Saturday, December 10, 2011

"The War" comes home, second verse

Earlier I had written of how a book chronicling a historical foot soldier who fought at Spotsylvania Court-House, where my own great-grandpa was wounded while also fighting under Gen. Lee, had made "the War" (between the states) come home. Well, in a somewhat different fashion, this same conflict which tore our nation apart 150 years ago came home yet again this morning!

You see, dear reader, the Tennessee State Library & Archives where I work hosted a seminar this morning featuring authors Traci Nichols-Belt and Gordon Belt (wife and husband) and their recently-published book, "Onward Southern Soldiers". In the past couple days I skimmed the TSLA's copy, then I attended the seminar today before signing-in for work.

The book's sub-title is "Religion and The Army of Tennessee in the Civil War." It covers historiography about religion's impact in the antebellum and Civil War South; political and military leaders and "elite" clergy in how they nourished Southern religious thought; the role of army chaplains and the thinking of foot soldiers concerning religion and the War (as expressed in their letters home, memoirs, etc.).

Where the book and the seminar brought "the War" home for yours truly is three-fold. As with the earlier coming-home of the War Between the States, my great-grandpa's wounding at Spotsylvania (12 May 1864) was a major connection the topic - even tho' he was in Gen. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia rather than the Army of Tenn. Furthermore, I myself had served as an Army chaplain in the 1980s, a time of peace. I found it enthralling to read accounts of Rebel chappies on the battlefront, particularly those few who not only served the religious needs of the soldiers but also commanded units. Most notorious of these was Bishop and General Leonidas Polk (there's a fort named for him in Louisiana).

And of course forming the third personal connection were my passions for history and spiritual things. In commencing the seminar's talk, author Nichols-Belt confessed to these same two passions (and how they came together for her as she worked on her Master's thesis and this book). I ought to point out that "Onward Southern Soldiers" is made up of copious quoting from original documents -- diaries, letters, orders and so forth.

Gordon Belt briefly addressed the matter of sources for the book. And TSLA was a major fountain of archival items they used.

I had several comments or questions at the q & a point of the seminar. One was whether Herman Norton (whom they cited as a secondary source) is the Disciples of Christ historian with whom I'm acquainted -- he is. A more involved question related to fighting clergy such Polk. In my reading I had found it strange that clergy like him, supposedly representing the Prince of Peace, could so readily take up weapons to kill, or lead soldiers on the killing fields. How did they justify this glaring anomaly? The authors only touched on this issue as it pertained to the general rebel conviction that they were fighting to defend their homes and altars (and thus theirs was a just war). But I really would like to know, HOW did Polk et al., reconcile the two roles?

Upon the seminar's conclusion I shared a couple other questions or observations privately with Gordon Belt, and made arrangements to purchase a signed copy of the book "Onward Southern Soldiers".

And so, once again "the War" had come home for yours truly!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ah-h-h-h. . . the Memories!

Tuesday the 29th Steve and I were working the reception desk in the Tennessee State Library & Archives when a silver-haired couple entered the building. We ascertained that this was their first visit and began the process of registering them.

As they filled out the registry cards they chatted with Steve and me. And in the dialog the man commented that the two had entertained at Opryland Park.

As soon as he said that I recognized them despite the silver hair. I happily blurted out, "You're Russ and Becky Jeffers!"

The couple had performed for 24 years at the bluegrass stage in the park, with its cabin backdrop, in their "Country and Bluegrass Show". It turns out both Steve and I had been to this show numerous times. Indeed, Steve claimed more than once that he'd seen the show "150 times." To which assertion I finally commented, "And I'd seen it 151 times!" in a little light-hearted one-upmanship.

So, the four of us got to talking at length about the park, which all of us had loved so dearly. Steve admitted that he cried when they killed the park. And I, too, had cried. Becky remarked about on work days -- if performing a music one loves can be called "work" -- she'd let their kids have the run of the park. Opryland was THAT SAFE, secure and family-friendly of an environment! Becky was far from the first parent I'd heard speak of just turning their kids loose for a day there.

And I learned a bit of history. Russ told of how theirs was the very last show to be performed in the park before its murder. Since it was the Christmas season the show was slotted to be done in the New Orleans Theater. But Russ talked the crowd into adjourning to the country and bluegrass cabin for this finale. And the very last song to be sung in Opryland USA was "Rocky Top", the newest on the list of Tennessee's official State Songs. I suppose one could say that "Rocky Top" was thus the swan-song, then, on 31 December 1997.

Rest in peace, my dear Opryland Park! And God bless Russ and Becky Jeffers for patronizing the State Library and awaking fond memories for their fellow ex-employee! (I worked at Opryland in the 1990s, as ticket seller and then as tour coordinator of Grand Ole Opry Tours.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Connie Smith (& me) at "Midnite Jamboree"

There's no denying that yours truly is a morning lark. Going to bed after 10PM is not my m.o. Therefore, I've never been to the "Midnite Jamboree" at the Texas Troubadour Theater in Music Valley near the Grand Ole Opry House. Indeed, if I've even listened to the second-longest-running live radio show (after the Opry), it's been infrequent brief segments of it and never the entire broadcast.

Such all changed this past Saturday, 5 November. Thanks to Facebook I got an invitation or notice that Connie Smith would be featured artist. I already knew I'd be working the late shift at the State Library and that a women's Walk to Emmaus retreat would be going on. So I made a "big day" of the Fifth!

Upon leaving work I first secured a room at a cheap motel, then ate supper at an IHOP in Hermitage, east suburb of Nashville. Then I went to nearby Hermitage United Methodist Church, where Nashville-area Walks to Emmaus are held, to participate in the "Candlelight" activity of the walk. A couple of my Clarksville neighbors also attended. As always, the Emmaus "Candlelight" was a blessing.

After relaxing an hour or so in my borrowed vehicle I drove to Music Valley Drive and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop (#2) with the Texas Troubadour Theater. After briefly browsing the bins in the record shop I found me a seat in the seventh row of the little theater.

Connie Smith was marvelous! The show's format was rather original, I think. Connie would sing one of her songs, then introduce a recording by somebody else; after which a pretty, nicely dressed emcee type would come to a podium at stage right, describe the album the song came from and how there was a price special on it -- "just tonite!" -- in the E.T. Record Shop. And then the final third (my guess) of the show was all Connie!

"The Rolls Royce of Country Music", as WSM's Eddie Stubbs calls her, sang several songs off her new album Long Line of Heartaches. It's her first recorded work in some 13 years (and before that was a 20-year gap), and some of the featured songs were co-written by Connie and her husband Marty Stuart. After hearing her sing a couple of these, I concluded that Connie Smith doesn't get sufficient credit as songwriter! And Nashville IS a songwriter's town.

One of the songs she sang off the new album was a Johnny Russell creation, "Ain't You Even Gonna Cry". I'd heard Russell sing it live, and I believe I've heard one or two other Country stars sing it. However, Connie sang it as tho' it were made just for her! I don't remember that she sang the title song, but I do recall "Anymore" and "I'm Not Blue" as I scan the songlist for the album.

Connie concluded the show, which ran a bit over an hour and a half, with her signature song, "Once a Day", then "Amazing Grace" and finally another Gospel song. Some people criticize Country Music stars who live a less-than-perfect life, record cheatin' and drinkin' songs and then turn around and record a Gospel album. They cannot so criticize Connie! She makes no bones about her Christian faith and she exudes the spirit of a devoted disciple of the Nazarene. This is one of the things that endears her to me, among female Country singers.

And experiencing her live and in person at the "Midnite Jamboree" is adding to the endearment!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Books, Books, & More Books!

Yes, I work in a library, specifically, the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) in Nashville. So, yes, there are plenty of books in my work environment. But I'm actually posting about somewhat less job-related tomes and library issues.

First, on Thursday, 13 October, the Friends of the TSLA, a fairly new organization, held their board meeting in the TSLA building, followed by a reception with talk. This reception impacted my work, but in a positive way, as in greeting the Friends with an even warmer smile than usual when they entered, and at closing (4:30pm) inviting patrons to linger for the talk (alas! none did).

Refreshments for the reception consisted of elitist cookies and a tasty orange juiced-based punch. The talk, by author John Egerton, was "Sleuthing in the Archives". He gave a fascinating account of a murder in Knoxville almost a hundred years ago, and how a Black man was accused, convicted and executed -- and then a woman came forward eight years later confessing the heinous deed! His sleuthing was to discover what had happened to the woman after she was let go due to "case closed".

Friday was the beginning of the yearly Southern Festival of Books here in nearby Legislative Plaza, War Memorial and the State Capitol. Jenny, one of the admin staff for TSLA, went over to it on her lunch break and returned with a copy of the information magazine for me. Later I took my break and went up to the break room, where I found staffer Jay eating and reading. Jenny came in shortly afterward, and I told her I really liked her tee. It read,"There's no such thing as... too many books". Jay, Jenny and I had a great discussion about books, the festival, and the impact of the electronic media on printed books. Jay and I both much prefer to read a published book, of which we open the cover and turn the pages while curled up in a comfy chair!

On Saturday I used my lunch break to wander over to Legislative Plaza myself and enjoy some of the music and the various exhibit booths (TSLA had a booth, mainly for info). I went over fully intending to purchase a book or two. But the alacrity with which the acquisition happened all but took my breath away! Less than two minutes into my browsing the booths I arrived at that of the Vanderbilt University Press. There among the books for sale was Singing in the Saddle: the history of the singing cowboy by Douglas B. Green, aka Ranger Doug of Riders in the Sky (Grand Ole Opry members). Having read and enjoyed the book, which I checked out in 2008 or '09 from the Nashville Public Library just a block from the Plaza, I whipped out my wallet in a heartbeat!

Later I also purchased a Festival book bag and a Festival glass. I also hobnobbed with folks manning the TSLA and TWA (TN Writers Assoc.) booths and listened to "The Ukedelics", a local music group which includes Andy Hudson, member of Eastwood Church. (The Hudsons, however, were in Florida.)

Of course there was music in addition to the books and authors at the Festival. After all, Nashville in addition to being the Athens of the South is Music City USA!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bluegrass Bonanza in Music City

October is a major month on the musical calendar of Nashville, in which is celebrated the anniversary of radio station WSM-AM 650 and the "birthday" of the Grand Ole Opry show. (the show was first broadcast, according to founder George Hay's memoirs, in late November of 1925, but since the station (which first hit the airwaves early in October of that year) and the show are inextricably joined together it hardly hurts to have the festivities together.

Well, during the final week of September leading into the special month, Music City hosted the annual convention of the International Bluegrass Music Association -- the IBMA. Nashville is the birthplace of Bluegrass Music, specifically in the Ryman Auditorium in the 1940s when Opry member Bill Monroe created the genre, using his band The Bluegrass Boys. And the Father of Bluegrass Music was born in September a century ago in Rosine, Kentucky. Therefore, naturally plenty of observance and celebration of his centennial took place at this year's IBMA.

One of these observances was a free concert Tuesday afternoon under the blue sky outside the Ryman, hosted by the Del McCoury Band. On my way from work to a medical appointment I stopped by for a few minutes of listening pleasure.

The next evening, Wednesday, 30 September, featured a Monroe centennial bluegrass concert, not at the Ryman but in Ingram Hall of the music school at Vanderbilt University. Dieta, wife of fiddler extraordinaire Stuart Duncan, arranged for admission for me, bless her! I was not about to miss it just because it meant a 50-mile trip either way!

And I'm thankful I didn't miss it; it was a dynamic and dynamite performance! I appreciated the format, with WSM's Bill Cody serving as emcee; for about the first half hour Del McCoury Band was on-stage, then Nashville Bluegrass Band (Stuart is NBB's fiddler) took over for the remainder of the concert, and both bands were joined by various other Bluegrass stars in varying configurations. These others included Dale Ann Bradley, Ricky Skaggs, Claire Lynch, Roland White and Matt Combs, who's a fiddle teacher in VU's Blair Sch. of Music.

Stuart and Matt did twin fiddles more than once, and had a fine "chemistry" playing off each other. And then there was the finale, when all the artists took the stage (except Del McCoury and his group who had to leave early for another engagement) and did all the verses of "Working on a Building" and closed with what Bill Cody said was Monroe's signature song or best-known song, the instrumental "Rawhide".

What an evening! What a Bluegrass bonanaza!

The next evening, Thursday, 29 September, WSM broadcast the IBMA Awards Show from the Ryman over the airwaves. I'd have loved to be in the building for it, but the listening in on the radio was pleasure enough. More than once the Monroe centennial was commented on, and the musical performances between presentation of awards were all superb. Stuart was nominated for "Fiddler of the Year" but the award went to someone else. Dale Ann won "Female Vocalist", but I'd have been happy with any of the five nominees, all very talented and endearing women.

And so, for A.D. 2011 Bluegrass Music had their annual party and celebrated Bill Monroe's birth centennial, in the place where Bluegrass began: Music City USA.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Melodious Music City Sunday Worship

Altho' I moved to Clarksville, I retain my church membership in Eastwood Christian (Disciples) for reasons evident in my earlier postings regarding the mid-size East Nashville congregation. I plan to attend at least one Sunday a month.

Yesterday (25 September) I had an additional reason for being at Eastwood. Early in the week it was published that Assistant Pastor Michael Lehman had accepted a call to go be senior pastor at a Disciples of Christ congregation in Pennsylvania. We all knew this day was coming, that Michael would leave us for bigger and better things -- he has a great future ahead of him. Nevertheless it's hard to let such a fine young leader go. Michael himself expressed that personally it was a "bittersweet" situation.

I'm sure it had nothing to do with Michael putting in his notice, but Eastwood's worship service yesterday had even more and even heartier music than usual. And this is saying a LOT, considering the musical talent among the members and our typically very song-filled worship!

On two selections Michael played drums. The choir's Anthem early in the service was the powerful and rousing "Mighty to Save", a paean to our God Almighty.

Later, during the collection of the offering, an ensemble the worship bulletin labelled "Eastwood Friends" -- who included Michael at drums, Stuart Duncan as one of TWIN fiddles (!), Jonell Mosser as lead singer and choir director Julie Duemler, Liz Johnson and the other fiddler as background vocalists -- presented a strong spiritual, "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep". Jonell was vintage Jonell, getting 100% into the song, expressing herself with gestures and facial cast as well as singing. The whole song and its singers and musicians had me ready to get up and dance in the pew! And all the congregation stood as one in acclamation at the final note.

At some moment during the service Michael approached the lecturn mike and began with the comment that "Eastwood has so many musicians that even the feedback is in tune!" LOL

Also at some moment during the worship I considered that at its conclusion I'd ask around to see where folk might be going for Sunday dinner. But a lot was on my mind after the benediction and I forgot. A few minutes later as I drove down Gallatin Avenue considering possibly dining at Shoney's or Sub-Way, I espied Calypso, across the avenue from East High. Knowing that the café offered delicious and healthy selections at reasonable prices, I turned into the Calypso parking lot.

Knowing how popular Calypso is with many of the Eastwood congregation I was somewhat surprised that none were already there before me. I took a solo seat, but within minutes, to my great delight first one, then two, then another from the church entered. The "another" was no less than Michael Lehman. We all chatted about the excellent music we'd experienced, and in a couple cases provided, during worship at Eastwood.

Only in Music City USA. Or to put it another way, "so Nashville!"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sweet Saturday in Music City

On my way to another 12-hour work shift at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville I ran into heavy downpours. Not one, but three! I'd be driving along Interstate Hiway 24 and hit a curtain of rain; it lasted for a mile or two and suddenly no rain. Odd. . . .

The work shift went fine. I love my new work!

Still, I was happy when the security relief arrived at seven in the evening. And not because I was tired from twelve straight hours, either.

It was because I'd gotten an e-invitation to a CD release party at 3rd and Lindsley. And not just for any old musician; she was Jonell Mosser, who attends my church, Eastwood Christian. and occasionally sings with the choir or sings a solo special.

It was my first experience of 3rd and Lindsley. Jonell had already her performance when I entered, and quickly I ascertained that the house was full. SRO, it appeared! But I was hungry, so I went ahead and approached an order station (computer terminal) at the end of the bar and made a request for nachos supreme. Within a couple minutes I lucked out and found a vacant seat at a table next to the dance floor and near the corner of the stage. When the nachos arrived, they were worth the wait and the challenge of finding a seat. De-e-e-licious!

And let my add, that my vexation at the scarcity of available seats was more than compensated by my delight to see that Jonell draws such a good crowd at one of Nashville's famous live music venues! (Jonell performs at 3rd and Lindsley several times annually.)

And it was Jonell Mosser I'd come for, not nachos or easy seating! She had a band with her, two guitarists (one prossibly a bassist) and drummer. They had been with her (or at least the drummer) when she'd performed at the public library and I'd gone.

Jonell was vintage Jonell, if I may say so. She has a great singing voice, really gets into her music with gesture and even outright dancing, and sings from her heart an eclectic repertoire. The Nashville Public Library labels her albums in their catalog as "CD Country", but Jonell is like Mary Chapin Carpenter in being "Country".

Jonell is a songwriter, and often writes songs with Tom, one of the guitarists. One of these, which I think she said is on the new CD, is about Chinatown. She sang it at a reflective pace and the song wrapped itself around me as listener. It was beautiful and so perfect for Jonell to sing! Later, her "other band", the three women singers of "Kentucky Thunder" joined her on the 3rd & Lindsley stage (they are not Ricky skaggs band).

After such wonderful live singing, how could a radio show compete? And yet the Grand Ole Opry gave me additional listening pleasure on WSM-AM 650 while driving to Clarksville. But since this involves another location, it's another story for another time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

News from Nashville

The past seven days or so have witnessed the end, or potential end of two Music City "landmarks".

Early last (calendar) week it was announced on local broadcast news -- doubtless also in the Tennessean newspaper -- that the iconic and beloved Elliston Place Soda Shop would close its doors for good after business on Saturday, 23 July. It seems the management of this landmark could not come to agreement with the landlord concerning rent.

But hooray for us soda-shop aficionados! A third party stepped in and averted the shut-down!

And then Sunday evening late news included a touching tribute to "landmark" Channel 5 sportscaster Hope Hines. You see, dear reader, he was fixin' to retire brom his broadcast position. His final reporting for Ch. 5 was on Wednesday (yesterday).

When I began following local TV news in 1983, I had no preference among the local TV sports guys. But Hope sort of grew on me, especially after I heard him speak at the Clarksville funeral of legendary Olympian runner Wilma Rudolph as the turn of the century and millennium approached. And altho' I found it odd that Mr. Hines was the only Hope I knew of who was not of the female persuasion, I certainly didn't doubt his masculinity nor his sports-reporting acumen.

Even tho' we will no longer see Hope's face on the Ch. 5 newscasts -- unless he does a Brett Favre-style (multiple) un-retiring! -- we who love him haven't heard the last of him. He will be writing his memoirs, due to be printed next Spring. Can't wait to "read all about it!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Most Memorable Music City Weekend

Have I truly moved from Nashville to Clarksville? Dear reader, you might not know it from all the hours I spent in Music City this past weekend!

Beginning Saturday: I drove from C'ville to my work at the Tennessee State Library & Archives building, signing in at seven in the morning. It was what I've been told is a typical Saturday: busy! Certainly we served more Patrons than on Thursday or Friday, same shift time (7am to 2:30pm). I took some photos while at work. BTW, I truly feel as tho' I'm a State employee now; Thursday I received my photo ID and Friday my State Internet system ID and password -- now I can do work-related e-mail.

After work I drove to Vanderbilt University's central library building, to do Internet stuff -- personal e-mail, Facebook, blogging -- and listen on-line to one of my favorite radio broadcasts, "Front Porch Fellowship". It's an hour show featuring the best in Bluegrass Gospel music, hosted by Les Butler on Solid Gospel 105 (FM). You can catch it at 4pm Saturdays, repeated same time Sundays.

I topped off my Music City Saturday by returning to downtown, specifically to the Nashville Convention Center, where I joined in the "kick-off" worship service for the biennial General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the denomination thru which I participate in the universal Church, and which denomination ordained and endorsed me to Army chaplaincy (1981-84). I saw several D o C folk I knew, both from Texas and from Tennessee (or formerly from Tenn., now from Ohio). The preliminary music and brief speeches made much of Nashville as "Music City" and our friendliness. And the actual worship included hymns and songs. As one speaker commented, "Singing is NOT a spectator sport for us Disciples!"

Sunday morning the Tenth I drove IH 24 from C'ville to Nashville again, for choir rehearsal, breakfast and an early (8:30am) worship at my church, Eastwood CC(DC). It was SO GREAT to see and speak with my Eastwood brothers and sisters again! The sanctuary was packed to the walls with worshipers -- I hate to imagine how over-the-top SRO the "regular-time" service would be! But members and our many visitors (including former Eastwood pastors) got treated to a rousing choir Anthem of "Lord, Here Am I" (hence my showing up extra-early for rehearsal), other fantastic musical offerings, and a fine sermon by Mike Kinnamon, titled "Why 'Tell It' Isn't Enough". "Tell It!" is the theme of the Assembly taking place right now in Music City.

Don't get me wrong! I love Clarksville, and am glad to be dwelling in the Queen City. But for this special weekend Music City was almost my home again!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Whoa! Not So Fast!

My previous posting on this blog, I said was my final post.

Not so fast!

In a way, I'm back! Yes, I'm still living in Clarksville, about 50 miles to the northwest of Music City. But no sooner did I move than I got called back to Nashville for a job interview! And then called back for a second interview -- always a good sign! And then was offered the job!

So. . . for four days each week I'll be commuting from C'ville to downtown Nashville, to work in the Tennessee State Library and Archives as a receptionist-security guard. It may not be as fun nor as exciting as the tour guide position I flubbed at the Grand Ole Opry House, but it's a job I CAN DO in a work environment I enjoy: a library! It sits across Seventh Avenue North from the Capitol Building. Indeed, as I sit at my front lobby desk (counter), I'm constantly looking at the capitol I consider the most beautiful and unique of all such buildings! And the TSLA itself is a magnificent Art Deco edifice, erected in the early Fifties. Plus, it's a memorial to Tennesseans of World War Two.

Also, I've not changed church membership to any congregation in C'ville, nor am I in a hurry to switch from Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in East Nashville. I'll be working every Saturday, and some of those Saturdays I'll be working until 7pm. So I'm seriously considering staying overnight those times and attending Sunday worship at Eastwood.

Therefore, Music City has definitely NOT seen the last of yours truly! I'll probably post occasionally on my blog here. . . .

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I'm leaving her, but she shall never leave me!

Yup! This is my final posting on "Musings about Music City". You see, dear reader, it's rather difficult to muse about events, people and venues in a burg where one no longer lives.

I've left Nashville to live about 55 miles to the northwest, in Clarksville. The move came Thursday afternoon the Ninth. Doors in Music City figuratively got slammed in my face, while the window up IH-24 flew open wide.

So I took the last train to Clarksville.

Okay, so it was a pick-up truck of an Eastwood Church family; I couldn't resist reference to my new home-town's most famous song!

I'm happy about the move and at peace in my new "digs" -- a home shared will four other military vets in transition. It will make marital reconciliation much simpler, since the wife lives here and not in Music City.

But yes, I will miss the old home-town. Especially I shall miss the frequent visits to Vanderbilt for library perusal or attendance at events like baseball games. NOTE: the Commodores beat the Beavers of Oregon State 11-1 Friday in the first of a best-of-three Super-Regional in Nashville!

Especially I shall miss close proximity to my music and radio-personality buddies and to a wide variety of music events (mostly freebies, too).

And most especially I shall miss every-Sunday attendance at dear Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) and choir rehearsal on Wed. eves. Lord willing, I shall soon acquire trasportation to occasionally make that trip back down IH-24 to Music City USA.

But C'ville is where I need and ought to be. So with this, Yours Truly is signing off. The dear Lord of all be with y'all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunday morning @ Eastwood Church; what I needed

Actually, I need Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) every Sunday morning, plus choir again Wednesday evenings. Those of my FB Friends living in Nashville who have never been to ECC(DC), really must pay a visit! If you're seeking a place where people really love one another in the John 13 and I Corinthians 13 way and who live out the Master's teachings about service, self-denial and doing good unconditionally, then 1604 Eastland Ave. in ZIP 37206 is THE place for you. If you're hurting spiritually, emotionally or mentally, ditto!

I'm not just writing this to shamelessly promote my congregation. I'm a witness to all I've said thus far, and I hope I've done my share in painting the picture.

Take this past Sunday morning, 5 June. It had been a bad week for yours truly. I'm working on three leads to potential job placements; Friday afternoon one lead evaporated on me. Friday morning The Academy, the group transitional home (mostly for vets) where I'd lived since beginning of 2011, and I parted ways. I'd seen it coming, since for one thing I'd felt like I'd crash-landed on another planet since arriving at The Academy -- I hold almost NOTHING significant or important in common with the other residents and also have issues with a few of the procedures or customs at the place.

Therefore, I wasn't really upset at being booted out the door. Praise to God and thanks to my mother, I had a couple hundred dollars freshly deposited in my bank account. So for this weekend ouing I'm staying in a cheap motel on a bus line (tomorrow I'll be seeking new quarters in earnest).

Oh, that's the other "bad" thing that occurred this week: the car I'd been given by a dear Sister at Eastwood had to be returned to her for the summer. It's a long, complicated story, so I won't go into details; I'll just say that I knew the reliquishing was imminent, and it occurred Friday.

So-o-o-o. . . there wasn't any doubt I'd be attending Sunday School and Worship even more eagerly than usual today. As always, in the class we had great discussion (concerning the lectionary Scripture passages for today). Then, for the choir's Anthem, we sang "Clap Your Hands", lyrics of which are based closely on the opening verses from Psalm 47. Professional musician Roy Agee played his trombone as accompaniment (along with Marie at piano), and we choir singers DID clap our hands rhythmically for much of the piece. Later Roy accompanied on guitar while his wife Kristie and Liz Johnson sang "Shackles and Chains" -- NOT the Patty Loveless hit in Country Music, but a more spiritual set of lyrics with an infectious beat ( a few of us were clapping or tapping along on this one too). The song was written about four years ago by Johnson and Agee, but this was the world premier! And it served as such a timely salve for my wounded spirit and mind!

However, before they sang, Pastor Jay gave a fantastic sermon. Fantastic! I hollered "Amen!" more than once!

Titled "Focused Witnesses" and based primarily on Acts 1:6-14 with allusions to I Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11, the sermon was one of the best I've heard from Jay Hartley -- and he's a pretty good preacher at that! This sermon was among the best in that he commenced with a "perfect" opening (prior to reading the Acts passage he briefly set the scene by describing the Ascension of Jesus, with the disciples staring up in the sky after him -- until two "angels" appeared and told them to "snap out of it and do your mission!" Then there was a "perfect" introductory illustration: the oh-so-recent news item about media preacher Camping's prediction of the world's ending on 21 May -- which didn't occur, did provide fodder for attacks from unbelievers, and did distract some believers from focus on the really important meaning of the Gospel ("Good News") and resultant mission of witnessing to the world about God's love and grace. As Pastor Jay said, Brother Camping needs to pay attention to Acts 1:7 before he goes around setting dates!

And then to develop his main theme, of how crucial it is to stay focused and overcome distractions in order to live the effective Christian life, he used a couple of excellent and illuminating anecdotes. One of which involved Coach Tim Corbin, whose Vanderbilt Commodore baseball student-athletes are having a stellar year (SEC 2011 season tri-champs and over 40 season victories); Pastor Jay spoke of how the Coach emphasizes focus and team-work. (I already was familiar with this, and so I appreciated the segue from the cruciality of focusing for sports into its cruciality for living in general.)

To top the message off, Pastor Jay spoke of "spiritual warfare" -- one of the allusions to the passage from I Peter -- which isn't a focus he cottons to very much. He pointed out that "focus makes all the difference [in life] but distractions are all around us." In the fifth chapter of First Peter, verse 8b describes this challenge as "the devil prowl[ing] around like a roaring lion" and verse 9a urges disciples of the Nazarene to resist and stand firm.

Well, after such uplifting, encouraging and for me personally timely songs and sermon, what better way to climax the worship than with the Lord's Supper? Indeed, I was given a vision while Pastor Jay was giving the call to communion, of the Lord Jesus standing behind the Table, smiling an encouraging and loving smile while extending his nail-scarred hands to invite and embrace us! In such a holy moment, I sensed yet again the divine Spirit telling me to take off my shoes. Which I did before I walked forward to partake of the bread and cup.

Yes! Sunday morning at Eastwood Church (Disciples of Christ) was just what I needed! Thanks be to God for His love, power and grace, and for their reflection in my ECC(DC) brothers and sisters!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day 2011 in Music City

Hm-m-m, already it's the First of June in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eleven. However, before the new month gets any older, I wish to share about a happening of late in the previous month. Memorial Day in Music City.

This A.D. 2011 is one of those all-too-rare calendar years when the observed Memorial Day coincides with the original and REAL M.D. (30 May any more is labeled, if at all, as M.D. Traditional.)

In speaking about midday with my mother by phone, she reported that in her current town of residence, Cody, Wyoming, it was rainy and cold. I had already seen on ome of the national-broadcast early morning shows, that nearby Yellowstone Park had two to three inches of SNOW forecast!

In Nashville, on the other hand, it appears that old winter has finally loosened its grip and departed for good. Temperatures did a flip-flop on this Memorial Day, with the high being quite higher than average (rather than being several degrees below). And the humidity rose along with the temp.

But never mind! There might not have been a parade nor a well-publicized ceremony in a military cemetery in Nashville (as there was in San Antonio while I was living there). But the now-customary habit of picnics in the park saw plenty of action here. Action that included the men of The Academy (the place where I presently live).

We all packed up food and fixin's and journeyed across the Cumberland River to Shelby Park, a huge old park with golf course on the riverbank in East Nashville. Between two ballfields near the railroad trestle end of this park we set up a grill and spread the food, drinks and condiments. Those who were not involved in the set-up or cooking made the journey late in the morning.

We feasted on grilled burgers, franks and brown beans, chips and homemade potato salad. The homemade salad had my personal favorite ingredient: boiled eggs chopped coarse (i.e., large pieces). Yum-yum!

Yours truly took some photographs, which involved some sauntering around that area of Shelby Park. Other than that and eating I just chilled out in the shade of the mature trees. Whenever a train passed on the trestle I focused on it; four trains chugged along in the time we were there.

About four or five fishing poles had been brought along, and some of the fellas took these over to the nearby pond. And they did have some luck! Had we stuck around 'til supper-time we might have feasted on fresh fish. (That is, some of us would have, there not being sufficient fish caught to go around.) But we left the picnic site a bit after two in the afternoon, thus beating the hottest part of a hot and humid day.

Despite the meteorological taste of soon-coming summer, we had a great Memorial Day observance, picnic style.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Just Another Youth Sunday" - NOT!

Today, being the Sunday following Mothers Day Sunday, Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) held the annual Youth Sunday. Believe you me, dear reader, "Youth Sunday" at ECC(DC) is NOT "just another Sunday" or even "another Youth Sunday". It's far from the "same ol' same ol'". Each of the three such Sundays Eastwood has had since I joined (A.D. 2008) has been vastly different from the other two!

To start out with, this time around we had nobody graduating from either high school nor college. Lacking a grad to deliver the sermon, the duty fell on our Associate Pastor, Michael Lehman -- a first for Youth Sunday as far as I know.

(This does not mean our youth group is getting any smaller; it's merely the way age and school year distribution works out.)

Altho' Eastwood is blessed with many musically talented young people (several sing in the choir and/or play instruments), I suspect the current batch contains all the more! If true this is good news: barring any unforseen tragedy such as a move out of State they'll all be back for the NEXT Youth Sunday!

Yes, the morning's Anthem, "Homeward Bound", was sung by a male youth quartet, and several young folk delivered the Response in Song (to "Pastor Mickey"'s message) - more about that oh-so-special song shortly. But even starting with the Prelude music we had a young person, John Hartley (younger son of Pastor Jay), playing a spiritual tune on his violin (fiddle if you will). Shortly afterwards, in a novel twist on the childrens time/sermon we had "Grown-Ups Time", heralded by new lyrics to "Jesus Loves the Little Children":

...Jesus loves all the grown-ups, all the grown-ups of the world;
...Mean or cool or Jay Hartley, Jesus loves you so do we. . . !

We celebrated the Lord's Supper as we do on First Sundays: coming forward via central aisle to take a piece of bread, do intinction (dipping the morsel into chalice contents, then consuming) and then forming a circle around the sanctuary walls. Once all had partaken, Choir Director Julie stationed herself in a front pew with cue cards and the youth (or most of them) sang "I Will Rise" for the Closing Song. During a brief instrumental bridge before the final refrane some of us adult choir members stepped out of our places in the closing circle "surrounded" the youth while joining in the song:

...And I hear the voice of many angels sing, "Worthy is the Lamb!"
...And I hear the cry of ev'ry longing heart, "Worthy is the Lamb!"

The adult choristers doing such symbolized adult support of and love for our unique youth group, and our role as earthly portion of their "cloud of witnesses".

Speaking of "Cloud of Witnesses", this was the theme of Youth Sunday, taken from Hebrews 12:1 a verse from Scriptures read in the service. Indeed, Heb. 11:29-12:2 were the basis for the day's sermon: "No Ordinary Fans". It was also the title of the oh-so-special Anthem I mentioned earlier. Originally the lyrics were composed by Donna Gunn, one of our very bright and creative young folk at Eastwood and daughter of the church secretary, as a poem. But she wanted it to be more than poetry and so she asked "Pastor Mickey" to help her by composing a song. And what the two came up with stands as the most awesome of the many awesome elements of Youth Sunday 2011 at Eastwood Church!

Or as I told "Pastor Mickey" after the Sunday potluck dinner that followed Worship, "of all the several awesome elements, the song you and Donna co-wrote was 'the awesome-est'!" The Title in quotations is who the worship bulletin specified would deliver the sermon. While speaking about many positives and endearing traits of our youth group Michael mentioned that this was the nickname they came up with for him. And yes, he did at this point don mouse ears!

Ha, ha! I love and enjoy and rejoice in my church family! Thank God for Eastwood Church! May the Lord continue to bless the family who gather at 1604 Eastland Avenue in East Nashville to do what we do so well with the Spirit's and each other's help: love one another in our diversity and lovingly serve the community He has set us in!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Taking a friend to church

Over the years of my life, with my numerous residences, jobs and congregational memberships, I've frequently invited neighbors or co-workers to come to church on Sunday. Seldom have I received an affirmative answer, alas.

Sunday the 27th of March I got that rare opportunity! The place where I've lived since the beginning of the year, "The Academy" (a transitional home mainly for military vets), includes another Army vet named Mick. He served in combat in A-stan. . . you can imagine the after-effects he's suffered. Despite those, he's a bright, calm and friendly fellow. I've liked Mick from the beginning, and the two of us have confided mutually in each other.

Well, on the 27th I'm sitting in the common area, dressed for and awaiting time to depart to Sunday worship at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). Mick comes walking in, attired in a dark suit, white shirt and dark necktie. I quip, "Well, Mick, you look like you're fixin' to preaching somewhere!"

Smiling, he comes around to saying that he's actually contemplating where to go for Sunday worship. In a heartbeat I invite him to come along with me to Eastwood. And Mick accepts!

So we two pile into "Antonio Margil", my new '95 Acura Integra, and headed over to East Nashville. On the way I describe the congregation, the style of worship and some of why I'm so devoted to this collection of brothers & sisters in Christ. As I told Mick, "I'm very hesitant to equate any one congregation with the (mystical or spiritual) Body of Christ, but Eastwood comes about as close as any congregation I've ever experienced."

Praise be to the Lord! My Eastwood brothers & sisters live up to my billing! It was a "typical" Sunday morning at 1604 Eastland St., in that I go away very spiritually refreshed. And Mick clearly is also nourished in his spirit. This is what "having church" is supposed to be. . . .

Melodious Anniversary to the Crisis

The week ending today, Saturday 7 May, is the anniversary of the Great Flood of 2010. A year ago portions of Nashville, Clarksville and the rest of West and Middle Tennessee, and of adjacent States, got inundated by lethal raging waters of the Cumberland River and its tributaries.

AND THEN my fellow Music City residents truly showed their mettle. And showed it big-time!

Tuesday evening the Third of May they had a special edition of the Tuesday Nite Opry radio show on WSM. The day of week was particularly significant, as was the venue, the Grand Ole Opry House. You see, dear reader, The Grand Ole Opry show performed in the House on Saturday, 1 May A.D. 2010, as rain poured down, with no end in sight. More than one Opry cast member commented that night. By Tuesday the Fourth the House was inundated (Cumberland's flood crest having happened just before midnight on the Third), and the Tuesday Nite Opry scheduled for then was in need of an alternative location. Opry staff and cast -- and Nashvillians in general -- did not fold hands with a "Woe is us, we're ruined; stop everything!"

Instead, they located an alternative performance hall downtown in War Memorial Auditorium -- actually a former home of the show (1939-1943; see, or for details).

The Opry family showed that "the show must go on!"

Fast forward to this week. On Tuesday the show took a subtitle: "Play on, Nashville!" This wasn't just a reflection on the disaster of a year ago, nor a celebration of Nashville's resilience and the rebuilding that's taken place in the ensuing year. Several charitable organizations got linked to the performance; both live and radio audiences were strongly encouraged to contribute, that repairs which remain can get done. PLUS that further funds go to assist victims and survivors of horrendous tornadoes which ravaged Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and other southern States -- not a year ago but merely last week!

I can simply imagine how those unfortunate souls are still in shock. We Nashvillians were there a year ago. May our resilience then be an inspiration to them NOW!

I didn't get to listen to the entire show, but I did hear the beginning and ending. If for no other reason than that I heard Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins this show was worth the listening. But references in word and song to WHY the evening was so special caused it to be not just worthwhile but unique and valuable!

Speaking of Brad Paisley, here's a link to a report on the "Play On, Nashville!" evening, with special attention to this beloved member of the Opry cast. And if you haven't heard it yet and are a Country Music or Opry fan, you need to hear Brad's latest hit single: "This Is Country Music (and We Do)"! Just like the Opry expresses Country and related American music genres, Brad's song presents and CELEBRATES certain enduring themes of Country song lyrics, and concludes with him singing well-known phrases from certain famous songs by famous artists. Here's a video of him singing "This Is Country Music" and accepting Entertainer of the Year at the 2010 CMA show (but get some Kleenex, to wipe your eyes):

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Marvelously musical March!

Forget the NCAA's annual "March Madness"!

Oops, I hope you, dear reader, didn't think yours truly had forgotten this blog! But one of the minuses of being again gainfully employed for hourly wage is one has to spend appointed hours at work & NOT on-line. This IS a very minor "minus", you understand. . . .

ANY minuses, minor or major, are quickly forgotten once I step inside the worksite, the Grand Ole Opry House. It's such a joy to again guide visitors around the facility as I conduct the 45-minute tour. It's such a joy to again run into folk from the broadcast and Country Music world whom I admire and with whom I've had cherished relationships.

And I'm most certainly NOT going to sneeze at the perks of this job! A few Saturdays ago, Steve Wariner was in the Opry gift shop (located at south end of front or main lobby) to sign CDs of his latest album. When I clocked out from doing tours, I hung around, removed my uniform jacket and tie and entered the shop to get his autograph. Not on that latest album, but rather on c.g.p. My tribute to Chet Atkins. AND on his page in the Opry picture-history book.

Then, on my way out the artists entrance backstage (House staff also use it) I ran into Little Jimmy Dickens. Smiling, I shook his hand as I said, "Little Jimmy Dickens, I must say this. 'Shake hands, old man, I married your sister'!" This is the punch line of my favorite joke of his.

i wasnt scheduled to work on my birthday, Monday the 14th, but while doing tours on Tuesdays, when I led them onto the stage to the famous circle, I'd first ask if any were celebrating a birthday. If not, I'd invite them to sing "Happy Birthday" to yours truly. I'd applaud them and while praising their singing talent would urge them all to applaud. Then I'd give the standard conclusion used by all us guides: "When you tell folk at home about your trip to Nashville, you can say that you got to sing on the Grand Ole Opry stage -- and got a standing ovation!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hired for THE IDEAL job in Music City!

Today was my fifth work day (for pay) on my new job. After an A.D. 2010 of self-employment (pure commission & no withholding for Uncle Sam) and unemployment, to have ANY employment with a regular income is most deeply appreciated. But THIS particular line of work is truly a God-send!

You see, I'm once again guiding tours of the Grand Ole Opry House!

In the late 1990s I went from being a part-time or seasonal ticket seller, to Tour Coordinator at Grand Ole Opry Tours. One element of that position was guiding tours of the House -- the tour company's only walking tour.

And now I'm doing this again, with some alteration. For one, we begin the tour to the right of the central lobby with a six-minute video introduction to the Show and the House. And of course I knew, from the first Saturday last October, when 4,000 others and I took the free tour of the newly reopened House, that the backstage and to a lesser degree other areas, had been greatly improved in appearance. In fact, the Great Flood (May 2010) and the astounding and amazingly rapid restoration of the House are featured in the video. Plus, in the Green Room a metal strip we call Guests' attention to displays how high the floodwater rose.

But I very quickly learned this revised tour, and indeed this past Wednesday, my third day of work/training, got to conduct my first tour. afterward I asked the "veteran" Tour Guide how I did and she replied that I was wonderful! So perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised at what occurred at week's end.

When I clocked-in late Fri. afternoon, after battling Nashville's notorious Fri. going-home "rush" hour traffic, I was expecting to do whatever assigned tasks I'd be given while the Friday Nite Opry Show took place, then "shadow" or assist & learn the Post-Show Tour with an experienced Guide. And yes, I did spend some time scanning tickets at the Opry House front door and then guiding Guests to their seats in the auditorium.

But before I got started, my Lead informed me that I'd be doing a VIP Tour. I'd heard of these, but not much more than the term. This involved contacting a small group of Guests, in this instance six, at the seats as Intermission was ending, to escort them to backstage, to Dressing Room #1, which once served the late Roy Acuff, the "King of Country Music" and one of the "Four Pillars of the Grand Ole Opry". There they got to enter and meet for a few personal moments and a few photo shots with no less than Vince Gill! Afterward I took them on an abbreviated version of the regular backstage tour, so they could see the Green Room, other dressings rooms (each decorated to a theme) and the Opry House post office. Then I took them back to their seats so they could enjoy the rest of the show – including Vince, who "hosted" the final half hour.

When that final half hour and the show ended I was back in the lobby area to guide a group of Guests on a backstage tour. The Post-Show Tour is pretty much like the regular tour, except we skip the introductory video. After all, they've just enjoyed the Fri. Nite Opry Show and hardly need a six-minute explanation, not even by Carrie Underwood. But the BIG diference in the Post-Show is that things are still busy backstage, and some of the stars are fixing to leave. Thus, my group ran into Craig Morgan, and shortly afterward Vince! Both men graciously delayed their exit for pix and autographs. That's the way Country Music artists are, especially those who belong to the Opry family!

The next day (sat. the 19th) during a break between tours I went to the box office to inquire about groups rates and minimum numbers. And to my great surprise ran into Lisa Minix! She trained me on the computerized sales-cash register system when I first sold tickets at Opryland back in 1991! What a delight to see her again! We couldn't stop hugging each other.

Therefore yestereve's Grand Ole Opry Show carries special meaning for yours truly. Y'all come to the tour and show now, ya hear?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Music City on the Silver Screen; a movie review

Saturday afternoon, 15 January, I did something I don't get to do as often as I wish. I took in a new movie, at the theater.

The movie is "Country strong".

I might not have paid it much more attention than any other flicks that have debuted so far this year. But when I watched Gwyneth Paltrow sing and play guitar, presenting the theme song, during last fall's CMA Awards show (right here in Bridgestone Arena, downtown) I got rather impressed. Plus, I came to remember that last year there was a call for Nashville residents to go to Municipal Auditorium to participate in crowd scenes for the movie.

Between the opening of "Country Strong" here and last Friday, I managed to read a few reviews of it. It generally got panned. I got to having second tho'ts about seeing it; wait 'til it would be available on DVD for check-out. However, I searched for the least expensive ticket in town and went.

I'm glad I did!

The movie was quite believable. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that this was award-winning actress Paltrow PLAYING a PART, not a REAL country music star struggling with addictions and a troubled marriage. At one scene I got to feeling some animus against her character; she seemed too whiny (like Marsha Mason's role in "The Goodbye girl"). But then when she visited the schoolroom as part of "Make-A-Wish" I really warmed up to her. I began to root for her to overcome her dependencies and revive her marriage & her singing career. And then when she performed those songs on stage -- even tho' I knew this concert scene was shot in Nashville's Municipal Aud. and NOT in Dallas) -- I really was ready to stand up & cheer as tho' actually in the crowd at an actual Country Music concert! At this point also, Kelly Canter was making me think of Trish Yearwood and/or Faith Hill! (The latter, BTW, is Tim McGraw's real-life Pop-Country-star wife.)

As the reviews said, there were many clichés which've been in more than one flick about a country music star. I myself noticed ones I'd seen in "Coal Miner's Daughter" and/or "Pure Country", but these didn't really bother me. What DID bother me: some scenes were set in Texas or "on the road again" somewhere/anywhere, but I recognized all urban scenes as shot in Nashville & the rural road scenes in rural Middle Tennessee. Not that such makes a BIG difference to yours truly, who long ago made his peace with knowledge that TV shows set in the Deep South -- "Andy Griffith Show" and "Dukes of Hazzard" -- got filmed in California.

But the other thing that bothered me was the conclusion, after the big concert scene. It mocked the movie's title; "weak" would've served as a more accurate adjective. True, in REAL life famous people struggling to rise back up from an addiction-induced slump DO sometimes crash-and-burn rather than overcome. But I so much WANTED Kelly to make it! And everything in the flick SEEMED to be leading to a spectacular triumphant finale. Or maybe I'm just not sufficiently perceptive; were there hints, omens I'd missed?

Actually, I did notice that after she left the stage and was walking backstage she had a very weary, almost troubled look. And when she locked the door I started to get nervous. So I wasn't totally unprepared, but with such LITTLE forewarning, coupled with my growing affection & hope for her, that suicide ending simply left me very dissatisfied. I walked back to my car feeling that I'd been robbed.

Finally I shall say that I applaud "Country Strong" (despite the mockery of the title by the main character's ultimately-fatal weakness) for its presentation of Nashville. It really captured Nashville as Music City, a place where the music industry strongly influences our economy and living. I liked how it displayed this one aspect of my current hometown's character -- never forgetting it's "Music City" as in MANY genres, NOT only Country Music. Nor forgetting that as State Capital it's a major location of governmental activity, as well as finance and insurance. Nor that this burg has TWO other important nicknames which reflect two other MAJOR elements: "The Athens of the South" (much cultural activity & numerous higher ed. campuses) and "Buckle of the Bible Belt" (denominational headquarters & publishing houses).

The movie may have had its weaknesses, but the city most definitely has MANY facets -- STRONG facets.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy New Year of Our Lord Twenty-Eleven!

Howdy & the Lord's blessing to you dear reader, from yours truly here in Music City, aka Nashville, Tennessee!

Yes, I notice that, one, I kind of faded out on this my blog as Two Thousand Ten drew to its ending. And two, HERE it's already the Sixteenth of January -- and I'm just now putting HNY greetings on it! ??!!?!!?

Oh, well, I resolve to do better! In fact, I already have a movie review planned for posting on Monday the 17th, of a flick I went to see Saturday (yesterday). Tune in tomorrow for that (hint: the flick I watched was filmed here in Nashville).

But for right now, I simply wish to give y'all my greetings & best wishes for this young year, A.D. 2011. My only other item for today's post is to mention that I'm listening, even as I type this to the on-line edition of the radio program "Front Porch Fellowship". It begins shortly after 4pm on Saturdays and is repeated at the same time on Sundays. You can dial it on your radio; go to "Solid Gospel Radio", 104.9 or 105.1 FM. The lower frequency is tied to a small town west of Nashville, the higher freq. to one to the east. So if you're west of IH 65, you'll pick up 104.9 better, and the other if you're east of that interstate.

Or you can do as I'm doing. Go on-line to and click on the rectangular button below ON AIR in the upper left corner. If you enjoy Bluegrass Music or Gospel Music, "Front Porch Fellowship" is the show for your great listening pleasure!

I've began listening to Les Butler's hour-long musical trip to Heaven in the late 1990s, when the Salem network commenced the dual-freq. SGM station in Middle Tennessee. This event brought Gospel Music back to the greater Nashville area for the first time since WENO-AM780 ceased to send SGM over the airwaves in the early Nineties. Les introduced me to the joys of Bluegrass Gospel Music, and also to one of the genre's most talented and beautiful (audibly as well as visually) artists: Rhonda Vincent. Thanks to my frequent communications to Les about how much Rhonda impressed me, nowadays whenever he sends one of her Gospel songs out over FPF on the airwaves, he dedicates the song to yours truly.

Furthermore, since I returned to Tennessee from San Antonio -- wonderful place to live, except that it's short on Rhonda Vincent as well as Bluegrass Music in general -- Les has several times mentioned requests for "Front Porch Fellowship" sent to him by a Mike Johnson in Burley, Idaho. Every time I hear one of these I get happy and homesick at the same time; you see, Idaho's the state of my raising & still home to most of my family of origin (I know exactly where in southern Idaho the town is & have been there), and it warms my heart to know there's a lover of Bluegrass Gospel there amid those potato fields!

Well, whether you listen to Les Butler's show ornot, may our Lord bless you abundantly in this year!