Well... not a Nashville virgin anymore. I got indoctrinated in a grand way!!
I rolled into Nashville on Wed afternoon, got settled in the hotel and found a map to that evenings open mic venue. It was only a few miles from the hotel out by the airport. I showed up nice and early to find a dark smokey, good old boy, bar. Cowboy boots and hats, tatoos, cheap beer, greasy food and plenty of "howdy's" and "y'all's", "darlin's" and "sweethearts" to go around. I felt immediately at home, if not slightly out of fashion in my unbuttoned buttondown shirt and flip flops. I talked to Warren about my time slot, he said I was early and I said that i wanted to hear what was going on. I got an earful of good ole southern music about booze and bibles, sex and broken hearts. As my time rolled around I did my best country immitation and sat back down. It was great when I was asked immediately to schedule another slot, which of course I had to decline because I just have no idea when I will be back. Billy, another performer, asked me what my time frame was like and that he thought he could scare up another gig or two for me while I was there. At first I told him that that would be great, but later I had to decline due to other crazy doings.
Went back to the hotel feeling good, if not like an ash tray. Stripped naked, hung my cloths up to air out and jumped in the shower.
Thursday I set out to find my way around the city proper. It was the typical, yet obligatory, touristy thing to do. I easliy found the Hotel Indigo where I would be playing that night, and then stumbled upon Broadway when I spied a big sign for Tootsies bar on the side of a building. (My good friend Mark Mirando wrote a song which includes the words, "Tootsies bar is the promised land") I parked and took a walk up and down the street and ducked into a few bars where, at 11:30 in the morning, there were already musicians singing their heart out and patrons putting down beer aplenty. I walked around a couple blocks... found the Ryman Auditorium, where "A Prairie Home Companion" has just performed the previous weekend with a killer line up of the Civil Wars, Sarah Watkins and, one of my all time favs, Emmylou Harris. I was listening to that show as I began my road trip.
I then got an invite to say hi to Gary Burr (I played in gary's band back when he was still an aspiring songwriter) and to meet the members of his new band, "Blue Sky Riders" which included none other than Kenny Loggins. I drove out to his house and did in fact get to see Gary, meet his girlfriend and band mate, Georgia Middleman, and as he sat on the couch with a greasy sandwich in one hand and a cell phone in another, I said hello to Kenny Loggins. I had to skedattle pretty quick as i was interrupting their precious rehearsal time for their debut show on Saturday night. Gary told me then that there would be a slight chance of getting me on the guestlist for that show because someone he thought was going was in fact not going. I cautiously dared to hope!
Back to the hotel to get myself ready to play my songwriter showcase with Keeli and RC O'Leary at the Hotel indigo. Again, I got there very early since i wanted to hear what other songwriters in Nashville were up to. The players at this venue were a bit more sophisticated than at the bar last night, and the drink prices were a bit more inflated as well. I listened to some pretty darned good players do some pretty good songs... And, as with all of these types of venues, there was a fair sampling of stuff that did nothing at all for me. As I was waiting there I was happy to see a good friend of a good friend, Kaz Russell, come in with Jennifer Knapp. I had hoped to be able to see them since we had heard so much about each other but had only met briefly once before. Turned out to be a lovely visit with lots of fun and kookiness and serious talk about the industy, what Jen is doing with her career, and life in general. They stuck around to hear me play my set and a bit more. I hope I get to hang with them again some time... and I hope Jenn's career get's the kick it needs to put her back in the mainstream.... she is exceptional!!
So Friday, i had nothing scheduled but a few possibilites. I hoped Gary would call and invite me his full band rehearsal.... he did! So I spent the afternoon in a rehearsal studio listening to the Blue Sky Riders prepare for their show. There was Kenny loggins, 20 feet away, singing Footloose, as well as the other tremendous songs that they had written together for this band. It was quite a thrill just sitting and listening. Victoria Shaw was there for an hour or so, and Jim Photoglo spent a couple hours. I also got to meet Dave Burr who I hadn't seen since he was a toddler. He is a daddy now and he does a great job running the business of Gary's music. During a break they were discussing the guest list and how small the venue was and how impossible it was to please everybody ... I got the clear message that i was not going to be on the guest list, and I also knew that the liklihood of me getting in by way of the cash ticket line was very slim, since this was the hottest show in Nashville for the Tin Pan South week where all the people who paid for a festival badge had first shot at entrance. Well, at least I got to be at the rehearsal... and let me just say that I was exhausted just being there listening... I had forgotten how draining band work was... I guess I was working with them in my mind!! ; )
I left the rehearsal and connected with "Ixnay", a roadie for "the Dogs" and " Serious Business" from all those years ago. He lives in Kentucky now so he and his wife made the trip to Nashville to meet up with me after all these years. We had a great dinner together and then wandered around Broadway again to take in the night life of downtown Nashville. There are an amazing number of incredible players and singers behind every nightclub door. What a show!!
On saturday I got off to a quiet start. I felt like I had to write a song while I was on my first trip to Nashville, so I did get something going. We'll see if it turns into anything recordable. I also had a directive from my darling daughter to buy a new propane cylander before I reunited with them on Sunday. She explained what I needed and sent me to Walmart to get it. Well, I drove past that hidden Wal Mart about 3 times before I finally discovered it... and they did not have what she wanted... neither did a K-Mart I stumbled upon, nor did a Target. Finally, on my way out to my Sat evening gig I saw yet another Wal Mart and I was successful!! Ii played my gig at a comfy and quirky little restaurant on the North side, just outside of town... drove passed Opreyland on my way there.... I had no idea what a massive place that it!! Jimmy (Ixnay) and his wife, Vincelea, came out to see me and I had a fine little 5 song set to open the nights festivities.
With my last gig behind me, Jimmy and I decided that we were going to try and get into Gary's show and pray for a miracle. We dropped Vincelea off at the hotel so she could watch the UK / UCONN semi final game and we headed out to the Rutledge. When we got in the cash line an hour and a half before they opened the doors, there were maybe 20 people in front of us and 50 people in the badge holder line. We had a good time with others in the line joking about a variety of things and just enjoying the long wait on a beautiful southern spring evening. We kept checking the line as it grew until the end went right out of sight, deflating our hopes to get in... but we persevered!!! I did see a shooting star fall right over the city and thought that might be a fairly good sign... Whatever the case... we got in!!! It was touch and go, but in we went and found a place to stand up behind the sound board. I can't imagine many got in behind us because it was wall to wall people.
Just a great show!! It was being video'd for later release and I had a good view of the monitors as well as the stage. Their opener... "Rider" began with great 3 part harmonies and the band came crashing in on a drum cue.... and the stage was set for an exciting night of wonderful music.... from the brand new Rider, Dream and others they had written just for the band.... on to original songs by Gary, Georgia and Kenny done singer songwriter style... to some killer renditions of oldies... "Love's been a little bit hard on me".. "I'm In" .... and a version of "Footloose" to take down the walls.... It was the perfect cap to an exceptional week!!
After the show they had their meet and greet and I caught Gary's eye... he seemed pleased for me that I managed to get in. We got to say hi a little later and I had to re-introduce him to Ixnay. I also go to meet and shake hands with Peter Asher... he was the Peter in "Peter and Gordon" not to mention the amazing work he has done in the music business since then. (Think, James Taylor, George Harrison, Bonnie Rait, Linda Rondstadt, Cher... the list is endless)
Said good bye to Gary, Georgia, Ixnay and got ready for my Sunday morning ride out of town. After a 6 hour ride in the general dierctioin of home I met up with Christy and Adam in Wise Virginia for the night in a Best Western. We had some Italian food, Appalachia style, for dinner. Poor Christy had yet another flat tire in the morning which they found and patched only to pinch a new bigger hole in the tube when they were putting it all back together.. : ( But they were on the road again by about 11:00 and I was on the road home shortly after. Pulled into my driveway at 12:15 AM... about 1/2 hour ahead of the google maps time. Home Sweet Home!
I am already planning my next trip to put into action what I learned this time.