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!