Pete's Blog

Nashville #1

I had a great week in Music City. It really is Music City, too. Ever single public place, it seems, has its musician, at all hours, sometimes hopeless, sometimes extremely good, banging away his or her songs on a guitar. I found a place to play every night I was there except one and people seemed to like me. There's a lot to say about this visit, though, and I think I'll talk about the music in my next column. For now I'll just write about what I did and saw and save the deeper ruminations until I've had time to think them over some. I flew in Tuesday night and Wednesday I parked downtown and started at Jack's on Broadway for a lunch of pork barbeque with greens and sweet potatoes. Cornbread, please. Now I was back in the South. Jack's has a rear exit onto the alley behind the Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry radio programme and now a much-renovated concert venue. But the alley is still there, ghosts of oldtimers like Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Kirk McGhee, and ole Hank himself flitting from the stage door across to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. This was not a drinking tour, however, so I walked out of the alley and around the corner to Gruhn Guitars. The staff there treated me with practiced indifference but nonetheless I got to play a Martin 000-18 from 1940 worth 20 times what I had just paid for a car. That may be a comment more on the car but yes, it was a fine instrument. Next was the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where I hyperventilated a couple of times - over Jimmie Rodgers' guitar, Elvis's Cadillac, and the Atkins family guitar that Chet learned on as a boy. In addition to the permanent collection there was an exhibit of Williams family memorabilia, but it seemed more focused on Hank, Jr. and his mother than on the old man himself. I left a flatpick in the fountain on my way out. The real museum experience came on Friday, at a place called the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. This is pretty much a one-man operation, in a building quite close to the CMHF, and anybody who goes to Nashville must see it. I can't begin to tell you the jaw-dropping array of instruments and studio equipment they have. I'll let one example suffice. It is widely acknowledged that Jimi Hendrix first learned his craft in the music clubs of Nashville when he was in the 101st Airborn Division stationed at Fort Campbell just outside of town. This museum has in one room the original dance floor, walls, ceiling, and doors of the Jolly Roger club with a lifesize standup photograph of Hendrix with Billy Cox playing in that club. I played the owner "Godzilla Feet" and he refused to take my money. Then, when I was done, he said, "Lemme show you something just came in this morning" and got out a double bass that had belonged to Lyle Ritz, one of the Wrecking Crew, Phil Spector's house band at Gold Star studios in LA. He started playing the take-down section from "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" - DOOM... doom DOOM... doom DOOM... doom DOOM DOOM - on the same bass that had recorded the original. I started singing "Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you" and I couldn't go on. It was too much. Saturday was another beautiful day, driving in the country near where Liam and I had played Thursday night (more on this later) in the little town of White's Creek. The dogwoods were out, and I'd had another plate of barbeque at Jack's (there was a branch within walking distance of my hotel - God loves me) and I drove listening to Merle Travis along the road the James Gang had used to get out of town. I'll post photos in a few days.

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