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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Only Two Weeks Left and Then It's Home to Vermont--Still So Much to See!

January 4, 2014 3:14pm Kitchen Counter at Home in Post Mills, Vermont As I looked over my pictures in preparation for this installment, I checked out websites to include for your further information and came across this one:http://www.tootsies.net/main_subpage.php?pg=tootsieslive. So as I write I am listening live to a band playing at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway in Nashville. With the cold weather and snow on the ground I'm wishing I were sitting in Tootsie's with a bottle of beer in front of me, listening to this young guy with a voice so similar to a young Johnny Cash that I could believe in reincarnation. But while listening I have to remember our last minute activities in our final days of life in Nashville. Since we hadn't yet ventured into the city center at all and time was running out we decided to head to the Country Music Hall of Fame on November 1. We'd toyed with taking a cab down and back but the price was prohibitive. We then checked out the bus situation and, being a city girl and used to public transportation, I was all for taking the car to a Wal-Mart lot on Nolensville and grab the #2 bus right to the museum. The fare, one way, for me would have been $.85 and once downtown there are two free shuttles that will take you all around the city center. Bill didn't feel as comfortable doing that so out came Greta and off we went. Nolensville Rd turns into 2nd Avenue and there is the museum at the corner with Demonbruen Street. We parked in an open parking lot for $25 for six hours. A little steep, we thought, but found that we spent over 5 hours in the place. Although there aren't MANY what I'd call skyscrapers in the skyline there are a couple that stand out. The Pinnacle Building is one of the newest and is the most expensive office rental property in town. The AT&T Building is affectionately, or maybe not so affectionately, known as the Bat or Batman Building. It appears to be a universal human trait to name architectural oddities with equally odd names--in Paris, my hosts referred to the Eiffel Tower as the Awful Tower and the Bourbeau---which I can't seem to find listed anywhere--as the Boo-Boo. Also dwarfing the Museum a bit are new modern motels and across the street the back side of Bridgestone Arena, the home of the NHL Predators, the tickets for which are astronomical despite the fact they aren't terribly great. The front of the Arena is on Broadway, with its strip of Honky-Tonks and Breweries and Restaurants. Most of the Nashville attractions are well within walking distance of each other, including the Schemerhorn Opera House diagonally across from the Museum. As we entered the CHF there was a guide to direct us to the ticket office located to the left across the sunlit plaza bordered along its right side by a sweeping staircase leading to the next level. After purchasing our tickets we immediately entered the Ford Theatre where a delightful puppet show, put on by the theatre school from Vanderbilt, in which various country stars were represented by a broad spectrum of puppet types singing some of their big hits. Patsy Cline was on-stage as a full sized puppet being manipulated by a stage hand dressed in black directly behind her, like a shadow. Others were represented by traditional stringed marionettes and others still Jim Henson type figures. All of them totally transported the audience into belief in dolls as living beings. Schools were on vacation and so there were several grade school groups present. Those kids cheered and sang along in true concert goer fashion and boy, let me say, they had no problem with keeping the beat, no matter the selection. They were as much fun as the show. By the time we took the elevator to the third level where the exhibits began we'd spent at least 45 minutes in the building. At the head of the third floor balcony was a small exhibit hall dedicated to a temporary Reba exhibit. She isn't a favorite of mine, as a singer. I also don't like Vince Gill. The Oklahoma nasal sound is not appealing to me at all, though I do like Reba as a comedic actress. Fun to see how her dentition changed as she became more affluent--no snaggle teeth or spaces now! I'd seen a bit of her history in the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City where her father and she are feted as rodeo riders--she was a barrel racer. Coming out of the exhibit a long balcony stretched the length of the building in front of us. The walls are covered with posters from a Nashville anchor business--the Hatch Show Print letterpress shop--responsible for show posters and honky tonk posters. Some of them are real works of art. Also at the start of the balcony is the entrance to the new Taylor Swift Educational Center which Taylor had endowed with 4 million dollars just a few weeks earlier. She wanted a place for Nashville kids to go to learn dance, music etc and to practice. Something she said was not available to her when she was growing up in Nashville. She is a real cutie and beloved by her home town. She shops in the grocery store and is out and about like any other Nashvillian and no one bothers her. In front of the Poster Wall are glass cases tracing the development of country music from its roots of slave music, church music and folk music. Along the open side of the balcony were small movie screens on which were projected early movie and tv performances of country music. Some of them were so wonderful I watched the loop over and over--Roy Rogers, Webb Pierce, Marty Robbins and Carl Smith singing Why, Baby, Why with June Carter as the hostess of the show on which they appeared. June Carter, cute and pre-Johnnie but still as unable to sing as ever! These early showcases held items from the country singers of my youth, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry who sang Cowboy Joe that I thought was about my Dad, Eddie Arnold and Hank Williams who sang Elijah--the cigar store Indian that made me feel sorry for him. Wasn't until I was older that Williams made me cry singing "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". Tiny Brenda Lee with the huge voice and oh, Marty Robbins! At the end of the balcony were two silo looking towers. I went into one and it was a small circular room in which you could play Ferlin Husky's 45 " Gone ". Being alone I sang along, fairly loudly and tried to harmonize a bit. Fortunately, the room was sound proofed so the people milling around Webb Pierce's Silver Dollar Cadillac couldn't hear me or Ferlin. When I came out, Bill was looking at the car, so I told him I'd just sung with Ferlin. He and I then went into the other silo only to be followed by a big haired older woman, right out of the Dolly Parton mold. We were trying to make out who the writer of Ray Price's " Crazy Arms " was. Both of us were bent over and up against the glass trying to read the label. She followed us out to the car and said to me " Did I hear you say that you sang with Ferlin Husky?" I looked at her blankly for a minute and then it dawned on me--she'd overheard me tell Bill. I laughed and said, oh, no, I sang along with the record in the other sound studio. She looked at me strangely and walked away. I'm not sure she realized you could play the records in the rooms or that Ferlin was in the other one. Oh, well--my fame was short lived. In the meantime, the Caddy bothered me because I knew I'd seen another just like it somewhere else. We finally decided it was at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Sure enough when I researched it we found that the same guy who developed the costumes that the Bakersfield school made famous, also designed silver dollar caddies for several country stars and had one for himself as well. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/automobiles/04AUTO.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1& After gazing at Elvis' solid gold Cadillac and the piano that Priscilla had covered with gold leaf as an anniversary gift for him, we turned the corner to a video compilation of early TV shows that featured country music--Glen Campbell Show, Louisiana Hayride, Grand Old Opry and, of course, Hee Haw. Then there was an incredible collection of musical instruments--many of them belonging to some of the big names in old country. One of the saddest stories was about Bill Monroe's mandolin--it was made in 1928 and he found it in a pawn shop. ( Lots of these instruments were bought or won in bars or pawn shops or second hand shops--amazing!) In 1985 his home was broken into and the intruder smashed the mandolin with a poker. Monroe painstakingly reassembled it --but can you imagine? How heart-breaking. The third floor ended at a three story wall of gold records and a spiral staircase down to the second floor. Before descending however we sat at a console and played tons of 45's --some of which I sang with. We sat before the Lee Greenwood display case. At the foot of the stairs was another temporary exhibit--this one dedicated to the Bakersfield Sound. Except for Merle Haggard this isn't a sound that appeals to me. I must say this was one incestuous group of singers--talk about wife swapping or girlfriend swapping. Wow. Buck Owens and his harmonizing back-up singer, Don Howard had quite a run on Hee-Haw and after the show went off the air he had a popular bar in Bakersfield where Dwight Yoakum cut his teeth. From there the history continues with the rise of Southern Rock. Lots of cross over here--Glen Campbell, Kristofferson, Cash, Roger Miller, Sonny James--singers not limited to country fans. But also a real spate of popular female singers--Tammy, Tonya, Loretta etc. Soon the Western contingent moved in with the probably most popular country singer of all time, George Strait. The Oklahomans moved in, too. And the rest of the museum is dedicated to names that are household names and appear over and over on the concert stages of current country and the TV specials. Carrie Underwood, whom I cannot stand,but also Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Sheldon and Miranda, Faith and Tim etc. And then the exhibit hall ended at the entrance to the Hall of Fame, where just earlier in the week Kenny Rogers, Bobby Baer and Jack Clement had been inducted for 2013. The room is soooooo impressive as a Hall of Fame should be--plaques for every artist ever inducted. A true shrine with a lovely mural by Thomas Hart Benson representing the roots of country music at it head and the wings of plaques spreading to either side of it. A beautiful spear to its center continuing out the roof to represent the original radio tower that broadcast country music to the rest of the world. Will the Circle Be Unbroken by the Carter Family is the official theme of the center and its opening notes are depicted on a staff on the outside wall of the room. Here is honored the talent of musicians, singers, composers who have carried on the tradition of American country music in all its permutations. I used to say I didn't like Country Music but that isn't true--as in all music there are some performers and composers that I like and others I do not--yet, it is impossible not to acknowledge the gifts with which they all were blest. Befitting that awareness, this room is silent, but for the sound of rippling water, sun soaked and somehow solemn. All who enter become quiet as if in a Church. Amazing. With that, we came to the end of the day--walking down the widely spaced shallow stairs alongside a stepped stream and looking out the glass walls to the stacked spheres of the building that form the Hall of Fame. Architecturally, the round shape of the rotunda is representative of the silos and water towers of the agricultural roots of the country; the spheres representing the evolution of the music from 78's to 45's to LP's to CD's.Were we able to see the building from above --it is in the shape of a bass clef and the curb shaped entrance hall is representative of the porches on which so much of the early music evolved. All in all, a wonderful day--filled with music and history--chats with other visitors recalling memories of the artists or their songs. The stairs culminated at a very small gift shop where I purchased a post card of the Bakersfield Sound poster for my album. Across the hall there was another very small gift shop --I got a book mark in the shape of a guitar and a few other post cards. And then it was out onto Demonbreun once more--a quick glance back and then off to 2nd and Nolensville and Applebee's for wings, a visit with the gang and a brew and home, tired but very happy! Tomorrow another installment on our final adventures. Here is a link to the brochure for the museum should you be interested--until the next time KandB http://countrymusichalloffame.org/assets/Brochure/Visitors-Guide-4.pdf

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