Bluegrass Booth at CMA

Bluegrass Booth at CMA Fan FestRecently I posted about the CMA’s annual music festival and the bluegrass artists that would be present this year. I briefly mentioned the bluegrass booth run by Dave Burley at the Fan Fest. I emailed Dave to ask him a few questions about the booth and get some background info. I knew that Dave was the primary mover behind the booth, as well as the primary financier of the booth, and I wanted to know the story behind the booth. He kindly wrote me back a lengthy response providing plenty of details about the bluegrass booth.

Brance: Dave, tell us the story of the bluegrass booth. When and how did the bluegrass booth get started? And how is the booth supported financially?

Dave:

Eight years ago I posted on the BG-L that I felt the IBMA should doing something at the CMA’s Fan Fair for bluegrass. They wouldn’t do anything. After harping on it for a while, someone suggested that if I felt so strongly about this, do it myself. They told me that in a sarcastic way…..So 8 years ago I sponsored the first booth for bluegrass and Classic Country music at the fairgrounds in Nashville, the last year the CMA held the event at the fairgrounds. I paid for everything. I painted the signs, built the booth and did everything connected with the booth.

The next year we moved up to the Convention Center on the corner of 5th and Broadway, right across from the Ryman Auditorium. I did start to get a little financial help from a few bluegrass lovers.

The booth has grown from a 10′ x 10′ booth at the fairgrounds to a 50′ x 10′ booth at the Convention Center.

I am still the main financial supporter of the booth although I do have a couple people, not even connected to bluegrass, that help me out in a fairly big way. This year from the bluegrass community I received a total of $225.00 which is not even a 10th of what it costs for the booth. I’m not complaining, just telling you the facts. This year we will have Rhonda Vincent, Cherryholmes, Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, the Lovell Sisters and a bunch more that will be signing autographs in the booth. In the past we have had….Rhonda, Cherryholmes, Charlie Louvin, The Steven Sisters, the Larkins, Marty Rabon, Jeannie Kendall, Kentucky Thunder, Clark Family, Leroy Troy, Don Helms, John Hughey, Paul Brewster and I shouldn’t have started naming names because I don’t have any data in front of me. 🙂

Last year the Jay Leno people from the Tonite Show visited our booth and we were fortunate enough to have Jay feature our booth for 32 seconds, two different times, on the Tonite Show.

Brance: Fascinating story. It sounds like the booth is a real presence for bluegrass at this large event. But what exactly is the purpose of the booth?

Dave:

The booth is for bluegrass and Classic Country. It doesn’t cost anyone to be part of the booth. Big names, small names and totally newcomers are welcome if we have the room.

Here’s a story which sort of sums it up……..The second year we were at the Convention Center, myself and Jerald Daley, a volunteer, were walking along E. Broadway after the day was over. There was a young 12 year old lad that was dressed very country and singing very country standing on a street corner singing. His guitar case was closed. Jerald reached over and opened it and threw a couple dollars in the open case. The young lad looked on in amazement. He never intended to be singing for tips. He just wanted to be heard but he really got excited when the tips started dropping in the guitar case. …… I listened for a while. He was pretty good. I noticed a rather large family standing by, all of them looking like the lad that was singing. I approached the father and talked a bit. At the end of the conversation I suggested that they have some photo pictures run off and to bring the boy the next day to the Convention Center and I would feature him in the booth signing autographs. They were elated. They couldn’t afford the entrance so I gave them all complimentary passes. The boy, Jimmy Coble, has been in the booth every year since then and even is now showcasing in some of the establishments along E. Broadway. That really does sum it up. The booth is for any deserving artist, especially those that cannot afford to have a booth and want to meet the thousands of fans that attend the Fan Fair every year.

Brance: Do you have any other comments about the booth that you would like to share with our readers?

Dave:

Flatt & Scruggs bus at CMA Bluegrass BoothThanks to Bill Lower from upstate New York and the Lime Hollow Boys also from upstate New York. Without their support, the booth, which includes Don Clark’s Martha White/Flatt & Scruggs 1955 tour bus, would not be a reality.

Another aside….The first year I was sandwiched in between Tim McGraw & Faith Hill on one side, Wynonna on the other and Neal McCoy right across the aisle. We now are usually right across from Billy Ray Cyrus, near Tanya Tucker, near Shania Twain and really stepping in high cotton for poor country folk.

More pictures of the booth can be seen at the Lime Hollow Boys website.

Many thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer my questions, and to represent bluegrass music at this event.

  • floydcogal

    Having been a visitor to the CMA FanFest since back when it was Fan Fair about eight years ago, I’ve had an opportunity to visit the bluegrass booth. They always do a GREAT job of getting really good artists in there they may be well known (Rhonda Vincent) or up and comers. I’ll be in Nashville this year but unable to do the ‘whole experience’ and I’ll miss not getting to meet some of the great bluegrass artists I know will be taking their place in this booth. Thanks to all who contribute to making sure bluegrass is represented.

    Serena Wimmer