Tag Archives: Riders in the Sky

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry

19 Nov

Living near Nashville has many perks but being around a lot of great music is at the top of the list. You can go almost anywhere and hear talented people. However, there is one place that stands above the rest. The Ryman Auditorium sits downtown and was, for many years, home of the Grand Ole Opry, the radio show that put the music into Music City. I have been to the “Mother Church” many times for many types of concerts, but Friday night brought a completely different experience. Necole and I were able to go backstage at the Ryman for the Grand Ole Opry, which moves back to its home during the offseason.

Our hosts were Dr. Bob and Leslin, his daughter. Leslin was one of my students and has a great blog. They were able to get us in because Dr. Bob is the doctor who many stars see when they have issues with their voice. He knows a lot of performers and was able to provide us with this special experience.

We started the evening with a great meal at Sperry’s, one of Nashville’s dining institutions. Then, we headed to the Ryman. I was worried about getting a parking space because Justin Timberlake was performing across the street, but Dr. Bob and Leslin had that taken care of. We parked in the lot reserved for the Opry performers.

We walked through the alley between the Ryman and Nashville’s famous honky tonks. We made it to the backstage entrance, and the history began to hit me. Country legends had climbed those same steps to perform for a packed house and countless people listening across the nation on WSM radio. When their set was finished, they would walk back down the steps to the bars across the alley. That’s where they would kill time until the second show.

Up the stairs was a man at a desk with a list of names. Once we got past him, we walk through the door and were on the stage. The show had already started. Music was playing, and the crowd was clapping. Immediately, one of the backup singers hugged Dr. Bob and told us to come on up. We ended up standing next to the backup singers. Everyone in the audience could see us. In front of us was the announcer who introduces the acts and reads the commercials. Eventually, he walked over and talked to us.

At the first break in the action, I took a picture of what was going on behind the curtain.Opry 1

Necole and I were amazed at the casual atmosphere. As the music played, people were talking and joking around. It was like a big family reunion. The hallways were small, and people couldn’t help but bump into each other. At one point, Dr. Bob wanted to introduce us to someone. We walked over and had a good conversation about music and life in Middle Tennessee. He asked about our jobs, and we asked about his. Around the corner, Riders in the Sky were practicing, and Necole became more interested in them than the conversation. She had to have a picture, and I took it. I am not great a picture-taking, so the blurriness is the fault of the photographer.Opry 2

Later, the accordion player asked me what I did for a living. When I told him that I was a historian who researched the American West, he nearly fell out. He wanted to talk all about the history of cowboys and their music. That’s when I told him about the magazine I had that listed them as one of the top 50 artists of the Western music genre. He acted like he didn’t know it.

We went back to the stage in time to see an elderly lady perform. The crowd was cheering enough for us to know that she was a major star, but we couldn’t tell who she was. Dr. Bob found out that it was Jean Shephard. None of my group recognized the name, so I got to show them some of my knowledge of music history. She was a big star in the 50s and 60s but faced terrible tragedy. Hawkshaw Hawkins, her husband, died in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline.

Eventually, it was time for the last segment, and the host walked into the wings. At first, all we could see was his red coat. When he turned around, we saw that it was Jim Ed Brown, another great star of the past. He sang a few songs before introducing the band that we had come to see – Old Crow Medicine Show. The newest members of the Opry brought down the house with an energetic performance that included “Wagon Wheel“, which was their song before it was Darius Rucker’s.

That’s when Necole and I realized that the guy we talked to earlier (back when Riders in the Sky was practicing) was the lead singer of Old Crow Medicine Show. Everyone around us was taking pictures. This is one that I took.Opry 3

That’s Jim Ed in the red coat, and the announcer standing next to him. The crowd loved Old Crow Medicine Show to the point that Jim Ed gave up his last song for them to be able to sing another one.

After the show, we walked back down the steps and into the alley. People were lined up to get into the honky tonks, and music could be heard coming from all of them. That’s when I realized that the alley is only a few feet across, but there is a long way from those stages to the one we just stood on.

Listeria – Singers of Country and Western Songs

5 Nov

Man, magazines sure like their lists. To be honest, I like them, too. American Cowboy put out a special edition about the 50 greatest Country & Western singers. As I read over the list, I began to think that many of them don’t fit on the list. When I hear Country & Western, I think about cowboy songs, and there are a bunch of people on the list that never sang a song about punching cattle or being in a showdown.Four Way Shootout

I am thinking that the genre name confuses me because I don’t consider it a modern description. There is Country music and there is Western music, which isn’t as popular. I think that in the old days Country and Western went together because they were considered rural in origin. Was it a derogatory term? I don’t know, but I don’t believe they fit together anymore.

With that in mind, I am going to pare down the list and report the ones who I think are true singers of Western songs. It is American Cowboy, after all. Here they are – the ones on the list who have sung about the West. I may link a few examples along the way.

Johnny Cash – I’ve written about him before. Johnny sang a variety of tunes, but he also sang about the West. Personally, I like the one about Johnny Yuma.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans – What can I say? Roy was the ultimate cowboy for an entire generation of kids. Dale was by his side the whole time. Nothing beats their signature song.

George Strait – George can sing Country and Western. In fact, he is a true legend of both. I could listen to “Amarillo by Morning” every day. Every time I go through Amarillo, I sing it.

Chris LeDoux – I don’t know much about Chris, but how can you leave a real cowboy off the list?

Ian Tyson – This is another singer who I don’t know much about. It is also another singer who was a real cowboy.

Gene Autry – Another cowboy legend who a generation of kids looked up to. Ironically, his most enduring song is about a deer.

Red Steagall – Texas Swing is a great subgenre of Country & Western music, and Red is one of the all time greats.

Willie Nelson – He couldn’t make it when he first came to Nashville. That’s when Willie went back to Texas and got famous. Personally, I like “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.”

Michael Martin Murphey – When I was a kid, I was fascinated by “Wildfire.” I think it was more the ghostly element than the cowboy element.

Don Edwards – I didn’t know anything about Don until I heard one of his songs in a movie. “Coyotes” was that song.

Patsy Montana – The other day Necole and I took my parents to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The section on Patsy Montana was very interesting.

Merle Haggard – He sings about prisoners and laborers. Merle also sings about cowboys. He greatest song is “Pancho and Lefty” with Willie Nelson. He also had a song in Chisum, a John Wayne movie.

Marty Robbins – I wrote about some of Marty’s songs a while back. He touched on a variety of topics in his music, but cowboys were right at the top.

Rex Allen – Another great cowboy star, I remember the tractor commercials he always did during the National Finals Rodeo.

Sons of the Pioneers – I guess Roy Rogers is in here twice because he was also in this group. I watched a fascinating documentary about “Tumbling Tumbleweeds“, so I will make that my favorite. I also like “The Searchers” theme.

Bob Wills – Remember what I said about Texas Swing? Bob Wills was the king of it.

Waylon Jennings – An Outlaw with Willie Nelson and others, Waylon often sang about cowboys. I always liked “Slow Movin’ Outlaw.”

Riders in the Sky – I always considered them a parody. I guess their stage costumes led me to think that. Riders in the Sky are included in the American Cowboy list, so I will put them in mine.

R.W. Hampton – I don’t know his work, but, from what I read, his contemporaries think a lot of R.W.

Joni Harms – Another artist that is new to me, Joni has won numerous awards for her work in the Western genre.

Tom Russell – Dang, I don’t know many of these people. I need to do more research. I definitely need to do more listening to this song.

Wylie & the Wild West – Actually, I know about Wylie. I just don’t know much about his music.

Corb Lund – They list lyrics of some of the artists. Corb’s lyrics struck a chord with me, so I looked up this song.

Garth Brooks – He looked like a cowboy, and he sang about cowboys. Personally, I think Garth ruined Country music.

Kris Kristofferson – Anyone who played Billy the Kid in a movie has to be put on the list. I am just not sure if he ever sang about cowboys.

Belinda Gail – Belinda won the WIll Rogers Cowboy Award. That means she should be on the list.

Brenn Hill – The magazine doesn’t say much about him, but it says that he sings cowboy songs.

Gary McMahan – They list “The Old Double Diamond” as his most prominent song. I looked it up, and it’s good.

Sons of San Joaquin – It’s all in the family. According to the magazine, Roy Rogers compared the Sons of Joaquin to the Sons of the Pioneers. That’s enough for me.

Let’s add this up. Out of 50 on the original list, we have 30 left. I don’t who how many others could have been on it, but I can’t believe Tex Ritter didn’t make it. He sang the iconic theme to High Noon and sang a song that is played daily at Disney World – “Blood on the Saddle.” Can you guess where it’s played?