I’m not big on labels. Especially music labels. I’m probably what you’d call musically promiscuous I will gladly listen and most likely, enjoy anything that’s playing. While I grew up listening to mostly Top 40 radio, country music was all ways there in the background. In fact to this day I can still quote the TV show “Hee Haw” from memory. For those too young or maybe reading this from abroad, “Hee Haw” was an american television show from the 60’s and 70’s that featured country music with a heaping helping of hokey comedy about the foibles of rural life. This mixed with some classical music, Jazz and “Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 count down” rounded off my musical tutelage.
So I walked the line if you will of two musical worlds I also really liked the ‘outlaw’ performers like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, who were country but had that rebellious edge of a rocker. And of course there’s Elvis who was a bridge of sorts between Rock and Roll and country. Seeing the homes of these two seemingly different but astonishingly alike genres had been on my travel list for a long time, Memphis and Nashville.
In Part One I wrote about my time in Memphis I was now on my way to Nashville. I had actually been to Nashville a few years prior at a convention. I really didn’t see much except drive by the Ryman auditorium and have a hamburger at Tootsies a place patsy Cline and Willie nelson used to frequent when they were in town. We stayed at the Opryland Hotel which to this day is still the nicest hotel I have ever seen. But then I was on a company tab, this time I would settle for the super 8 across the street.
The next day I visited the Country Music hall of Fame Museum.
The museum has clothing, guitars, banjos, mandolins and violins from the greats and the greats i had never heard of before. I figure they made it to the hall they obviously did something right. The most moving exhibit was the original manuscripts for some of country’s most memorable songs. These songs were written on envelopes, the inside of books, one was even written on the back of a cancelled check. Just goes to show you never know where you’ll be when inspiration hits.
After visiting the hall of fame I went on a tour of the Ryman Auditorium. The building has a storied past. It was built in 1892 as a revivalist church. At the time it was known as ” The Union Tabernacle” . As early as 1904, it began to host concerts, boxing matches, traveling Broadway productions and expositions. From 1943 to 1974, the auditorium was the home of the grand ole opry a radio and live performance show that was heard in over thirty states. Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and practically everyone honored in the hall of fame down the street got their start on the Ryman stage.
The gentleman who ran the backstage tour had worked there since he was a teenager. He had met just about everyone and had an anecdote on just about everyone. Dolly Parton was performing the night I was there. We hung out in her dressing room and he had arranged for us to meet her but she was running late, so we missed that opportunity.
The tour concluded with a walk on the Ryman stage and a photo of me behind the stage microphone. As I stood there for my photo the photographer handed me a guitar and said “Here, pose with this guitar” I objected because I told him I didn’t know how to play and that no one that knew me would believe i was playing. The photographer who obviously, must have been having a bad day said “Well, no one is going to believe you can sing or made it to the grand Ol Opry either.” So I stopped and sang out a few lines of “you win again” by Hank Williams. the photographer’s mood changed and he smiled and said “Well, alright you can definitely : sing. That made me smile and that smile is on the photo below.
Even though i don’t play guitar this is one of my favorite pictures of me. The guy was good. I still have the original picture on my wall. Funny thing was when i would show it to people and tell them it was on the opry stage in Nashville everyone would ask ” Dude where’s your hat?” like in a cowboy hat. I would definitely wear one, but only if i could still rock out in it too.