Tag Archives: Ryman Auditorium

Should I…?

14 Apr

It is quiet. The only sounds are the hum of the air conditioner; the chimes on the porch; and the clicking of the keyboard. Nothing is moving. The dog is lying nearby on a blanket. Lots of questions are running through my mind.

Should I write about the controversy of moving the remains of President James K. Polk? Last week, I visited his ancestral home in Columbia, Tennessee and met the people who would like for him to be there. The worst part was someone in my group not knowing that he had been president.

Should I be outside? After all, it is a beautiful day.

Should I listen to Will the Circle Be Unbroken by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? Earlier, I listened to some of it. The album starts with “Grand Ole Opry Song.” Luckily, we were able to attend their 50th Anniversary concert at the Ryman Auditorium. It was a great show.

Should I clean out my emails? Yep, I have a couple of email accounts, and both of them have gotten out of hand. I need to go in and delete some stuff. It is terrible to let spam hang around.

Should I get a flip phone? I have noticed something. Everyone who has a smart phone is always on it. They are addicted to it. I should not say they. In reality, it is we. Anyway, I also noticed that those who still have flip phones are never looking at them. That could be the way to go.

Should I check the mail? Wait, it is a holiday. Have you ever gone to the mailbox before realizing that the mail did not run. It has become a holiday tradition for me.

Should I put up the computer and do something besides type? I believe that I should.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Steel Magnolias Kind of Weekend

5 Aug

I have never seen Steel Magnolias. However, this weekend brought two of its stars to the stages of Nashville, and we saw both of them.

Friday night, we saw Dolly Parton at the Ryman Auditorium. It had been over a decade since she played a concert in Nashville, but a local charity brought her back to town. The place was packed with music industry insiders, politicians and regular people. Despite the strange mixture, there was an electricity running through the crowd. This was not just a concert. It was an event. I have written about seeing Elvis Presley in concert, and, although I was young, I can remember a similar feeling.

I guess that was fitting because Dolly came out in a white suit that brought to mind something Elvis would wear.image-46

Writing a sentence using only first names brought something else to my mind. It is a rare level of fame when people know someone by their first name.

Anyway, the show was awesome. Dolly played a bunch of her more famous songs and played a bunch of instruments along the way. However, I enjoyed her stories. She talked about growing up in Appalachia and the struggles that her family faced. She talked about coming to Nashville as a teenager and eventually reaching superstar status. Despite that transition, she never forgot where she came from.

Dolly is a true entertainer who writes songs, sings and acts. However, it is her charisma and connection to the crowd that caught my attention.

Thursday night, we went to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center for a completely different kind of show. Shirley MacLaine was there to talk about her life and her career.image-47

It was also a strangely mixed crowd with those who wanted to hear stories about Hollywood and those who were there to be close to their spiritual guide. I knew that the latter would get what they wanted, but I was hoping there would be more about the inside workings of the movies.

It was an interview format with Ann Patchett, author and Nashvillian, doing the asking. I think she wanted to psychoanalyze Shirley MacLaine because the first question went straight to reincarnation. It was something about how playing different lives in movies may have opened her mind to the possibility of living different lives.

Well, Shirley MacLaine was having none of that. She knew that she had fought in the Civil War long before she was in a movie.

There was some discussion about her career, and some interesting stories were told. However, the spiritual realm dominated the night. That is fine. I expected it. However, I would have asked some other things like:

How did someone who grew up in Virginia make it to Hollywood?

What did your family think of that decision?

Who was your favorite dance partner?

I could go on, but I would rather talk about when the audience asked questions. There was a good question about the Rat Pack that led her to talk about the time John F. Kennedy decided not to stay at Frank Sinatra’s house.

Then, there was one questioner who said that he could see his deceased grandmother in the eyes of his cat. That led someone else to talk about the hierarchy of the cat world. There was also some talk about how we are living multiple lives all at once.

At some point, I told my wife that I was going to the restroom and that I may not come back. People can believe what they want. Heck, I am probably strange, too. However, I had enough mystical talk for one night.

Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine worked together in Steel Magnolias, which made the two shows kind of cool and connected. As I wrote, the shows were completely different. In one of them, I got up and threatened not to come back. In the other one, I did not want to miss anything.

Nashville Travelogue

18 Dec

The other day, I published a post about visiting the Johnny Cash Museum and got a response from Lunar Euphoria. A trip to Nashville is in the works, and the museum has been added to the list of things to do. Then, the question was raised, “Anything else there I should know about?”

I promised a reply but decided to put it down in a post. It is not an exhaustive list, and I will certainly forget some stuff. However, these are some of the places people should visit when they come to Nashville.Nashville Skyline

Nashville is known as Music City, and music can be found everywhere. Chances are that your waiter can sing better than most of the people on the radio. Here are some of my musical suggestions.

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge – It sits in the heart of the tourist trap that is Lower Broad. However, it has an interesting history. Performers on the Grand Ole Opry used to saunter into the bar between their appearances on the show.

The Bluebird Cafe – Songwriters sit in the round and play their songs. They also talk about how they came up with the songs.

3rd and Lindsley – It is not a tourist destination, but it is the home of The Time Jumpers, a group of studio musicians who have become a legendary Western Swing band.

The Ryman Auditorium – The original home of the Grand Ole Opry is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music” and is open for backstage tours. It does not matter who you see perform at the Ryman. Hearing music in that venue is an experience unto itself.

Third Man Records – Nashville is not just about country music. To see what I mean, stop by Third Man Records, owned by Jack White. He lives in Nashville along with a lot of other people who most would find surprising.

The Country Music Hall of Fame – This is one of my favorite places in Nashville. The permanent exhibits follow the history of country music. The special exhibits focus on interesting people and interesting times. Oh yeah, get the package that includes a tour of Studio B.

Nashville is also becoming known as a food city. Chefs from throughout the nation are opening restaurants, and it is a haven for foodies. Of course, we have the good old southern stuff, too. Here are my food suggestions.

Rotier’s – Many years ago, a struggling artist ate at Rotier’s quite often. Eventually, he was inspired to write a song about one of his favorite menu items. That song was “Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffett.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack – Nashville has become known for its hot chicken, and Prince’s is the best place to get it. It is fried. It is hot. When you go there, do not be bashful when ordering. If you are, then they might skip over you and go to the next customer.

Southern Steak and Oyster – Want to hang out with the local hipsters and eat some great food? Go to this place. It is one of our favorites, and it is great every time. Unfortunately, oysters are not my thing, but the first half of their name is awesome.

The Farm House – Sitting across the street from Southern Steak and Oyster, this place offers southern food with a touch of class. I cannot write what is good because it all is great. It is not cheap, but it is worth it. On top of that, the owner/chef is from Wilson County, where we live.

BrickTop’s – A lot of people would probably leave this off the list. It is casual fare served in a fern bar atmosphere. However, I think it is awesome. It is especially good for brunch after a long night at one of the music places.

Taco Mamacita – This restaurant is a cool hangout just off Music Row. That means you might see a singer or two eating lunch on the patio. It also means you will be away from the tourists and mingling with the locals.

The music and entertainment aspects of Nashville obscure the fact that it is a historical city. When I say historical, I am not writing about Hank Williams or Patsy Cline. I am writing about non-musical history. Here are my historic suggestions.

The Hermitage – Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States and brought a power to the presidency that the United States had not seen. This is his home and is a great place to learn about his presidency and his life.

Cheekwood – This estate was owned by the family that produced Maxwell House Coffee. It is now an art museum and botanical gardens. There are permanent and rotating exhibits.

Fort Negley – I should let the fort’s official website tell you about its history, but here is something interesting. It was a Union fort during the Civil War. Yes, Tennessee was a Confederate state, but it was not long before Union troops took Nashville. That is when the city became the second most fortified city behind Washington, D.C.

The Parthenon – Centennial Park was the location of an international exhibition in the late 1800s. Those things were all the rage back then. There were numerous buildings, and the Parthenon, a replica of the one in Greece, remains. Why would there be a replica of the Parthenon in Nashville? Because the city was “the Athens of the South” before it was “Music City.” That was due to the large number of universities in the area.

As previously written, there are a ton of things that I have not included or have forgotten. If anyone wants to add something then put them in the comments. However, if you make your way to Nashville, then you should try out a few of these spots.

 

 

A Small Post While Preparing for an Upcoming Large Post

11 Jul

There is a huge post rambling around in my brain, but I am not prepared to write it. I am hoping that it will create discussion and want it to come out right. It is one of those posts that may offend, but it may also make people think. That is enough about what I am not going to write. Let us get on with what you are about to read, which is not much.

Yesterday, I wrote about Little Cedar Lick. Today, I found out that it may not have been where I thought it was. It could have been a community that is now known as Leeville. If that is the case, then John Coffee “Jack” Hays was just up the road.

A long time ago, I wrote about my search for a singer named Bobby Doyle and how I could not find much information on him. In recent weeks, I have been in contact with his family and friends, and they sent an article that has just been published about him. It is an interesting article about an interesting man. You need to read it.

John Seigenthaler passed away. For those who do not live in Nashville, that name may not mean much to you. In these parts, he was a journalistic pioneer. My Twitter feed has been filled up with remembrances of him.

Earlier, I tweeted that there are three songs that always make me smile. That does not mean they are happy songs. There is just something about them that I like. They are:

Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest

Badge” by Cream

A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum

Without a doubt, Foghorn Leghorn is the greatest cartoon character of all time. A lot of people are in agreement with this. Dave, who I used to work with, loved the big rooster, and his son gifted a Foghorn Leghorn DVD collection to him for Christmas. Unfortunately for Dave, all of the DVD’s were in Japanese. Apparently, Foghorn is big in Tokyo, too.Foghorn Leghorn

I got tickets to see Drive-By Trickers at the Ryman Auditorium. I have been wanting to see them, and the concert being at the Mother Church is an added bonus.

That is all. Now, my mind is empty.

 

 

Hey, Nashville! Be a Real Music City and Build an Amphitheater

17 May

Last night, we went to a concert. That seems to be a theme for us since I am a concert addict. This one had three awesome act – The Devil Makes Three, Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson. Before the show, I had planned on a post about the show and the crowd. Instead, this post is about the venue.

It is called the Woods Amphitheater and has a semi-appropriate name. The woods part is accurate. Basically, they went into the middle of the woods and put up a stage. As far as I could see, that was the only major structure around.

While calling it an amphitheater is technically correct, it is a stretch of the definition. The reserved seats were folding chairs. There were a few concession stands. There were no permanent restroom facilities. My wife refused to drink anything in the fear that she might have to use the portable ones.

After spending too much time in a concession line, I said that I would not come back if Elvis rose from the dead for one last show. And, I am a huge Elvis fan.

In short, I was disappointed with the setup. A stage with folding chairs is advertised as a major concert venue. Look, the owners are not worried about what I think. The concert was sold out, and I am sure they are making plenty of money. However, the city of Nashville should be worried. It bills itself as Music City, but it does not have a real outdoor amphitheater where people can enjoy major acts in the outdoors. There is no excuse.

On top of that, we used to have a great once called Starwood.Starwood

Last night, I started thinking about Starwood and how cool it was. You could buy reserved seats under a cover. They were actually bolted to the floor. If you wanted to bring a blanket and sit on the grass hill behind the seats, then you could do that, too. The best place to sit depended on who was performing.

Starwood was the place where I got kicked out of a Metallica concert. Actually, my buddy got kicked out, and I had to go with him.

Starwood was the place where Robert and I walked into the middle of a knife fight at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.

Starwood was the place where I saw The Eagles on their first reunion tour. They opened up by playing the entire Hotel California album.

A lot of people have some great memories of what happened on the stage and in the crowd at Starwood.

As I sat in the wannabe amphitheater, I tried to think of the people I saw perform at the real amphitheater. This is not a complete list, but some of the concerts are hazy.

The aforementioned Metallica, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles in addition to:

KISS. Judas Priest. Hootie and the Blowfish. Edwin McCain. ZZ Top. Rod Stewart. Chicago. Elton John. Ted Nugent. Crosby, Stills and Nash. Motley Crue. John Fogerty. Rob Zombie. Velvet Revolver. Ozzie Osbourne. Alan Jackson. John Mellencamp. Jimmy Buffett. Def Leppard. Marshall Tucker Band. Meatloaf. Dave Matthews Band. Blues Traveler. Earth, Wind and Fire.

I have no idea how many more there are, but it is a bunch.

Starwood was not one of the all-time great concert locations, but it was better than what we have now. Nashville is a great place to listen to all kinds of live music. It has the Ryman Auditorium, which is legendary. It has an arena and a stadium for the huge shows. There are small places, like the Bluebird Cafe, scattered around town where great musicians perform every night. Heck, Dave Grohl did a surprise show there this week.

However, Nashville’s music scene will not be complete until it gets a real amphitheater.

 

The Power of Dean

4 May

This week, I attended the “Power of 10” conference, an event where leaders from the ten counties that make up the Greater Nashville area get together and talk about the future.Power of Ten

It is a way to get people working together when they make decisions about where their communities are headed. It is a noble enterprise, but we cannot get towns in the same county to work together. Getting different counties to work together is almost impossible.

The room was filled with mayors, planners, members of city councils and assorted other pillars of their respective communities. I was there because I needed some training hours as a member of the planning commission. Unfortunately, I was not there on time because of work. That meant that I walked into the back of a packed house with a program that had already begun.

As I stood at the top of the stairs and scanned for an empty seat, an usher eased up to me and said that I could not stand there. No kidding. I explained that I did not intend to stand for the next four hours and was merely looking for a place to go. She brought to mind the ushers at the Ryman Auditorium. It is one of the great music halls of the world, but the ushers take their jobs way too seriously. Give someone a vest and a flashlight and they think they can rule the world. It is a power trip. I lovingly call them “Seat Nazis.”

I got away from the transfer from the Ryman and made my way to the other entrance. I did not want to crawl over anyone and was looking for an end seat. There was one left on the second row. I grew up in the Baptist church. Baptists do not sit on the second row. We hang around in the back.

I made the long trek to the bottom of the auditorium and immediately got a text saying, “It’s about time you showed up.” A friend was sitting six rows behind me. We texted for a while, but I learned a few things, too.

I missed much of the presentation that I walked in on, but the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation gave an informative presentation. He also told a few jokes.

We took a break and made our way to the concourse. There were a lot of people glad-handing and networking. I knew a few, but, for the most part, it seemed like a boring crowd. I backed up against a wall and just watched them. Finally, I decided to make my way inside and faced a tough decision. Should I go back to the seat that I hated, or should I steal someone else’s seat? I decided to be nice and go back to the second row.

This time, an elderly man sat in front of me, and he must have bathed in Brut. The smell was overwhelming. Now, I was packed into the front and lost in a fog on cologne. As people from different departments made their presentations, I was slowly dying. I looked around for any escape and immediately saw it.

The balcony had been opened. When I arrived, it was roped off. Now, there were about eight people sitting there. They were spread out with their feet propped up. The air was clean. I had to get there. Karl Dean, the mayor of Nashville, was going to speak, but I knew I could hear him just as good from the last row as I could from the second row.

Up the stairs I went with the hope that I would not get stopped by the recently transferred “Seat Nazi.” Maybe the people had snuck through, and I would be caught. I made it up the stairs and turned into the balcony. An usher was guarding the door but had his back to me. This was the moment of truth. He turned to me, and…

It was Dean, an old friend of mine. He used to work with Larry, the same guy who ordered the cheese sticks and spent a weekend with me in Cleveland, Ohio. Dean is a University of Tennessee fanatic like the rest of us, and I had not seen him in years.

Now, I had another choice. Do I listen to Karl Dean, or do I stand outside and talk with Usher Dean? It was an easy decision. I knew that I would learn a lot more from Usher Dean than some politician trying to spin his agenda. While the mayor of Nashville spoke to hundreds of people, Usher Dean and I had a great conversation in the hallway. In my mind, he knew a lot more than anyone who took the stage.

What is the Power of Dean? Well, that depends on which Dean you are talking about.