Tag Archives: Nashville

Our Week With Eric Church, Carole King, the Bandit and the Nashville Predators

30 May

It has been an eventful week in the SBI World, and we have spent a lot of time in the city 30 miles to the west. For those not up on local geography, that city is Nashville.

On Monday night, we had tickets for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in the National Hockey League. The Nashville Predators have been on a magical run through the playoffs and have taken over the city. Long time Predator fans are not happy with the bandwagon people, but we felt that Game 6 was a must-see event. They clinched the championship, and I got to High Five the country music star who sat in front of us. I have no idea who he was, but my wife was not happy that I got to touch him and she did not.

On Tuesday night, I was back in Nashville for a fundraiser. Cumberland University, where I work, is the home of the Martin Van Buren Papers, and a Nashville attorney hosted an event to assist with that project. He has an amazing collection of historic artifacts and opened his office for tours. People paid to see documents signed by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Davy Crockett, King George III and various other people. It was interesting to see everything and to hear the stories of how the collection came together.

On Wednesday night, I went with my brother and my nephews to a truly cultural event. We went to the theater to see the 40th Anniversary screening of Smokey and the Bandit, a movie that I have seen a million times.

It was great to see the Bandit, Snowman and Buford T. Justice on the big screen, but it was also great to see people with their t-shirts. As bandit tells Snowman when they get to the warehouse full of Coors beer, it was “redneck heaven.” After it was over, I wanted to get a diablo sandwich and a Dr. Pepper.

On Friday night, it was back to Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators. However, we were not there for a hockey game. We were there to see Eric Church in concert.

I do not know much about the singer, but we had already seen him at a Kris Kristofferson tribute concert. This one was more rocking and raucous. Eric Church is known for wearing sunglasses, and it was funny to see all of the guys in the crowd wearing sunglasses. I reckon that thought some female would mistake them for the performer.

On Sunday night, we went to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. It was a great show about the life of a prolific songwriter who also creating on of the great albums of all time. Through professional success and personal tribulation, she wrote songs that became part of the soundtrack for a generation. Now, we have to see the real person in concert.

At some point, I made the statement that I was not going to go into the city for a while. However, I will it will happen because there is too much cool stuff there to do. This week was just a small sample of that.

Things That Are Better Than Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

18 Dec

This weekend, we belatedly celebrated my birthday by getting a hotel room in Nashville and going out to dinner. The city has become a great food destination. Local chefs and chefs from around the nation are opening great restaurants in Nashville. We have been to several, but a new one is always opening. In other words, if you like food, then Nashville is the place to be.

This time, we decided to go to Jeff Ruby’s, an upscale steakhouse based in Cincinnati. We do not usually go for steakhouse chains. Our tastes usually run toward something more trendy and creative. However, a lot of people told us that it is a great place. I am sure that they love it. We did not.jeff-rubys

The decor is circus-like. When I think of upscale steakhouses, I think of something more refined. Maybe some wood. Maybe some lower ceilings. Maybe something more classy.

When I think of upscale steakhouses, I also think of steak. The steaks at Ruth’s Chris are awesome. The steak at Kayne Prime, a locally owned establishment, are awesome. The steak at Morton’s are awesome. The steaks at Jeff Ruby’s are nowhere near awesome. While they are tender, they are doused in salt and other flavorings. A great steak does not need all of that.

When I think of upscale steakhouses, I think of great side dishes. Every chain has great au gratin potatoes. Jeff Ruby’s potatoes are not that great. The bread is good if you do not use the truffle butter.

Anyway, we were not impressed with Jeff Ruby’s. They throw a lot of food on your plate. I suppose that is why some people like it. Quantity over quality. I am a bigger fan of quality. Give me something with a great combination of flavors, and I am happy. There are a ton of restaurants in Nashville that provide that, and we should have dined at one of them.

Hopefully, you can tell that our experience was not great, and we should have known by the name of the place. When I am going to say Jeff Ruby’s, my mind wants me to say Jack Ruby. I wonder if anyone thought about that before they named the restaurant.

Jeff Ruby’s was not good, but I do not want this to be an entirely negative post. There are some great “ruby” things out there.

Ruby Slippers

Ruby Falls

Ruby” by The Osbourne Brothers

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones

Ruby Tuesday’s Salad Bar

Ruby Dee

I can promise you that all of those things are better that Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

 

Bad Football and a Musical Complaint

7 Nov

Lately, I have watched some bad football. The Tennessee Titans leave a lot of be desired. The season of the Tennessee Volunteers has gone from great promise to a quagmire. I am also reading a book about an infamous game in the history of Cumberland University. For those who do not know, our school lost to Georgia Tech 222-0. It is the biggest defeat in the history of college football.

Sam Hatcher, who I have known for years, wrote a book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the game. Heisman’s First Trophy: The Game that Launched Football in the South is an interesting read that provides a great story of the game. I would recommend it to anyone. Some of it is fictionalized, but the heart of the story remains true.heisman-book

I have been surrounded by bad football, but I have also witnessed some bad halftime performances. The University of Tennessee Marching Band is known as the Pride of the Southland, and they have been performing something called the “Circle Drill” for 50 years. I know that because they announced  that this year is the 50th anniversary of the routine. Certainly, it is a difficult marching formation to perform, but I have one request.

PLAY SOME NEW SONGS!

I have been watching the “Circle Drill” for 42 of the 50 years that it has been in existence, and they have played the same songs the entire time. I can even recite the announcer’s script.

They do a musical tour of Tennessee by starting out in Memphis. That is when they play Elvis Presley’s “signature” tune “C.C. Rider.” Then, they go to Chattanooga with “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Next is a visit to Nashville with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” They end up in Knoxville with “Rocky Top,” the school’s unofficial fight song.

I understand “Rocky Top.” It fires up the crowd and needs to be played. However, it is time to spruce up the rest of the collection. Tennessee is one of the most musical places around. I know they can do better.

First, “C.C. Rider” is not the “signature” song of Elvis Presley. I guarantee that if you ask anyone to name and Elvis song that one would not be mentioned. I would choose “Hound Dog.” Here is the other thing. Elvis was not the only creator of songs in Memphis. What about doing a Tina Turner songs? Or an Isaac Hayes song? What about a Blues classic or something from Stax Records?

I know that “Chattanooga Choo Choo” is an obvious selection for Chattanooga. However, they could throw the crowd a curve with “Chattanooga City Limit Sign” by Johnny Cash. How about “Lookout Mountain” by Drive-By Truckers?

Nashville, otherwise known as Music City, is home to hundreds of artists and thousands of songs. I think they can find a new one. “Nashville Cats” by The Lovin’ Spoonful would be a great pick. Heck, they could shock the world by playing a Jimi Hendrix tune. It would work since he spent his early days in the clubs on Nashville’s Jefferson Street. I cannot even do this paragraph justice. There are so many songs to play that they could close their eyes and pick one out of a songbook.

Better yet, they could get the band from Tennessee State University to do the “Circle Drill.” I know the Aristocrat of Bands and the Sophisticated Ladies could circle it up.

The Night It Rained Purple in Nashville

22 Apr

This afternoon, I walked into class to hear my students talking about the death of Prince. I had already heard the news but what somewhat surprised that they were talking about it. As the years have passed, I have realized that my popular culture history is getting older and older, and the popular culture of my students is getting newer and newer.

They wanted to know if I was a fan of Prince, and I told them that his music was a big part of my high school years. I also told them that I had seen him in concert and that it was one of the all time great shows. I cannot remember the year, but I can remember the night. I can also remember that it was the Musicology Tour.Musicology

The stage sat in the middle of the arena, and we had great seats. There was several of us, but we were able to get seats together. The entire show was awesome, but the ending was the most memorable.

Prince left the stage, and the lights went out. Everyone knew there was going to be an encore because there was one song still left to be played. That is when the spotlight shone from the ceiling. The light was purple, and it lit up the guitar from the movie Purple Rain. Water was streaming down. It was literally purple rain.

Then, Prince rose from the floor; took the guitar; and jumped into one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

It was a moment that I will never forget, but Prince was not finished. For the next encore he brought out a special guest, George Clinton. Yep, the Funkadelic one was in the building. Two legends on stage at the same time. The concert could not have ended in a better way.

The Tennessee Bucket List

29 Mar

We spent Saturday afternoon roaming around Nashville. We ate lunch on the patio at Burger Republic and played around at Centennial Park. In between, we browsed through some shops. It was while browsing that I found a book called The Tennessee Bucket List: 100 Ways to Have a Real Tennessee Experience. Actually, it only lists 99 ways because the last one is something that a writer would put in there when he could not think of anything else to add.

Anyway, I bought the book because I wanted to know how many of these I had done. Heck, I have lived in Tennessee my entire life. I must have done most of them. Also, buying the book meant I could write a blog post.

Here goes the list of my real Tennessee experience.

See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry – I have seen the Opry at the Opry House and at the Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to a former student my wife and I were lucky enough to see the Opry backstage at the Ryman. She got her picture with Riders in the Sky.

Behold the Beauty of a Tennessee Walker – We have had box seats at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration since I was a kid. Most people go to Shelbyville for the horses. I go for the donuts.

Watch a NASCAR Race – Actually, I have been to a NASCAR race in Alabama. I will be at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in the Fall, and that will be for a football game.

Sip Moonshine – Everyone has done this, right?

Wander the District – You cannot have the full Nashville experience without going to this part of town.

Explore a King’s Mansion – The TV Room is my favorite part of Graceland. The Outlaw Josey Wales is playing all of the time.

There are three tv's. I left out the one showing the trivia answer.

Be a Part of an Archaeological Dig – I am not sure how much digging is done in Tennessee, but there was once a dig on my family’s farm.

See a Civl War Reenactment – The dad of one of my friends took me to a reenactment of the Battle of Stones River. It was surreal to see people pretend that they were living in the past.

Enjoy a Goo Goo Cluster – You have not had candy until you have had a Goo Goo.

See Seven States at the Same Time – Rock City is an old-time roadside attraction that has survived into the 21st Century. If you are near Chattanooga, then you have to, as the barn roofs say, See Rock City.

Take a Walk Down Music Row – You may not see a famous person, but you will pass buildings where awesome music has been created.

Walk the Field at Shiloh – Almost 110,000 Americans fought on this land. There were more casualties in this battle than in all of America’s previous wars combined. It is a haunting place.

Explore Cades Cove – When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, land was taken from people who had lived in the mountains for years. This community has been preserved in its rustic state.

Stroll Down Beale Street – The Blues was not born in Memphis, but this is where the great Bluesmen gained fame.

See the Sunsphere – In 1982, the World’s Fair was held in Knoxville. It is the last World’s Fair to make a profit, but the Sunsphere is all that is left.

Buy a Pair of Boots – I admit that I have done it.

Stand in the Footsteps of History – Everyone should visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A few years ago, I took my family.

Explore the Titanic – Yep, the Titanic is in Tennessee. Specifically, it is in Pigeon Forge. It sounds strange, but it is an awesome museum.

See a Shark – Yep, sharks are in Tennessee. Specifically, they are at an aquarium in Gatlinburg, which is down the road from Pigeon Forge.

Hear Al Green Preach – I am cheating on this one. I have never heard Al Green preach, but I have heard him sing.

Visit Franklin on Foot – Downtown Franklin is a great place to visit. The city has found the right combination of preservation and enterprise.

Behold the Statue of Athena – Actually, we saw this on the same day I bought the book. Nashville has the Parthenon because it used to be known as the Athens of the South. Inside the Parthenon stands Athena.image-10

Strum a Guitar – Everyone has done this, right?

See a College Football Game – I have seen games at Neyland Stadium, Dudley Field, Nissan Stadium, the Liberty Bowl and Cumberland University’s Nokes-Lasater Field. However, the coolest one was Chamberlain Field in Chattanooga, which opened in 1908. When it closed, it was the second oldest college football stadium in the country.

Play Miniature Golf – It is one of my favorite things to do. The best place to do it? Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg.

Spend the Afternoon Shopping – The book talks about Opry Mills. However, the Mall at Green Hills is the best.

Savor a MoonPie – It is an awesome snack, but it is best paired with a RC Cola.

Visit the Grave of Meriwether Lewis – This is the Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He met a mysterious end in a tavern along the Natchez Trace.

See a Bear in the Woods – I saw a bear with her cubs at Cades Cove. Luckily, I did not end up like Leo DiCaprio.

Go Line Dancing – Everyone has done this, right?

Spend a Day at Dollywood – I have been to Dollywood after it was called Dollywood. I have also been there when it was called Silver Dollar City. I have also been there when it was called Gold Rush Junction.

Watch the Marching of the Ducks – The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is a nice hotel. It is also the home of some cool ducks.

Go Whitewater Rafting – Everyone has done this, right?

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame – We try to go there each time they open a new exhibit. It is a great museum

Explore Market Square – This is a part of downtown Knoxville with a lot of cool restaurants and shops.

Pig Out of Memphis-Style Barbecue – Nashville people do not like to give Memphis credit for anything. However, they are tops when it comes to barbecue. Go to Rendezvous.

See an Eagle – A few wild ones can be seen around here.

Discover the Mighty Mississippi – At times, I have just sat and watched it flow by.

Ride a Sky Lift – For years, it has been a Gatlinburg landmark. Everyone has to ride it at least once.

Visit the Jack Daniels Distillery – Jack Daniels is produced in Lynchburg, which sits in a dry county. You cannot buy alcohol where the most famous whiskey is made.

Sit in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” Courtroom – One of my greatest moments as an educator was talking about the Scopes Trial in the courtroom. It is worth a visit to Dayton.

Sing “Rocky Top” – I have sung it thousands of times at the top of my lungs. However, I cannot bring myself to sing the “WOO” part.

Tour a Plantation – They are everywhere.

See a Lady Vols Basketball Game – I have seen a bunch of games and seen a bunch of victories. However, it is not the same without Pat Summitt.

Tour the Home of a U.S. President – There are three. I have seen two. Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.

Ascend the Space Needle – It is a ride high over Gatlinburg.

See a Titans Game – I have done this a bunch. It was fun when they were winning. These days, it is not as much fun.

Cheer on the South (or North) – When I went to the Dixie Stampede, we were late and could only get tickets on the North side. I was told that the North never wins. That night they won.

Take a Riverboat Cruise at Night – Nashville’s General Jackson is a great ride on a Summer night.

Enjoy an Orchestra – We love going to the Nashville Symphony. They are awesome.

Sink Your Teeth into a King Leo Peppermint Stick – I am not crazy about them, but they are a Christmas tradition.

Walk to the Top of Clingman’s Dome – It is Tennessee’s highest point. Just watch out for the fog. They do not call them the Smoky Mountains for nothing.

Listen to a Country Music Concert – Everyone has done this, right?image-11

Visit a Fort – There are forts, but they are not as cool as forts in the American West.

There is my list. I will not write about the things that I have not done. I am sure the author of the book would love for you to buy a copy to see what else is in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cinematic Legacy of Jerry Reed

8 Mar

The other day, I told the story of our visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame. While writing it, another post came to mind.

Jerry Reed was featured in the museum’s latest exhibits on Nashville musicians. He was one of the greatest guitarists who ever came to town and played on a ton of albums. Chet Atkins thought that Jerry Reed was better than him. In addition to playing for other performers, Jerry Reed also had his own string of hits, and this video from The Porter Wagoner Show provides a good example of his talent.

With all of that being said, some people may know Jerry Reed more for his movies than for his guitar playing. That is why this post is not about his numerous songs. It is about the five movies that, in my opinion, are Jerry Reed’s best.image-8

There is no better time to start the list than now.

5. What Comes Around was released in 1985. It was not a great movie and probably cannot be found anywhere. However, it must make the list because part of it was filmed in my hometown. In the climatic scene, they blow up a building, and, in real life, that building was the original Cracker Barrel. A ton of people went out to watch the explosion.

By the way, they did not really blow up the building. It is still standing.

4. W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings was also filmed in this area. Released in 1975, it was Jerry’s first collaboration with Burt Reynolds, which would lead to the top movie on this list. The movie also starred other Country music performers. It is cool to watch and see some places in Nashville that no longer exist.

3. Gator came out in 1976 and also starred Burt Reynolds. In fact, it is a sequel to an earlier Reynolds movie. It is also different because Jerry played the bad guy. He was a criminal empire of drugs, gambling and prostitution. He also had a sidekick named Bones whose head stuck out of the sunroof of the car.

2. Bat 21 was released in 1988 and was a completely different movie from the other ones on the list. It is a true story that stars Gene Hackman as a pilot stuck behind enemy lines in Vietnam. I will not spoil the plot, but Hackman, Reed and Danny Glover find an ingenious way to get him out. If you have not seen it, then it is worth a watch.

1. Released in 1977, Smokey and the Bandit is one of the greatest movies of all time. If you do not think that, then you are wrong. That is just the way it is. Jerry plays Snowman, the truck driving sidekick of the Bandit, played by Burt Reynolds. Did I say that it is one of the greatest movies of all time? It was the second highest grossing movie of the year behind Star Wars. I really do not know what else to say. It is great.

Bonus

There is one more Jerry Reed appearance that I must mention. In 1972, he played himself in The New Scooby-Doo Movies. His performance of “Pretty Mary Sunlight” may be one of the greatest things that has ever been on animated television.

Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats

4 Mar

A few week ago, my wife and I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, which we like to do when they have an interesting exhibit. This time, they had a couple of exhibits that I wanted to see. The first was about Sam Phillips and Sun Records. The second was about the friendship between Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and the effect it had on the Nashville music scene.image-7

Nashville has always been known for Country music, but I have been more fascinated with the story of Nashville’s other music. For example, it has a deep Rhythm and Blues history and is where Jimi Hendrix got his start.

I have read about Dylan’s time in Nashville and was interested to see how the Country Music Hall of Fame would present it. They did better than I could have imagined and introduced me to facts that I did not know.

Obviously, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash were the focus, but that was only the beginning. It covered the artists who were inspired by Dylan’s work in the city and followed him here. It was awesome to see the display on Paul McCartney and his time living in my hometown of Lebanon.image-9

The story of Paul McCartney’s time in town has gone down in local lore, but there were a ton of artists that I never knew recorded here. On the way out, I bought an album of songs that were highlighted in the exhibit, and it provides an example of some of those artists.

Gordon Lightfoot

The Byrds

The Monkees

Leonard Cohen

Country Joe McDonald

Simon and Garfunkel

George Harrison

Ringo Starr

Joan Baez

Neil Young

Derek and the Dominos

Those people are well-known in the history of music. However, this exhibit also highlighted the session musicians who played the music to which those people sang. These are the unsung heroes of Nashville and have become known as the Nashville Cats.

Several people had their own displays, but Jerry Reed was my favorite. Those who only know him as Snowman in Smokey and the Bandit or the football coach in The Waterboy may not realize that he was one of the greatest guitarists to ever play in Nashville. He was the heir apparent to Chet Atkins and had a distinctive style that other players have tried to duplicate.image-8

As always, the Country Music Hall of Fame did a fantastic job with the exhibit. Each time I go to the museum, I learn something new. If you ever make it to Nashville, then you will need to visit the place. Just remember that Country music is not the only music that has come out of this city.