Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Freebie", Lee, Leslie - the CMHoFaM

Well! I just came from a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (CMHoFaM). Today was the Ford-sponsored free-admission Saturday, snow-delayed from last Saturday.

This "freebie" day resulted in even greater pleasure and even happier memories than did last year's "freebie" day!

Upon arrival I passed thru the spacious lobby and by The "Ambassador of Music City" David Andersen, who was entertaining us on his electric guitar. I went up the elevator to the top floor and the start of the museum tour. First I viewed the special (limited-time) Brenda Lee exhibit. It's called "Dynamite" because Ms. Lee is nicknamed, among other things "Little Miss Dynamite". She's very short and small, and of course she was one of the first child singing stars. I was impressed to discover that her musical and singing start was in country music; I'd always considered that her start was in pop-rock and later she moved into country. But the special exhibit indicated that no, at that point in her life she was actually returning to her country roots!

Then I began the tour of the regular permanent exhibits, which of course commence with the origins of what we call "country" music" in the 1920s. To the left are display cases of artifacts, most of them instruments or costume pieces of the stars of what was first known as "hillbilly music". On the right, over a clear glass wall-railing and across the drop down to the next floor, are four screens, each of which has a couple of brief picture shows about this or that aspect of the history of the music. The second screen, for example had clips from the singing cowboys. My eyes misted up while I watched the performance of the Sons of the Pioneers along with Roy Rogers, my boyhood hero.

Then it was time to go down to the ground floor and the Ford Theater, for the Songwriter Session with Leslie Satcher. Leslie had been a guest on "Coffee Country and Cody" of WSM-AM 650 some months back. I'd been charmed then, and was even more charmed this time around. Among Leslie's songwriting credits is George Strait's great song and recent hit that sounds so autobiographical, "Troubadour" -- for it alone I would honor her! The first song she sang was one that became a hit for Martina McBride, "When God-fearin' Women Get the Blues". She talked about how she met Naomi Judd, who was one who helped her significantly, thru their mutual membership in Christ Church (Pentecostal) in southern Davidson County (metro Nashville).

After I left the songwriter session I got in line for the musical petting zoo on the opposite side of the museum lobby. I really wanted to "pet" a pedal steel guitar. It turned out that none was there; the closest thing was an electrified Dobro guitar. But then both instruments are played while sliding a metal pipe along strings, and the resulting sounds are very similar: the "twang" in country music. After "petting" the Dobro for several minutes, and asking the volunteer docent questions about it (like tuning as compared to a regular guitar), I moved on to other nstruments in the petting zoo. I tried the banjo, mandolin -- and an instrument I had played in grade school in the Sixties: the autoharp!

I wrapped up my "freebie" visit to the CMHoFaM with a walk into the Hall of Fame itself. One of the first plaques I stopped to read carefully was that hero from my early boyhood: Roy Rogers. My head threatened to leak again, as I contemplated memory of hours of sitting on the living room floor eyes glued to Roy's TV show, and the great role model he remained all thru his long, full life. I'm glad for Roy that he's with the Lord now, but I miss him!

Just before I finished circumambulating the round Hall I came to the plaque of a much more recent inductee, the REAL cowboy from Texas, with the smoothest voice in country music and among the smoothest who still sings in ANY genre. I'm referring to George Strait! I smiled as I read the Strait man's plaque, then I tipped my hat to him and exited. On my way down the ramp descending to the lobby and main entrance, I could first hear, then see, David Andersen still bending the strings on his electric guitar.

Wow! what a joyful afternoon in one of Music City's greatest attractions! And all for free, too! Thanks, Ford Foundation, for enabling this great day!

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