Our own intrepid correspondent, Richard Thompson [bluegrassmercury], spent a week in Nashville in early October, having traveled from the UK to attend the IBMA convention, accompanied by his wife, Karen. It was their first trip to IBMA in 20 years, and we thought that his post-IBMA impressions and reflections would be of interest both to others who were likewise in attendance, and our many readers who would love to have been there.
Here, Karen adds her thoughts to those Richard shared in his previous Travelogue entries. Read them all here.
bluegrassmercury Travelogue #14
By Karen Thompson
Nashville, Tenn. Karen’s Travelogue
We flew into Nashville late Thursday afternoon (9/25), stepping from the airport into the outside after being 2 in two airplanes in pressurised conditions for several hours was short-lived bliss, I hadn’t expected it to be so hot at 5 o’clock. But we were soon on an air-conditioned bus heading towards downtown Nashville. After checking at the Holiday Express Inn on Broadway, unpacking etc, etc we (hubby and I) took to the street to explore. It was still very hot and as we walked down Broadway towards Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge familiar and not so familiar sights greeted me.
The last time I was in Nashville was 1981, and for a short time I was transported back to the early 1980s as so much seemed to be the same as it was back then, I was only a mere slip of a girl, had not been married long, and everywhere looked big and new. But now Nashville in the dark (8 at night) looked as though it hadn’t changed much. The sights, sounds and smells all came flooding back to me.
It was only the next morning in the clear light of day when walking the same streets I realized that some things were very much the same and some things had changed significantly. Now we have the Sommett Center and the AT&M (Batman Building), and the Country Music Hall of Fame is now located downtown and the Nashville Convention Center (where I spent most of my time while in Nashville). It is comforting to know we still have the Ryman, Tootsies and Ernest Tubb’s record store still where they were 27 years ago.
When I first came here it was for a the 1981 Country Music Fan Fair, having a week of country music from dawn to dusk. Now older and slightly wiser, bluegrass music is more to my liking (although I still have a love of what I would call more traditional country music – Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Statler Brothers – but hey, didn’t they probably all grow up listening to bluegrass/old time music????)
So, my next night in Nashville was at the Station Inn, front row, watching Ronnie Bowman and band and my musical extravaganza had begun. Being married to a “Bluegrass Fanatic” for over 32 years I had a pretty good idea what I was letting myself in for, what I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy it.
The days were long getting up at 7.30 but not getting to bed until 2 or 3 in the morning didn’t give me much beauty sleep, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Being able to see old favorites alongside newer acts gave everyone the chance to see what’s so good in bluegrass music today.
We had paid to attend the first part of the convention week, so we were able to go to some of the seminars that were held during the day, I felt a bit of a fraud as I was really only there for the music, but the ones I attended turned out to be very interesting and so I didn’t feel so out of place.
Having my trusty camera with me at all times I could also get a few pictures of people like Tom T Hall going down an escalator, me running after him and introducing myself. Having first met him back in the 1980s when he was in England – made it seem like I was meeting with an old friend. Surprisingly that’s how it was, I kept meeting with people I had originally met way back when, all of who were happy to stop and chat and catch up, that was really nice. Then going around the stands in the exhibition hall I got to chat to so many people, all of whom were very, very friendly and seemed to be particularly interested to talk to someone from England.
I managed to get out to the Opry for a couple of the shows there, finding it surprisingly easy to make arrangements to get there, I just love the transport system that Nashville has, it makes everything so much easier. At the shows I went to I got to see the likes of Connie Smith, Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, The Grascals, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and my personal favorites Dailey & Vincent.
I enjoyed the after-hours shows – seeing some of the performers in a more relaxed setting, performing a few songs was good, fun thing. I fell in love with Josh Williams’ voice before I even saw him. He was performing in one of the rooms and it was so packed. Being a petite thing, I couldn’t get into the room, let alone see him from where I was standing. So, I spent most if the week following him around like a “groupie” just to be able to see one of his performances, preferably being able to sit down to enjoy it.
The highlight of the week was the Awards Show at the Ryman on Thursday 2nd October, which, incidentally, was our 32nd wedding anniversary – so, personally, I think that the pre-awards show party that we were invited to and the whole evening was really in our honor. The show was great, and at one point I was nearly in tears along with Dailey and Vincent with the amount of awards they received. The following day I met Jamie, who had remembered me from taking pictures of them and their families at the end of the Awards Show; that made my day.
On that same Friday morning (first day of the Fan Fest) we got woken at our hotel by the sound of the phone ringing – Gary Reid and his partner Bonnie were on their way over to pick us up at our hotel and take us for breakfast. We got to go and have a meal with them, which was a nice way to start the day.
The Fan Fest gave us the opportunity to see more acts and catch up with old friends from the past. Meeting up with Eddie Stubbs and then being invited to his radio program on the following Monday evening was another highlight.
It was sad that our 12 days in Nashville was soon over and we were heading back to England. If I could I would love to move to live in America, then bluegrass music would be an everyday extravaganza, rather than a once-in-a-while thing. Or maybe more bluegrass acts from the States should come over and tour England more often‚Ä¶‚Ä¶‚Ä¶‚Ä¶‚Ä¶‚Ä¶‚Ä¶‚Ä¶‚Ä¶
Thank you to everyone I met during my stay in Nashville for making me feel so welcome.