Most people probably know that Nashville is known as “Music City”, and those same people probably know that it is called that because of the country music industry. Nashville actually has been a hotbed of several musical genres. At one time, there was a strong R&B scene, and Jimi Hendrix honed his craft in the clubs on Jefferson Street. Bob Dylan spent a great deal of time in the city, and Elvis Presley recorded here all the time. Heck, the Black Keys and Jack White currently call Nashville home.
Despite a diverse history, country music was and continues to be the dominating form, and, these days, it is dominated by performers like Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown. I can’t name them all because I don’t really like what they do. Today’s country seems like a Frankenstein’s monster to me. Take a little bit of country. Take a little bit of rock. Throw in a few more things. Once, you are finished a monstrosity has been created. Personally, I blame Garth Brooks.
Nashville didn’t become “Music City” because of today’s stars. It became “Music City” in the early part of the 20th Century because of a radio show, the Grand Ole Opry. It could be heard every Saturday night on WSM, a powerful AM station that took its signal throughout the United States. In the days before nationwide concert tours, artists could get their music to the masses over the radio. Since the performers gathered in Nashville to perform on the Opry, it made sense for record companies to set up studios nearby. As years passed, Nashville became the destination for those who wanted to get in the country music business.
Sometimes, I think that story gets lost in the glitz and glamor of the modern country music industry. In the old days, country artists didn’t have laser shows at their concerts. They definitely didn’t run around the stage and shake their asses. They stood behind the microphone and sang about heartbreak and trains.
Jimmy Martin was one of the old-time singers.
Known as the “King of Bluegrass”, he performed on the Opry many times. Unfortunately, he faced the demons of alcohol abuse, and uncertainty kept him from becoming a full member of the Opry. Despite that, he recorded “Grand Ole Opry Song“, an ode to the show and the people who made it special. I thought it would be interesting to use that song to introduce (or remind) the blogosphere to some of the people who turned Nashville into “Music City”.
Come and listen to my story if you will I’m gonna tell
About a gang of fellers from down at Nashville
First I’ll start with old Red Foley doin’ the ‘Chattanooga Shoe’
We can’t forget Hank Williams with them good old ‘Lovesick Blues’
It’s time for Roy Acuff to go to Memphis on his train
With Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield and Lazy Jim Day
Turn on all your radios I know that you will wait
Hear Little Jimmy Dickens sing ‘Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait’
There’ll be guitars and fiddles, Earl Scruggs and his banjo too
Bill Monroe singing out them ole ‘Kentucky Blues’
Ernest Tubb’s number, ‘Two Wrongs Won’t Make a Right’
At the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night
There was Uncle Dave Macon his gold tooth and plug hat
Cowboy Copas singing ‘Tragic Romance’
Signed sealed and delivered with Sam and Kirk McGee
And the master of ceremony was Mr. George D Hay
There was Lonzo and Oscar a-poppin’ bubble gum
George Morgan singin’ ‘Candy Kisses’ yum, yum
‘Got a Hole in My Bucket’ ‘Bringin’ in that Georgia Mail’
We’ll sing ‘The Sunny Side of the Mountain’
And dance to the ‘Chicken Reel’
You can talk about your singers in all kinds of way
But none could sing the old songs like Bradley Kincaid
With his old hound dog ‘Guitar’ and the famous ‘Blue Tail Fly’
Stringbean with Hank Snow and old fiddlin’ Chubby Wise
Now, that’s country.