lord 2010 draws to an end. I'll try to Keep It Short & Simple!

First, to "Tunes Amid Tomes". If you've read this blog from near my commencement of it, you'll recognize that I'm referring to the "summer" concerts in the courtyard at the Nashville Public Library downtown. The finale for 2010 was this noon today, and featured Radio Daze, a Big Band Music group who call Music City "home". And they were TERRIFIC!

The show commenced with a young businessman (i.e, he was dressed in suit & tie) singing a solo of "Witchcraft". It's been decades since I'd heard this as a hit on the radio, but durned if he -- Mac McClenathan -- didn't sound like Ol' Blue Eyes himself! Mac later sang a couple of other Sinatra classics, one of which was meant to be the finale. But we liked him so much that we hollered for an encore. He obliged by singing "Mac the Knife."

In between, we got treated to women's trio, duet and solo singing, a quartet, and plenty of instrumental music. You know, dear reader, as I've stated before I consider myself eclectic in musical taste. Yet, as with Jazz, I have no Big Band recordings nor do I listen to the genre on the airwaves. But like Jazz, get me to a live performance, and my ears get decidedly blessed!

Oh, and Radio Daze don't just perform classic Big Band stuff like Sinatra. They also take hit songs of other genres and adapt them beautifully to the Big Band style. Thus we got treated to the Patsy Cline hit "Crazy" (and durned if she didn't sound like Cline!) and the ABBA hit "Dancing Queen".

Early in the concert, the emcee for the group while introducing the members, remarked that Mac McClenathan was "overdressed" (because he was on lunch break from his downtown job) -- all the other men wore white or light polo shirts. However, the women of Radio Daze were nicely and colorfully dressed, so my estimation was that the other men were under-dressed! As if th confirm my opinion, when it came time for the final door-prize drawing, the woman in charge of it said that she had a request from her staff present (all or mostly women), "that the handsome man who sings Sinatra draw the winner!"

Guys, there's just something about a man dressed up in suit & tie that attracts the women!

Okay, the second matter is the Big Birthday. . . .

Exactly eighty-five years ago on this very date at somewhat earlier than this very hour of the evening, the airwaves over Nashville cracled to life as a new radio station was born. The station, created by National Life and Accident Insurance (headquartered in the Tenn. capital city) as a promotional and publicity tool, wasn't the first here, but the older stations didn't last. Therefore, it's become one of the oldest radio stations in these United States that still carries the same call letters at the same AM frequency. And of course, this "the Air Castle of the South" broadcasts the longest continuously performing live radio show in history!

So. . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WSM - AM 650 ! ! !

Monday, October 4, 2010

Opry applauds the "Spirit of Nashville"

Five months ago to the day Nashville (and much of the State plus adjoining regions) suffered the start of the Great Flood, and numerous major important and historic buildings got flooded. One victim was the Grand Ole Opry House, home of the show since 1974. Now, five months later to the day the Opry family celebrates the "Spirit of Nashville" with various public events.

Dear reader, yours truly was looking forward to today as much as -- even more than, actually -- the return of the beloved radio show. The Opry returned to its permanent home this past Tuesday with a fabulous and historic performance, as I reported previously. Listening on WSM-AM 650 gave me great pleasure; however, I itched to SEE the place where I'd spent many an evening enjoying "the show that made Country Music famous" and many a day guiding tourists thru the venerable House.

So I spoke to a neighbor with a vehicle about the freebie events out there, and late in the morning we go there. The line for the free tours is long -- easily the length of a football field or two. But thank the Lord, the weather continues its string of glorious autumn days. And touring the entire Grand Ole Opry House, including backstage and on stage, is well worth the wait!

Even before we enter, I notice differences, such as the glass-wall entrance to the Opry Shop to the right and a matching glass-wall for tickets to the left. These didn't exist when I worked at Opryland, but had taken the place of two "kiosks" (booths) nearer the main doors to the House. Inside, things also appear different, but I'm unsure that this is as much remodeling as it is my faulty memory. Once the line processes to the left of the stage and on backstage, I feel at home. Back there had been an area with some chairs and long tables, where employees and cast could have a bite to eat while sitting and chatting. Many a Friday or Saturday evening I would skip the employee cafeteria inside Opryland Park, going instead to the Opry House, buying a hot dog or other food and a drink and sitting in this area.

Today there is only one table set up, but I remember at once the podium and the wall telephone I see in the area. Further back is the artists' entrance, where a guide tells us about it and the process of the stars entering the venue. Nearby is the post-office style mailboxes for the cast members to receive fan mail.

As we proceed past the mail area I see on the other side of the hall a new item. It's a section of wall covered with 3-by-5 (more or less) brass plates, each with the name of a cast member. All the cast thru the show's history is there! The plates are set in the order of their induction.

Further along we pass into the dressing room area. News items had informed that there are 18 refurbished rooms -- and that each has a theme. Also the backstage area was reported to have lost the earlier appearance of being "antiseptic", "hospital-like", like a high-school hallway (with metal lockers)" or "plain".

The news reports and comments are "spot-on"! I really, really like the "new" or post-Flood backstage look. The high-school metal lockers are replaced with beautiful wooden ones. Each dressing room looks much more inviting -- "homey" if you will. Number One is still tagged as "Roy's Room" because when the Grand Ole Opry House first opened in 1974, the "King of Country Music" the late Roy Acuff claimed it as his permanent dressing room. I remember that Porter Waggoner claimed the room on the direct opposite end of the "Green Room", and one or two others also got claimed. But generally the cast learned which dressing room was theirs for the evening when they came in the building at the artists' entrance.

Speaking of the "Green Room", I remember that back when I guided the tours I explained that it's a standard term for the room backstage of any theater where performers gather to await their turn on-stage. And that not many really are a green color. Oddly, the first "new" temporary home the show had post-flood was right across Briley Parkway (and up a hill) in the sanctuary of Two Rivers Baptist Church. And I remember Mike Terry, while he did the "Opry Warm-Up" on WSM, commented that the church classroom or whatever was serving as the show's "Green Room" really was green!

Well the "new" room here is quite different from the one in my memory. It's filled with plush funiture (more so than the old one) and looks as "homey" and inviting as the dressing rooms which surround it. I do miss the mural that was on the old room's wall. It was a cartoonish yet charming depiction fo the stage during the "organized chaos" that is an Opry show being performed. Stage hands hustled back and forth with equipment and folks were engaged in chatting or tuning instruments -- and it was difficult (if I remember the mural correctly) to pick out WHO in the hodge-podge was THE performer of the moment! I wish they had saved it, but I don't know but what the mural was gone before the water invaded the place.

Speaking of water, should anybody touring tor working in the backstage area forget that a flood happened here, they woun't have to look far for sobering reminders. At the artists' entrance, the guide pointed out how the concrete support pillars were a light grey up to about four feet, and noticeably darker from there on up; it's the water line from the flood. And in the "Green Room" itself a discreet chair-back protector stripe is set at the water line there!

Well, then it's time to go out on the stage, and more memories flood my mind (no pun intended). How many times did I stand here at the right edge of the stage (as one looks out at the audience) by or even behind the rear curtains, viewing a performance going on center stage? How many tour groups did I lead out onto center stage to stand around the famous six-foot circle of wood from the Ryman stage? And once I'd made my remarks about the circle, I'd lead the groups in singing the chorus of "Your Are My Sunshine" -- then conclude that "Now y'all can go home and tell your family and neighbors that you sang on the grand Ole Opry!"

The most remarkable thing about the Ryman circle is: it was removed immediately following the Great Flood, carefully cleaned and restored, and returned to the stage just a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile, the rest of the stage's surface got scrapped and replaced with new and darker wood. "New" means that "they sure don't build things like they used to" -- with the older than a century Ryman wood surviving while the 1974 floor gets ruined! "Darker" means that now the Ryman circle is more noticeable that it was pre-flood!

Well, I have a photo taken of me standing in the circle, and take a few more photos of the stage area. Then my neighbor and I walk up thru the audience seating, to the Opry Shop near the front doors. Most of what I see in there seems to be identical merchandise to what I'd seen in the new Opry Originals store downtown after it opened. This store also has a big-screen showing video excerpts of performances. And I sing along on a few of the songs, and get "captured" by a Country Music history book for sale!

Once I untangle myself from these enticements and find my neighbor, we mosey on outdoors to the Opry Plaza. Live music is being played out here, and we find a couple of seats and enjoy the music for a good while. We also enjoy the absolutely perfect "chamber-of-commerce" weather!

dear reader, one couldn't ask for a better day for welcoming the world's oldest live radio show back to her permanent home! So "Welcome back home, Opry!"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September flies by -- a month of "home-comings"!

Well, I swan!

It's been a month since I last posted. . . dear reader, please don't get the idea that this month which is fast drawing to its end was uneventful for yours truly. Far from it!

For one, on Labor Day due to certain unforseen dreadful factors which coincided in mid-day, I couldn't go sell ice cream in White House as planned. And indeed, later in the month, that work ended. To which all I shall say is, "Good riddance!" (Please don't request explanation; it's a long, bitter, even shameful story.)

However, there was sweet consolation. I phoned Pastor Jay to vent about the unforseen dreadful factors, and he reminded me that they were having a cook-out at the church parsonage. So I went to that -- and had a great time! The weather was "chamber-of-commerce" ultra-pleasant, the grilled food was de-e-e-elicious (and the un-grilled, too!), and the fellowship with Eastwood brothers & sisters cherished.

The middle of the month, 14th to 18th, was spent in Boise, Idaho, My father suffering chronic after-effects of a stroke at the first of the month prompted this long overdue visit to the city of my raising. Before and during this trip I kept my focus on the silver lining in this dark cloud of a family-member health crisis: it had been way too many years since I'd seen most of the other members of my family of origin, so this was much-appreciated family reunion. In addition to visiting Dad in St. Luke's Hospital, I saw Mom, who lives in a high-rise retirement facility right across the street from the hospital, and my siblings. Our cousin John Graham, superintendant of schools in Twin Falls, had a meeting in Boise that Friday and my sister Debbie and I did lunch with him. It had been almost 17 years since my previous visit to Boise, and eery, that visit was for Dad's retirement party from the electric company!

Dad will be okay; indeed, the hospital released him the day I flew back to Nashville. Truly, other than the concern for Dad's health (which did like a roller coaster until settling down for the better Fri. and Sat.), the visit to the City of Trees was utterly delightful!

But my life now & my immediate family are in Tennessee. Therefore, I took that return flight -- not without a tinge of reluctance, I must admit. May it NOT be another sixteen plus years before my next visit!

But this final week of September here in Music City gave me great reason to be glad I'd returned: TWO important Homecomings!

The first was this Sunday past, as Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) observed eighty years of service and witness in East Nashville. Homecomings, like evangelistic revivals, are a rarity among us Disciples of Christ; I wish they weren't. And I got the impression that this ECC(DC) Homecoming was almost a last-minute idea. Nevertheless, it was a great celebration of our 80th!

We began by scrapping the usual Sunday school classes and everybody assembling instead in the sanctuary. The history of the congregation, favorite hymn requests and older members' memories got featured. The worship service didn't high-light the Homecoming much, but the delicious potluck dinner afterward certainly made up for this! And once everybody had their plates and seats we got treated to a slide show-illustrated history of the congregation that Bob Frech emceed. Following this we watched a video of interviews by Cindy Francis Lovelace with Pastor Jay and a few of the members, about their relationship with Eastwood.

The other Homecoming was last evening, Tuesday the 28th, as "the show that made Country Music famous" returned to the "new" Grand Ole Opry House after almost five months of wandering around Nashville, performing in various borrowed venues, including two former Opry homes (War Memorial and Ryman auditoriums). The moving-back-in happening as a Tuesday Night Opry held double significant. The first Opry show after floodwater invaded the Grand Ole Opry House in May was a Tuesday Night Opry. Plus this was just in time: each October is "birthday" celebration month for both WSM-AM 650 and its most famous show! So they're "back home again" just in time for the annual birthday bash!

This historic show ran over three hours instead of the usual two (not counting intermission). Plus, there were plenty more Country Music performers than usual, both from the cast and guests. Jeannie Seely was one of the first to come out and sing on the restored stage after opening events. I felt this was as it should be (ignoring that generally Ms. Seely's early in the line-up on any Opry show), since she had only a few days earlier moved back into her own flood-invaded home.

Later, Martina McBride sang one of her hits. At its end I was engaged in conversation with a neighbor (we were both sitting out on the second-floor walkway listening to the show) and when I re-focused my attention on the singing I at first concluded that Martina was now singing an old classic hit by another female singer, "Once a Day". Then I realized that the voice I was hearing was that of the other female singer -- Connie Smith! Only the next day did I discover that "Once a Day" actually got sung as a Connie-Martina duet. So call this an extended "Opry Moment" for yours truly!

Brad Paisley, who had sung "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" -- first in duet with Little Jimmy Dickens, then with the whole cast as choir -- to open the show, later sang "Anything Like Me". Diamond Rio sang my favorite of their hits, "One More Day". As for the guest artists, alas! not all of them should have been on that stage for that show (in my opinion). Most especially the guy from "Down Under" who looks and sounds much more like a Seventies Rock Music star; his last name says it all: Urban - the antonym of Country. Also, Blake Shelton sang a song with questionable lyrics (words which used to NEVER get heard on legitimate radio). Nevertheless, young Blake got invited to become the newest member of the cast. This invitation came to him, onstage during the broadcast, via a Twitter message, of all things. . . .

Oh, well, this historic show may have included elements I could have done without, but all in all, it was exhilarating to listen to the star-studded, musical Homecoming of the Opry. What a fine ending to the month of September!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Finally - I get to a Sounds game!

When my family & I lived in Nashville before (1984-91), we attended a couple of games at Greer Stadium, home of the Nashville Sounds. And if you've read much of my "Glen Alan's San Antonio" blog, you know that during my stay in that city I was a avid fan of the S.A. Missions baseball team. The Missions are Texas League (only AA) while the Sounds are Pacific Coast League (AAA).

During August of Ought Eight I desired to take in a Sounds game or two. And the Thursday night that was the final of the month AND final home game for the Sounds, I actually tried to go. Waited TWO hours on Murfreesboro Rd. for an in-bound MTA bus; by the time one showed up, I knew it was too late to get to Greer in time. I could have walked there & arrived in much less than two hours! (FYI, that waiting-in-vain time wasn't wholly wasted; on my radio I kept switching between the station carrying the Sounds game and the one carrying the Vanderbilt Commodores opening game for the 2008 season, at Miami-Ohio).

With the move of play-by-play radio announcer Stu Paul from S.A., where he did the Missions games on KKYX-AM 680, to Nashville to do the same from the Sounds, my interest in the home-town team increased exponentially! But alas! due to my fiscal straits I felt I couldn't affort even the price of a general admission ticket. So I contented myself with listening to my ol' buddy Stu on 104.5 The Zone radio or on-line.

But praise be to the Lord! Some tiny personal GOOD came out of May's Great Flood, tied in with Eastwood Christian Church's ties to little league baseball here! (Pastor Jay is a team coach and some of the boys play.)

You see, dear reader, the flood destroyed equipment for the Jess Neely (inner-city youth baseball & football) program. AND our home-town Minor League team has been assisting in the rebuilding. Sounds management announced that advance reserved tickets for the 29 August game (final home game) would sell for $10 rather than the regular $12, with ALL proceeds going to Jess Neely! Yet another example of the WE ARE NASHVILLE response to the flood disaster!

Well, over 100 Eastwood folks purchased tickets -- including an anonymous Brother or Sister who paid for mine. "Thank you & Lord bless you!" to whoever you are!

And Sunday the 29th turned out to be a banner day in many ways for ECC(DC). Associate Pastor Michael Lehman returned from a brief return visit to Akron following his ordination on the 21st, and we recognized not one but TWO new interns assigned to us by the Vanderbilt D School. The "Pastor's Class" in Sunday School was the usual lively, throught-provoking and enjoyable discussion it almost always is, and then we choir members in the class scooted over to the Sanctuary to rehearse the Anthem, the joyful praise-prayer song "Jesu, Jesu". Following Worship we had our monthly Sunday potluck dinner in the fellowship hall. Delicious food accompanied the delightful conversation around each round table.

And to think, yours truly got to be back with my spiritual family again in the evening! A late afternoon drizzle that lasted thru the game apparently discouraged a few ECC(DC) ticket holders from arriving, but there were still plenty of us there, in Section QQ and adjoining. We had a fine line-of-sight from high up, along the line from home to first.

And what a fine game to see! The New Orleans Zephyrs got on the scoreboard with one run in top of the first. But the Sounds answered in the bottom with a Grand Slam Homerun! Brendan Katin did this to express appreciation to us fans, I suppose, for the pre-game honor of selection as 2010 Sounds Fan Favorite.

Wow, Katin! What way to say, "Thank you, you Music City fans!"

And thus a desire of mine ended in fulfillment. When my good buddy Stu Paul posted on Facebook the Montgomery Gentry song "Gone", stating that an excerpt from its chorus got played over the Greer loudspeakers whenever a Sounds hit a h.r., I replied that I was sure hoping there'd be a homer whenever I got to my first game at Greer. And here I was listening to it!

But don't go away quite yet! Katin's bottom-of-the-first homer was simply the first of TWO he slugged out of the ballpark -- and THREE total for the Sounds! Now the later two homers (in 4th and 6th innings) weren't Grand Slams, but who's counting? When your team goes into the Seventh leading 10-1, with a 16 to 2 hit and 0 to 1 error advantage to boot does it really matter that 2 of 3 homers aren't grand slams? Besides, the one Grand Slam was Sounds' fourth this year (if I remember correctly one or two were walk-off Grand Slams) and Katin's h.r. of the evening tied the team record record of seven.

I had already spoken with Steve Walls about bumming a ride after the game, and with several Eastwood folk already departed, he, his kids and I joined the exodus. But not before that ceremonial "Seventh-Inning Stretch". And to delight, Stu Paul led our singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"!

Hoo-ray, Stu! Hoo-ray, Nashville Sounds!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Music-filled Ordination of Michael

This weekend is something the Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Choir and I have been looking forward to for some considerable time. You see, Saturday afternoon our congregation ordained our young Associate Pastor Michael Lehman in a most impressive worship service. Michael, from Akron, Ohio, comes from a a family where music and singing is a major element. Indeed, his mother Julie is a choir director -- and brought her church choir with her when the entire Lehman family and a goodly representation of High St. CC(DC) journeyed from Akron for the ordination.

Michael himself studied for a degree in music, at Oberlin (famous for its music program), and intended to be a percussionist in the Cleveland Symphony. However, our good Lord had other plans and Mike sensed the call to professional ministry, and this past academic year received an MDiv. from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Back in May I posted about going to the Vandy campus for his Commencement. And to be honest and frank, Michael's ceremony surpassed my own as an M.A. degree recipient at VU in 1989.

Well, I must be honest & frank again. Only a few months ago Eastwood ordained another recent Vandy D School grad & member of our congregation. She's Emily Nourse, and I felt HER ordination service was the equal of my own. But Michael's surpassed both!

And oh, it was SO Music City! The guy put SO MUCH song and music into this celebration of his ordination!

It all commenced with Pastor Jay on bagpipes and other instrumentalists playing a prelude called "Highland Cathedral" (Roever & Korb), followed shortly afterward by the Nashville Bluegrass Band in a mini-concert -- three bluegrass-gospel songs (the Band's fiddler is ECC(DC) member Stuart Duncan). Several other musical specials spiced the service. Not one but TWO Anthems got sung by a combination of Eastwood and High Street's choirs. Julie Duemler, Eastwood's director, conducted the first, "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name" (Fettke & Johnson). Michael's mother, director of the High St. Choir, conducted the other, "Lord Here Am I" (John Ness Beck).

Between the two Anthems were several other portions of the order of service. These included Presentation of the Candidate, which involved representatives of four entities being witnesses to his gifts of ministry, as witnessed at the Disciples Divinity House, the D School (to which the previous is attached), our congregation and the Regional CC(DC). A Dr. Amy-Jill Levine represented the D School, and in her witness incorporated several musical expressions in a manner which charmed and at times amused me and others.

Eastwood's Senior Pastor Jay Hartley treated us to a fine ordination sermon, based on Jeremiah 1:4-10 and titled "Michael and his Angels". Then various standard promises were made and we had the standard Laying on of Hands. As an ordained Disciples of Christ clergy I was one of those who ascended the chancel and placed my hand on Deacon Margaret Nourse's shoulder in front of me (Pastor Jay had his on mine). Margaret's hand was on someone in front of her, who had theirs on Michael.

And glory to God! We'd heard sounds of thunder and rain outside, but while Pastor Jay was reciting the Ordination Prayer a beam of sunlight pierced a west-wall window behind me, passed over my shoulder and fell on the one being prayed for! I affirm that THIS act was an "Act of God" affirming Michael's ordination! It was to Michael as the descent of the Holy Spirit in dove form was to Jesus at His baptism. Glory to God indeed!

Michael was presented with signs (or symbols) of the office of ministry: a black academic robe, a colorful stole, beautiful ceramic chalice and paten (vessels for the Lord's Supper) and so forth. It shouldn't be a surprise that Michael as musician/singer got into the act, beyond his singing in both Anthems. His response as the Newly Ordained featured very few spoken words beyond "Thanks!", as he was clearly overcome with emotion about the whole event. After his brief, choked-up expression of gratitude, he went to a marimba, took up two sticks in each hand, and played the Malotte "Lord's Prayer". He did it beautifully, even including a little "Amazing Grace" in it (thus it was actually a medley).

Then we had the Supper. We did this in the manner we do at Eastwood on every First Sunday: singing "Eat This Bread Drink This Cup" the people walk down center aisle, partake by intinction (breaking off a piece of the loaf & dipping it in the chalice), and then form a hand-holding circle around the sanctuary while continuing to sing.

This activity, which I presume Michael had requested, made my heart full on two counts. First Sunday of this month I'd missed out on it, since I attended worship at Donelson CC(DC); so this made up for that. And due to the extra-high attendance, with all the folk from Ohio, we had to stand close together with our backs against the wall all the way around; this occurred also at our Christmas Eve service. Just as then, the situation reminded me strongly of my last Kairos Prison Ministry visit into the Briscoe Prison (Dilley, Texas); so many of us volunteers and especially so many inmates were present that when we formed our accustomed "circle" to close by singing "Surely the Presence", all our backsides were up against the walls of the prison gym! For yours truly, such events are awesome witnesses to the mighty work of God within the particular institution where they occur. Plus, ANYTHING that reminds me of my blessed times in prison doing Kairos ministry will make my heart full!

Glory to God for ALL that transpired in the ordination of Michael Lehman! He will be an outstanding leader and servant for the portion of the Church on Earth that is our denomination -- as well as for others. I expect to hear great news about Michael in the future. . . .

Monday, August 16, 2010

A wonderful weekend of marvellous music

Sometime in A.D. 2009 I discovered that Rhonda Vincent had recorded Stuart Hamblen's Gospel song "Until Then", which I'd heard recordings of by Jeff & Sheri Easter and others, and which I'd learned to play on guitar. You will know if you regularly this blog, dear reader, that yours truly is fond of Rhonda Vincent's singing. Therefore, at some point in Ought Nine I e-mailed a request that Les Butler play her recording of "Until Then" on his Solid Gospel 105 radio show "Front Porch Fellowship".

And Saturday afternoon I got blessed in listening as finally Les honored my request! It took so long because at first he did not even have it available -- turns out she covered it early in her singing career. And then it arrived by mail, and Les even gave me a "heads up" over the airwaves a week earlier! Well, let me tell you, Rhonda singing "Until Then" was well worth the wait! I really liked Jeff & Sheri's recording (featuring Sheri & her beautiful alto voice), but Rhonda was even better. And I really got into the accompaniment, which sort of to my surprise included pedal steel guitar (I'm pretty sure it wasn't Dobro I was hearing, because I can fairly well distinguish the two sounds). Steel is not a standard instrument of bluegrass; nevertheless, it's my favorite instrument to listen to of all instruments.

That evening (Saturday the 14th)my listening pleasure continued with the Grand Ole Opry show, on radio WSM-AM 650 "The Legend". The world's oldest live radio show has continued its post-flood nomadic progress while its home, the Opry House in Donelson, is repaired from flood damage. On Friday, 6 August, for example, the Opry was performed and broadcast from War Memorial Auditorium. (War Memorial, near the State Capitol and across Seventh Ave. from former site of National Life and Accident Insurance headquarters where WSM and the Opry were born, was the Opry's home for some years over six decades ago. The Tuesday evening after the flood crested, the Tuesday Night Opry took place there.

Most other post-flood Opry shows had been in its most famous former home (many folk erroneously think its first home) venerable Ryman Auditorium just off Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Avenues North. This offered to an unanticipated little treat for me. Most evenings I'll be riding homeward on the MTA bus (route #15) that departs Music City Central (MTA's downtown depot) at 9:15pm -- right when the Opry shows are concluding on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Hence, the bus will be southbound on Fourth Avenue while the audience is exiting the Ryman. It's delightful to see all these folk whom I know had attended a great country music show, while I'd listened on the radio.

Now Saturday (yesterday) was different, in that a couple who also work for Goody Wagons gave me a ride home. Therefore I didn't pass the historic auditorium as usual. But after I arrived at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Sunday morning and greeted Pastor Jay by wishing him and wife Dawn a happy anniversary, he informed me that the Hartleys had celebrated it on its eve by their first attendance at the Grand Ole Opry! I was so happy for them, that they'd gone!

You see, dear reader, the line-up of performers for Saturday show was even better than usual. Young Country Music star Mark Wills guested, singing his first hit, "Don't Laugh at Me." Crystal Gayle, sister of the Opry's Loretta Lynn but not herself a member, was another guest artist. Among the songs she sang was my favorite of hers, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue". The Whites hosted the second half hour andVince Gill the final. Dailey & Vincent were guests on that concluding segment of the show. One of their performances was a humorous version of "Daddy Sang Bass", which had me chuckling loudly.

Sunday morning at Eastwood CC(DC) gave me both a surprise and a much-anticipated treat. When I greeted Pastor Jay (Hartley) with a "Happy anniversary" for he and wife Dawn, he informed me that on its eve he and she pre-celebrated by attending the Grand Ole Opry, their first time. So they saw as well as heard that show which gave me so much listening pleasure the previous evening! Jay waxed enthusiastic, praising especially Mark Wills singing "Don't Laugh at Me", and Dailey & Vincent's performance. I really like it when folks I know who've lived for years or all their lives in Nashville get around to going to the Opry and have a good experience!

Then finally I was part of the much-anticipated return of the choir from our Summer break. We sang a very awesome and beautiful anthem, "Come Let Us Fix Our Eyes on Jesus", lyrics of which are from Hebrews 12:2 (in today's lectionary readings and one of my favorite verses of scripture, particularly in the New American Standard version. Instrumental accompaniment came from Marie Wiggins on piano, Nashville Symphony bassoonist and pastor's wife Dawn Hartley, and two young guest clarinetists. We sounded marvellous, if I do say so myself!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We Are Nashville (keepin' on keepin' on)

Well, it's now been three months since record torrential rains in Tennessee and adjacent States caused rivers to rise to unprecedented levels in the Great Flood of May 2010. Lives were lost (11 here in Nashville) and billions of dollars damage was inflicted on the region, in flooded homes, businesses, public buildings and the transportation infrastructure.

But now, three months later in early August as you or I travel around Music City, the metropolis looks pretty much "normal" i.e., as it did pre-flood. Just don't let a quick glance around fool you, dear reader! There is STILL damage to be repaired, there are residents who aren't back in their homes -- and homeless who still seek a new "camping spot" since "Tent City" beneath the Silliman Evans Bridge washed away -- and unemployed workers whose jobs drowned in the floodwaters.

In the past seven days I myself saw continuing evidence of the flood's fury. A neighborhood just off Lebanon Road which I drive thru selling ice cream lies partly in the flood zone of Mill Creek, and when I first re-entered it after the flood the lowest portions of it were busy with men cleaning flood debris. They'd eagerly purchase ice cream, but in a week or so the clean-up job was finished and they left. However, I continued to make sales to residents, both those living on higher ground, and those in the process of making their flooded homes habitable again.

I was just beginning to think the whole neighborhood had gotten back to "normal" when last Saturday I espied several folks at the end of a short cul-de-sac that I'd never driven down before (not even pre-flood). Eager to see if these people might make purchases, I directed the wagon into that cul-de-sac. Well, it turned out that these weren't residents out enjoying the late afternoon shade; they were either workers or residents still laboring on the houses.

As I passed each house, on both sides, coming and going, I saw that every one of them had doors and windows wide open. And thru the openings one could see that the insides were empty and stripped down to the two-by fours! These homes still awaited repair work to make them once again inhabitable!

It will still be several months before all repair work is done.

Yours truly hardly needed this experience to remind me of the on-going recovery efforts. Almost daily I'll be on the MTA route 15 bus from the downtown depot to Mercury Courts. Just ten or so blocks south of the depot on Fourth Avenue South sits the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall. This young, beautiful and awesome edifice yet is surrounded by temporary chain-link fencing. They're still working on repairing the Schermerhorn, which suffered over 40 million dollars damage. And of course, repair work continues on the Grand Ole Opry House, the Opryland Hotel, the mall that took Opryland Park's place, Nashville MTA offices and so on.

Yes, dear reader, Nashville may look pretty much back to "normal" -- and was indeed "open for business" regarding the music and tourism industries in just a matter of days after the Cumberland River crested. On the other hand, much work remains to be done, to REALLY get us all the way back to "normal"! So please pray for us. And remember: We Are Nashville!

Monday, July 19, 2010

And it's out: the Scene's 2010 YASNI issue

Yes! To my great delight at the end of last week (funny, I cannot remember if Fri. or Sat. --an episode of "someteimers disease"?) I saw the latest issue of the Nashville Scene, this city's major alternative rag. And the cover article presents the 2010 edition of the paper's "You Are So Nashville If. . ." completion contest.

The issue's cover is a cartoon which shows three men carrying musical instruments above their heads and wading thru floodwaters on Lower Broad (the river end of Broadway). Each man wears a different tee shirt of those which were produced after the Great Flood and sold to help raise money for flood relief and recovery. And at the bottom is this:

"You Are So Nashville If. . . your city flooded and all you got was a lousy t-shirt."

This is SO FUNNY! David Anthony's entry certainly beats the winner of last year's YASNI contest. The 2010 Second Place entry also alludes to the flood as well as to local politics: ". . .FEMA bailed out your Tea Party a--." (Bruce Arntson) Two other flood-related I found particularly amusing are "You can rhyme Omohundro" (Wando Weaver) and "All of your friends are now experts at removing soggy drywall" (Christian Bottorff). Concerning "Omohundro" please read my recent post about heroes of the Great Flood (1 July) or an on-line article from The City Paper.

On the other hand, Wando Weaver also entered one that hits close to home: "You are so Nashville if. . . you used to work for Gaylord." I'm certain the entry refers to mall and hotel employees who lost their jobs to the floodwaters. But yours truly used to work for Gaylord, too -- back before Gaylord murdered Opryland Park.

As for non flood-related entries, probably my fave is ". . .All of your city's 'alternative' papers are owned by the same large conglomerate (Ilissa Gold)". She's referring to the irony of the Scene and The City Paper both having the same owner. A related other entry of hers is ". . .The City Paper thinks you're too ambitious and confrontational."

Finally two entries both having to do with Nashville as both "Buckle of the Bible Belt" AND "Music City USA" are "YASNI. . .

. . .You can't tell if you're at a gay bar or a Christian music industry party. (Kevin C)" and

. . .You've sued your church over songwriting royalties (Sean Williams)."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Great news (partly) for Music City USA!

This week began with a sublimely endearing live experience of the genre of music which was born right here in Nashville. (Bluegrass - see previous post.) Now today, it's ending with great news published by Nashville's daily paper, The Tennessean! And I love the front-page, above-the fold, headline.

"On the Road Again: Country tours thrive"

The newspaper article features a photo of country singer Tim McGraw in performance at the Fan Fair (CMA Music Festival) held here just over a month ago. Tim and wife Faith Hill make their home just south of Nashville in Williamson Country (where many country music stars have their homes).

The article points out that while tickets sales for music stars' concert tours in general are slumping this year (down 17%), country artists are bucking that trend. And they're succeeding in part due to lower average ticket costs. E.g., Bon Jovi, highest-grossing act in sales, has average ticket price of over $94 and James Taylor/Carole King (wish I could have seen their tour when it stopped here) tickets average over $86. Compare them with Taylor Swift, third-highest gross sales, who averages just over $60, and Tim (#8 on the list) charges an average of $48.53 per ticket.

Now mind you, even the lower country average prices still are way above what yours truly could fork out for a ticket. So I won't be going to see Taylor or Tim any time soon, any more than I was able to see James & Carole!

Nevertheless, it pleases me -- and doubtless pleases many "suits" on Music Row -- that the news is good for the country concert tour scene. To read the entire news article's on-line version, which alas! doesn't feature the headline alluding to Willie Nelson's great hit song, go to

One last tho't, dear reader. My rejoicing for the good news re country tour sales does not blind me to the not-so-good news for other genres. Nashville is, after all, Music City USA: home of American music in many forms and genres. I do consider myself eclectic in my musical tastes, even tho' Country & Western and Southern Gospel are my two faves. Therefore, I hope and I shall pray that music genres in general will follow Country artists' lead, and lower ticket prices, which will cause larger crowds and greater sales.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Doyle, Quicksilver & bluegrass gospel

Last Thursday, 8 July, I was listening to WSM-AM 650, when it was announced that the ninth caller would get admission for two to Eddie Stubbs' monthly program "Intimate Evening" on Monday the Twelfth, at Country Music Hall of Fame. Eddie's guest was to be Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. And wouldn't you know it? Yours truly was ninth caller when Charlie Mattos picked up phone!

As a result, I spent a VERY delightful, indeed a very blessed, evening of listening to bluegrass, both recorded & live, and an informative and at times very humorous interview between Eddie and one of the legends of bluegrass music, especially bluegrass gospel.

Indeed, my introduction to Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver was listening to their recordings on "Front Porch Fellowship", Les Butler's bluegrass gospel show on Solid Gospel 105 radio ack in the late 1990s. (In this, the group share commonality with my favorite bluegrass singer of the female persuasion, Rhonda Vincent.)

The time leading up to the show's start at 7 PM was not so memorable, as first I missed the bus I needed to catch -- thank you Nashville MTA! -- and had to hitch a ride. Then when it got to be around 6:30 my fellow church member whom I'd invited to accompany me hadn't shown; I phoned him only to discover that due to an unanticipated business arrival to Nashville he'd forgotten all about the show & my invitation! He was very, very apologetic, and I quickly forgave him. About that same time I found out that the show wouldn't be in its accustomed venue of the Ford Theater of the CMHoFaM (still not completely repaired from flood damage) but rather in a nook of the CMHoFaM gift shop. Folding chairs were set close together for an audience of about 100, and the performance area was right there -- sitting in the third row back I could have spat and hit the mics! Talk about an "intimate evening!"

Then, as if fated to lift my somewhat fallen spirit, after I sat down, two vacant seats in front of me got occupied by Dailey & Vincent! So I got to speak with both these fellas who have so impressed me with their talent, their mutual friendship & faith, and their admiration for the Sadler Bros. And I got to speak with Darrin Vincent about the impact his sister Rhonda Vincent has made on yours truly!

Well, and if having Dailey & Vincent sitting so close to me didn't serve to lift my spirits -- which it did -- certainly the featured artists of the show did! After all, they're seven-time winners of the IBMA Vocal Bluegrass Group of the Year, and Doyle is an acknowledged leader and talented mandolinist in the bluegrass genre.

And the group performed live a couple songs off their most recently released album project and their most recent gospel album. This latter song, "Zion Medley", featured tremendous a cappella quartet singing, which at the final note had me up applauding and shouting "Hallelujah!" Many others in the audience joined in the standing ovation.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yet another silver anniversary here in Mid-Tenn.

Last month the Tennessee Rennaisance Festival celebrated its 25th year of fun and history in tiny Triune just south of Nashville-Davidson County. Last week we celebrated the silver anniversary of the IBMA with a very enjoyable and memorable show of "Music City Roots" at the Loveless Barn. And yesterday another 25th was observed, this one for the General Jackson Showboat. Apparently 2 July 1985 was when the huge boat was christened.

I don't remember much about that christening. I presume it was either at the downtown Nashville riverfront or at its dock at Opryland Park. And I vaguely remember that the Opry's Porter Waggoner got involved in some way.

What yours truly DOES remember, very vividly, is the coming of the paddlewheel showboat to Nashville in A.D. 1985. It had been constructed in Indiana and launched on 20 April. It sailed down the Ohio River and up the Cumberland River, and it was BIG news here that it would arrive at thus-and-such date, about thus-and-such time.

My family and I went to the Clarksville Highway bridge then, to see this enormous floating theater. It really was awesome when it hove into view downstream! We weren't used to seeing anything sailing or floating on the Cumberland larger than the industrial barges which frequent it. Another paddlewheel showboat that already plied Nashville's river was much smaller.

Some years later we got to ride on the iconic showboat. That too was enjoyable. But nothing I associate with the General Jackson matches the wonder of its arrival here!

It would have been fine to board the enormous floating theater again. And considering that Gaylord Corp. was advertising retro cruise price of $8.00 per person, I'd have gone had I not had to work. The retro price reminded me of how in 1993 the Tower of the Americas celebrated the silver anniversary of HemisFair '68 and the Tower by charging the original (1968) price for elevator rides! Retro indeed!

I just love history. Especially when it comes back to life, such as in taking prices for things back to the original prices!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A look back at a Tennessee June

On this First of July in the Year of Our Lord (A.D.) Twenty-Ten, with the Independence Day holiday coming up in just three days, I reflect back on the past month and what it presented to me. Obviously, getting to see and hold my darling Theresa, my first grandchild, tops the list of memories which June presented to me! (See my posts on 15 and 20 June.)

I also rejoice in the fruit of June (and July), my fave -- the apricot. Funny that the fruit I enjoy the most seems also to have THE SHORTEST SEASON. And it was almost the end of the month before I remembered to go to the produce section in the grocery store to pick some for purchase.

And then there are the lightning bugs (aka fireflies). Memories of my childhood in the PAcific Northwest don't include these fascinating insects. Neither are they to be found in the parts of Texas where I live. But in Middle Tennessee they're abundant! Ah-hah! Yet another reason for me to be glad I moved from San Antonio back to "the greenest State in the land of the free"!

Because my worksite (or where I have to begin & end each work shift) Goody Wagons, is two blocks off the bus route (Dickerson Rd.), I walk up-hill a block, then down-hill a block. Coming and going. But I hardly mind the end-of-day walk away from the ice cream wagons. That direction, the second, downhill, block presents a wooded area to the left, and being a dutiful follower of pedestrian rules I walk on that side. The walk is always after dusk, and in June I would be greeted by at least half a dozen twinkling lights for the lightning bugs! And when the sky was clear, the critters seemed to echo, in a way, the stars up above. For the nighttime light pollution from Music City is dimmer right in the Goody Wagons area of town.

Alas! there's one blot on this otherwise idyllic scene. A block closer-in on the other side of Dickerson Rd. from my bus stop is a garish, strongly-illuminated, purple-painted building -- an "adult" store! What a contrast between the good lights of God's creation, and the evil lighting by humankind!

Nevertheless, the lightning bugs are delightful. And they easily keep my focus, so I can ignore the blemish.

Nor are these little flying luminaries the only fauna I've been enjoying as a result of my driving around in an ice cream truck. Early in June one of my Facebook Friends, who became my cyber-buddy eyars before FB and who shall remain anonymous, posted about how twice during a short car trip in an adjacent State a bear had crossed the road, and when they reached home "Thumper" was munching down a meal in the flower bed! Well, I've seen "Thumper" several times in the Nashville neighborhoods where I sell ice cream, and the rabbit's tree-dwelling, bushy-tailed cousin!

Finally, Tuesday's sunset, the eve for June's final day (no pun intended), literally took my breath away! Some of the scattered clouds in the western sky shone with a pink hue that got deeper until it was almost red at the end. Other clouds, shadowed, presented a blue-grey tint. The downtown skyline silhouetted in a similar tint, accented here and there by the usual lighting. The entire vision, with God's nature-painting above and human constructions below, was absolutely awesome!

What a beautiful ending (minus a day) to a beautiful month!

The Great Flood: Recovery and Heroes

Today marks the date two months ago that torrential rain began to cause streams to flood in West and Middle Tennessee. 1 May A.D. 2010 was the beginning of the Great Flood. Here in Nashville rebuilding, recovering and repairing continue. We are Nashville!

In my driving around neighborhoods near the Cumberland River or Mill Creek in my ice cream truck I will occasionally encounter graphic reminders of the flood, and how my beloved hometown's recuperation is on-going. And every now and then there will be news on the airwaves or in print, about the continuing effort. For yours truly, the saddest news was a week or ten days back, when it was announced that the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall will cost $42 million in repairs! And it will be several months still 'til it's open for concerts again. Meanwhile the Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony, like the Grand Ole Opry show, keeps on keeping on in borrowed venues, of which, thank God, there are several here in Music City!

We are Nashville!

And, dear reader, I keep on contemplating memories of the heroes of the Great Flood! Lots of stories of heroism during the actual rising of the waters, their receding to normal and the immediate recovery were published or broadcast. I personally have a Top Three Heroes of the Flood.

One is a structure: the Omohundro Water Plant. This facility, which is well over a century old, is right beside the south bank of the Cumberland in my ZIP, 37210. The flooding river took out the other, newer, water plant, the Harrington. It almost took out the Omohundro, too. But volunteers, including inmates, feverishly stacked sandbags around the water plant, and managed -- barely -- to save it! Otherwise, instead of being asked to cut water use in half, Nashvillians would have had to rely on trucked-in H2O! So by inference, the heroes in this case will cover not only the plant itself but also prisoners and other volunteers who helped save it so it could save us some drinking water!

Another of my trio of heroes is Mayor Karl Dean. I already liked our Metro Nashville-Davidson chief, among other things because he supports dedicated funding and other features to improve mass transit here, and despite his pushing for the new convention center that Nashville doesn't need. But his calm yet firm, determined, handling of the disaster truly hiked my admiration for Mayor Dean! I think of him being to the Great Flood what our President was to Nine-Eleven: a real spirit-lifter, a lighter of the beacon of hope.

Nevertheless, my vote for greatest heroism and most positively lifting spirits of area residents is Jeannie Seely of the Opry! Her home on the river near the Opry House and her car were inundated. And yet the evening after the flood crested Jeannie was on the Tuesday Nite Opry, singing, speaking about the flood and its effects and sharing her distinctive sense of humor. One of my favorite quotes from the disaster is Jeannie saying, “It’s so great to be here. Somebody said, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to play the Grand Ole Opry tonight.’ I said, ‘Well, it’s not like I can stay home and watch TV.’ You can laugh about it or cry, and I don’t want to cry.” At her "stay home and watch TV" yours truly laughed out loud, and at her final comment I cheered out loud!

Jeannie continued to share such encouraging wisdom in the weeks since the flood. She and other music stars resident here have been very active in setting up and performing in area concerts to raise funds for flood relief. And doesn't this seem so fitting for the city that's famous as Music City USA?

We are Nashville!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back to the Barn, for Bluegrass

Last Wednesday evening, the 16th, I got to listen for the first time to WSM-AM 650's new live music show "Music City Roots". Last evening, Wed. the 23d, I got to BE there, at the Loveless Barn, behind the famous Loveless Café out on Hwy. 100. Thus I went "back to the barn" sort of -- see my posting of Monday 8 March 2010.

This particular MCR celebrated the silver anniversary of the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Assn.). And it WAS international, since G2, a bluegrass band of young Swedes, was on the program. I hadn't heard of them before, nor a couple of the other artists. But just knowing the show would feature The Whites, Jesse McReynolds (both artists from the Grand Ole Opry), and Dale Ann Bradley sufficed to entice me to go "back to the barn"!

I attended with some of the choir members of the Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). We'd been invited to attend by staff member John Walker, and I'm most grateful to him! I rode out to Loveless with Gene & Cindy Lovelace (no pun intended) and also Associate Pastor Michael Lehman. We headed west from the church following the monthly Wed. supper, a hearty one of baked potato bar and salad bar.

Once we took seats in the barn and the show opened, it quickly evoked sweet memories of the live music shows that made the late, great Opryland Park my favorite of ALL theme-parks! This was due primarily, I think, to the openness of the venue. The setting sun shone in from the west, and despite air-conditioning the barn felt somewhat hot & humid; lots of programs were doing duty as fans. Since WSM and Opry's Eddie Stubbs emceed and the format was similar to that of the world's oldest radio show, this "Music City Roots" also evoked to a lesser extent memories of Grand Ole Opry shows I'd been to, particular the two I've attended at Ryman Auditorium.

Jim Lauderdale served as host. A non-performing guest was Craig Havighurst, author of "Air Castle of the South: WSM and the making of Music City". Jim interviewed Craig to start off the show.

Performing commenced with Alison Brown & Fair Weather Friends. I wasn't familiar with this bluegrass group, but was pleased with their performance. Shortly afterward we heard from G2. This band of young Swedes displayed great talent on the instruments and fluent vocals in English.

During the performance of one of the first groups, we got treated to the first unannounced cameo appearance from a big bluegrass star! He was Del McCoury! He sauntered onto the stage with a big grin, acoustic guitar and a nice-looking casual shirt -- quite different from his usual suit and tie! Oh, and he also sported his striking silvery pompadour -- LOL! Probably the best-known hairdo among bluegrass & country male stars -- after Marty stuart's, that is -- LOL again!

Other performers included legendary mandolin master Jesse McReynolds, Rodney Dillard et al., Sierra Hull, The Farewell Drifters, based locally, and Rockin' Acoustic Circus, another young group of five teens and a "vet", from Tulsa. Everybody new to me "blew me away" with their talent! So many of this evening's artists being so youthful, there isn't much danger of Bluegrass dying out as an active musical genre any time soon!

Before the final bluegrass group (thus, "headliners" or best-known artists) The Whites took the stage, I'd already decided that this "Music City Roots" had exceeded my best expectations! Everybody had provided such great bluegrass-listening pleasure; I found myself clapping along and/or singing along more than a couple times.

The evening provided pleasant surprises, and at least one "just surprise". Whenever I'd seen The Whites live before, daddy Buck played piano and wore glasses; THIS time with no piano he played mandolin. And Buck went without specs, while both daughters Sharon and Cheryl sported glasses which I hadn't seen them wear before! The Texans also provided a mixed surprise: Sharon's husband, bluegrass and traditional country champion Ricky Skaggs, joined them for a song or two. I was glad Ricky was there; I've always liked his music and had enjoyed speaking with him backstage at the Opry in the 1990s. But alas! he looks very different now. He's put on a few pounds (not that I remember him ever being "svelte"!). Moreover, he's let his hair grow to shoulder-length and much of it's now white! He just doesn't look very good any more: Ricky needs to lose the extra pounds and the extra hair!

Now, at one point about midway in the program Cindy and Gene left their seats at the same time, and were gone a rather long interval. Michael had also disappeared from the seat he'd been sitting in a row behind us other three. (Shortly I learned that he'd chosen to stand -- the folding seats were rather more uncomfortable than such seats are notorious for being.) When the Lovelaces returned Gene dropped a brown bag onto my lap; it contained a "Music City Roots" cap!

And so I came away from the Loveless Barn and MCR with very pleasant memories and a souvenir! Many thanks to the Lovelaces for the latter! And again, many thanks to John Walker for inviting the choir to the show, and to the IBMA for the sweet celebration of its 25 years!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

BIG Fan of Granddaughter, Part II

Afternoon of Friday the 18th was even hotter & more humid than ever here in Music City. But I didn't mind it much. I visited the Nashville Zoo with some family members. It was nice, but I wasn't terribly impressed -- hard to get a zoo to impress yours truly after having known the San Antonio Zoo (one of top three in USA). But I wasn't at Zoo to be impressed, either by layout or by the resident fauna.

I was there to spend time with my children: son David daughter-in-law Allison and daughter Sarah. AND with my ten-week-old granddaughter Theresa!

Theresa (and not elephants, giraffes, iguanas, etc.) was THE STAR of the afternoon!

We arrived at the zoo shortly after noon, so we were there in the heat of the day -- but again, it didn't bother me as much as it could have. One of the first exhibits areas we walked to was the lorikeet enclosure. There must have been two dozen or more of the smallish, colorful, parrotlike fowl -- and one flew right past my face so close I was surprised I didn't feel feathers on my cheek!

We saw the elephants shortly afterward. The two huge beasts formed a train, with the one holding the other's tail with its trunk -- like one sees in Disney cartoon flicks. We also saw giraffes, including one who came close to the edge near a refreshment stand -- called Shamba Market -- so we could see it rather up close. Then the pachyderms got our attention, as they approached a small pond nearby, dunked themselves and self-sprayed water with their trunks -- always a delightful sight!

But again, Theresa was THE STAR of the afternoon! Daddy David offered to let me have her for awhile. I cradled her in my left arm and walked that way for quite a while. Indeed, my arm was getting a bit tired of the unaccustomed weight -- I kept wondering, how could a ten-week-old baby be heavy? -- but I didn't give her up 'til necessary. It was just too sweet to be holding Theresa!

Not long after that Sarah suggested we slip into the gift shop to take a break from the heat and humidity. While we were in there I espied a nice yellow baby's tee that said "First visit to Nashville Zoo". Despite my financial straits I seriously considered purchasing it for Theresa. Then I read the price tag: $13. I'd be very reluctant to purchase a tee MY size for that price! And THIS apparel was so-o-o-o much tinier than what would fit me!

We toured most of the rest of the zoo, then returned to the car. As on the trip to the zoo, Sarah drove, David rode shotgun, I was behind Sarah and Allison behind her hubby. Theresa sat in a backward-facing baby's car seat between mama and granddad. I had my right forearm resting on the baby seat, and noticed that Theresa was running her tiny toes along my arm. She was playing "footsie" with Grandpa! Woo-hoo!

Can you tell I adore my granddaughter?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On being a BIG Fan of my Granddaughter

In the almost two years I've lived in Nashville (and 1¼ years of this blob) I've experienced many, many events. The Lord has blessed me with a terrific church family in Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Etc., etc.

However, family (kinfolk by blood or marriage) was what drew me away from San Antonio and back to Tennessee. Late Tuesday afternoon I got to experience another memorable family event. Right here in Nashville. One of those once-in-a-lifetime happenings!

I got to see and hold our first grandchild, Theresa Janine Graham.

Monday, June 14, 2010

On being a fan for "Fan Fair"

"Fan Fair" -- nowadays called CMA Music Festival -- has happened yearly in Music City USA (aka Nashville, Tenn.) since 1972. I recently learned that grand Ole Opry and Opryland exec Bud Wendell came up with the idea. He considered that such a festival would draw more folk (particularly from out of state) to the city and its new theme park. The first time we lived in Nashville I learned early on that lots of native Nashvillians disliked Fan Fair, because of the traffic snarls & gridlock it engendered. But by the time I began working at Opryland such antipathy seemed to have faded away.

After all, Fan Fair was bringing in plenty of dollars along with the tourists, and was becoming a great expression of the community as Music City USA.

I myself didn't participate in Fan Fair until last year. By that time it had a new name and had moved from the State Fairgrounds back to downtown where Mr. Wendell had started it.

Honestly, in Ought Nine I didn't participate much in the annual festivity. I remember trying in vain to get to the plaza at Fifth and Broad outside the then Sommet Center (now Bridgestone Arena) at the time Rhonda Vincent was scheduled to perform. When I got there and was told that yes, she'd just finished performing, I wandered disconsolately up the hill past nearby Ryman Auditorium. And stumbled onto the "guitars of the stars" auction being conducted by WSM's Bill Cody and country star Steve Wariner. I paused, to enjoy the auctioning of Vince Gill's guitar, the back of which was decked out like tiny golf greens. (Vince's second love is golfing; Amy comes in third --LOL.) At another time during Fan Fair '09 I stopped into the famous (the original) Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Lower Broad across from Tootsie's, while WSM was broadcasting live from there as part of Fan Fair. (Funny, I don't remember what artist was performing, jsut that Charlie Mattos was handling the airwaves chores.)

This year I intended to participate a bit more in Fan Fair. It didn't happen, but still Thursday of last week I got in one memorable hour "playing hooky" from work to attend the festivity and "play fan".

I drove my ice cream truck to the Fan Fair area, looking in vain for a parking place near the plaza outside the Bridgestone Arena. While cruising by I got to hear the Opry's "grand lady" Jeannie Seely singing on the Chevy Stage there. Once I got the truck parked a few blocks away I "hot-footed" it down hot-asphalt Fourth Ave. in the hot-sunshine afternoon. Jeannie was already finished singing, but turned out she was emcee for the rest of this "Classic Country" show featuring Lynn Anderson, Gene Watson, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius.

Between Jeannie's sets on stage I was able to get her attention and thank her for the inspiring positive spirit she has shown since the Great Flood. Shortly afterward, I went inside the arena and acquired some Fan Fair literature, including a sheet with the day's schedule and a fair sized white space just above the "Classic Country" line-up. and I proceeded to play "Fan Fair fan" to the hilt, getting Jeannie's autograph!

I got to hear live performances only on that bit of Jeannie Seely I'd heard while seeking parking, Lynn Anderson's final song, all of Gene Watson's set and Jim Ed's opening song. That, BTW, was his "signature song": "Pop a Top Again". But I knew I needed to get back to cruising neighborhoods earning a living selling ice cream. So I strolled on back to the truck. Since I had to pass the Country Music Hall of Fame on my way, I entered just to see if anything special was happening. Well, turned out that they were taking a survey just outside the souvenir shop. I filled out a form, and as reward received a CMHoFaM key chain. This doesn't have ANY allusion to or connection with Fan Fair, but I'm going to treat it as MY Fan Fair souvenir for 2010!

Yes, dear reader, yours truly was making himself as much a country music fan as I could for this year's music fest in Music City USA! At elast for about an hour; too bad other plans fell thru. We shall see how much further I get to go in being a fan at Fan Fair 2011. . . .

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tue. Opry = "new" home, same GREAT show!

Since the Great Flood of May 2010 entered the Grand Ole Opry House and damaged the venue, the oldest radio show in the world has become sort of a "traveling minstrel show", you might say! It's returned to former homes at times, and at times it's been in new places. Last week's Grand Ole Opry (Sat.) for example was in a hall at David Lipscomb University for the very first time!

Tuesday the Eighth it was back in a former TEMPORARY home, Municipal Auditorium. It was there for awhile following the 1975 Flood that inundated Opryland Park and seeped into the Opry House basement area. THAT flood was not nearly so destructive as was the recent inundation! THIS particular show also reached back into the past in another way: early in the afternoon as the MTA bus I was on circled around Municipal Auditorium before entering Music City Central (the bus depot is next door), I saw a long line of people waiting to purchase tickets. During the Opry show's stay in the Ryman in the middle of the past century, it became famous, indeed notorious, for the long lines snaking around the block.

So this was sort of a "blast from the past" in a way!

Eddie Stubbs, WSM-AM 650 deejay & Opry emcee, referred to the history of the Opry in Municipal Auditorium during his opening the show yesterday. He also spoke of how, despite the terrible flood, Nashville as Music City USA is OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

We got treated to a great musical opening to Tuesday's Opry! Like most Opry shows it began with the Opry stage band performing and nobody singing. Tuesday's opening piece was "Steel Guitar Rag" from Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. It's probably my favorite purely instrumental piece that features steel! And yours truly has an on-going love affair with the pedal steel guitar! Afterward the band performed a second instrumental number, which they seldom get to do. It was "Redwing", a nice country/folk style creation which featured the fiddle.

As for singing artists, well, there were some great ones! Legendary Bill Anderson sang first. Later, Mandy Barnett started off with a Patsy Cline song (she played Patsy in a show at the Ryman). Then she did a jazzy version of an Ernest Tubb song ("Walking the Floor" I seem to remember). Josh Turner continued to entice me with his fresh sound that still has roots in traditional country music. And it was great to hear Trish Yearwood back on the Opry stage. She's been cast for over a decade, yet in recent years seldom performs due to touring about her cookbook.

Final act slot was reserved for the star/artist who's making "the most noise" currently. But I was just as happy to lose my radio by time of her appearance and not have to listen to Carrie Underwood. She has a vinegar voice and a hard-rock style that grate on my ears. The only reason Carrie won the American Idol contest and then Opry membership is, I'm very certain, not due to any talent but rather to her being a very sexy blonde.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Batter Up!" -- at church, even

Wow! For priding my self on not being the "typical" sports fanatic of the male persuasion, I sure have allowed baseball in several forms to become prominent in my life in the past month or so! "Take me out to the ball game. . . !"

Yesterday, Sunday the Sixth of June, was the start of Vacation Bible School at my church, Eastwood Christian (Disciples). Like last Summer's VBS, this one was in cooperation with a couple other East Nashville congregations (all from different denominations) but held at Eastwood, with curriculum created locally rather than ordered from a religious publishing house. (We have several creative curriculum geniuses!)

The theme chosen for VBS 2010 is "Batter up!"

I wasn't even thinking about that theme while dressing for church Sunday morning. I chose not to wear a suit coat because I knew it had been hot and humid the past few days. I almost went out the door bare-headed (like I'd been doing for a few Sundays), but at the last moment decided that perhaps head gear was in order. So I grabbed one of my baseball-type caps (the one from OSDN).

And then I was in awe at my serendipitous choice when I entered the church sanctuary and saw it already decorated with theme-oriented material, such as posters resembling baseball trading cards but with the people from the Bible who would be hi-lited in the curriculum. Even Jesus, his image copied from a traditional popular painting, wore a baseball cap!

"Batter up!"

Furthermore, the Nourse ladies (mother Margaret & daughter Emily) turned out to be as focused as I on the TCU Horned Frogs in post-season NCAA baseball play. And other church members were just as focused on the hometown team, the Vanderbilt Commodores, playing in the Regional in Louisville.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Weekend -- memories & memorable

Dear reader, I do not intend a pun with the title of this posting. It just happens that the holiday which initially was named "Decoration Day" is now called "Memorial Day". And during the three-day weekend that ended May with both the traditional and the observed holidays, I had memories of earlier editions of this holiday, as well as having new ones made (hence, memorable).

I've written about the two Memorial Days before. E.g., see the 27 May 2008 post on my other blog, "Glen Alan's San Antonio".

Memorial Weekend of A.D. 2010 got started a bit early, on Friday morning when I heard a new song on WSM. It was a new song by the artist, Sammy Kershaw. It's called "The Snow-White Rows of Arlington" and was penned by Hugh Prestwood. It begins thus:

. There are a lot of perfect reasons
. To never fight another war
. There are a lot of perfect questions
. As to what’s worth fighting for. . . .

and goes on to meditate on those who died in our wars, and why they died. Then comes the refrain:

. Adios sweet home and family
. Wave goodbye to your ( Louisiana ) son
. You will know why I’m leaving when you see
. The snow white rows of Arlington.

Sammy commented that he'd recorded several editions of the song, with different State's name in place of his native Louisiana. The final verse evokes the green, grassy, tree-spangled hills of the National Cemetery, each headstone a shrine. Then concludes with poignant questions, including "Aren't I the keeper of the flame?" The final refrain is slightly but significantly different:

. Adios sweet home and family
. Wave goodbye to your ( Louisiana ) son
. And if it be my fate you’ll find me
. Proudly sleeping in the snow white,
. When you see the snow white rows of Arlington.

Chills went along my spine! I clearly remembered my visit to Arlington back on Memorial Day of A.D. 1999. How awestruck I was when I looked over those rows and rows of snow-white gravestones! THAT year, BTW, was the most recent previous year (I'm fairly sure) when the traditional Memorial Day (the 30th) fell on Sunday and followed the very next day by the observed holiday. Just like this year's calendar.

My favorite radio show, the Grand Ole Opry, featured many comments and songs by the cast, hi-liting the true reason for Memorial Day, and honoring the fallen. I myself posted on Facebook, about the two Memorial Days and urging citizens to remember those who had fallen in defense of freedom on both days. Monday evening Eddie Stubbs commented on the significance of the holiday and its history, during his "Hall of Fame Monday" show on WSM.

But before I heard Eddie, on Memorial Day (observed) afternoon I got a treat more along the lines of many citizens' thinking about the holiday. I listened to a baseball game!

And what a game it was! The Nashville Sounds (AAA, Pacific Coast League)were hosting the finale of a four-game home series with the Iowa Cubs. For most of the game it was a real pitchers battle, as both teams remained scoreless and managed only 3 hits. But in the bottom of the Eighth, the Sounds exploded! First the team got a couple of runs, then shortstop Luis Cruz (#3) came to the plate and belted out a Grand Slam home run! It was thrilling to listen to my old buddy Stu Paul call the play-by-play on that "grand salami" as he labelled it in his follow-up remarks.

And so the Nashville Sounds won 8-0 over Iowa and went 3-1 in the series at Greer Stadium (plus having a commanding season record against that team). The Sounds are at the top of their division in the league and hold one of the best records in the PCL. And they have yours truly eager to attend a Sounds game at Greer Stadium! Hooray, Nashville Sounds!