IBMA Travelogue #4

Our own intrepid correspondent, Richard Thompson [bluegrassmercury], spent a week in Nashville, having traveled from the UK to attend the IBMA convention. It was his first trip to IBMA in 20 years, and we thought that his impressions and considerations would be of interest both to others who are likewise in attendance, and our many readers who would love to have been there.

bluegrassmercury – Travelogue #4
by Richard F Thompson

Nashville, Tenn Saturday, September 27

Flatt & Scruggs exhibit at The Country Music Hall of fameFrom no matter where you have traveled, there are some essential activities that must be included in the itinerary of a visitor to Music City or Nash Vegas, as some call the home of country music.

These include the Ryman Auditorium, on whose stage bluegrass music is proudly proclaimed as being born, and the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum, where bluegrass music is notably a part of the spectrum in both sections of the apparently futuristic building. I say apparently, as the architecture bears representations of a rural past and country music and its history. The interior of the lifts is timber-lined, made to look like a barn, the front window placement mirrors the configuration of piano keys, the point n the building’s sweeping arc suggests a tailfin of a Cadillac sedan and the discs on top of the rotunda, which itself looks like a grain silo, represent the 78rpm record, the long-play record, the 45rpm single and the compact disc. Soaring above is a miniaturised replica of the diamond shaped WSM radio tower.

The premises, completed in 2001, are located on Fifth Avenue South and very short distance from the junction with Broadway.

Artifacts from the Holy Trinity of bluegrass music and others are present for all to see and admire.

The Country Music Hall of Fame

Some of the displays are of a temporary nature, such as two that were on view when we visited: Family Tradition, The Williams Family Legacy and Kitty Wells: Queen Of Country Music.

Of course, the CMHoF has Bill Monroe’s Lloyd Loar F5 mandolin and Maybelle Carter’s Gibson guitar, each the subject, currently, of dispute owing to the means by which these two famous instruments were purchased prior to being presented to the Country Music Foundation.

In the well-lit Hall of Fame, located on the upper level of the rotunda, are plaques for Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Owen Bradley (producer of some of Monroe’s recordings) and Art Satherley, the only English man to be so honored and also a producer of Monroe recordings. Others with markers commemorating their considerable work in country music are the original Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Uncle Dave Macon, Hank Williams, the Delmore Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, songwriter Tom T Hall and Ernest “Pop” Stoneman, the last two named being among this year’s inductees.

One very unexpected aspect of our visit was a meeting with Robert Macon, grandson of the great entertainer. He freely shared a few of the wonderful stories associated with Uncle Dave.

The Ryman Auditorium, on Fifth Avenue North, doubles as a museum and a fully functional concert hall. Because of the later use there is limited scope for displays. However there are some on the lower level of the auditorium. One of these is dedicated to bluegrass music, with pictures, a time line, 78rpm records, Bill Monroe’s Grammy Award plaque, a few IBMA Awards, including that which Ronnie McCoury presented to Bill Monroe after the former won the award one particular year (1993, I guess).

There’s a display commemorating Thomas Ryman, who donated so generously to the building of the tabernacle, to note its original use, and a few floor level cabinets with apparel from a variety of country music performers, including Bill Monroe.

In both buildings there is a gallery of Hatch Show Prints, produced by an organization that has held a long association with country and bluegrass music.

There are other sights in the down town area of the city, but more of those another time.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.