You guys. You know how some people (monsters) don’t like puppies? Well… here goes… I’m not the hugest fan of country music. There, I said it.
I don’t know why. It could be my general preference to poetic and abstract lyrics over flat out narrative story-telling through song.
Or it could be because my high school boyfriend was a farmer and country music reminds me of when we used to go to B&S Balls together. The locals thought it would be funny to squirt food dye in my (peroxided) hair with water pistols because I was a city girl. Which ironically could be the name of my country music hit.
Regardless, I was still keen to see Nashville. It came highly recommended.
Given our slight change of itinerary in Memphis (see Joe Biden: Itinerary Wrecker to catch up), we hustled into Nashville and bolted to the pick up point of our first stop: a Nash Trash tour with ‘The Jugg Sisters’, Sheri Lynn and Brenda Kay.
I’d booked the tour because 1500 people on Trip Advisor said it was excellent and also I was keen to start our stay in Nashville by getting to know the city in a re-purposed school bus that’d been painted hot pink.
And it did give us a pretty good insight to Nashville for the most part. Especially if we had a particular interest in any and all locations that might have a vague association with Burt Reynolds. The sisters were big fans.
The ladies were also particularly excited when they found out we were from Australia. They told us that they’d had Karl Stefanovic on their tour once, in his Today hosting capacity, and then they proceeded to list all the Australian landmarks at which they’d like to bang him.
Then we went from the hot pink bus to the Man in Black – the Johnny Cash Museum. It should’ve been quite the departure but towards the end of the tour I learned that the man himself had lent his likeness to a bunch of ATMs – Johnny Cash Machines – so it’s not like he had no sense of humour.
It was a fabulous museum following his humble beginnings to his eventual death and included all the stops along the way. I was impressed to find this included his turn as the voice of the hallucinatory dog in chilli episode of The Simpsons.
I loved Nashville. It looks like a big city, but the way they tell their stories very much feels like a small country town (plus no one put food dye in my hair).
All the major sights are linked and reference one another. For example, the Ryman Auditorium was the ‘Mother Church of Country Music’. It hosted both the Johnny Cash Show and the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry then left to perform in their own facility and took a circle of the Ryman stage with them when they moved. The Grand Ole Opry’s cast included superstars like Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton. Both of whom are honoured at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The intersection between all the major sites and their tributes to one another are really quite charming, and seeing them all leaves you with a really good understanding of the city’s history.
We actually toured the Grand Ole Opry and it was an interesting one. For the uninitiated, the Opry began as a live radio show of musical entertainment and was then broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium across the US. When it got too big it eventually moved to its own theatre and continues to broadcast three nights a week to this day. It is the longest running radio broadcast in America.
It also has a very official capacity as a ‘club’. There have been 200+ members inducted (all country musicians and entertainers) and some 60 them are still active participants of the Opry shows today. If you are a member, you get to come to any show you like and even pop onto the stage for an impromptu performance if the mood strikes you. New members are invited sporadically and at random. You are invited in public and without warning by another member with whom you might have a connection – a mentor, a childhood hero, for example. Then you need to officially accept the invitation by participating in you first Opry performance.
It’s a bit like a cult, actually. Only a really useful one that puts on awesome shows for people three nights a week and instead of a church or commune they have an auditorium with cool themed dressing rooms.
But it’s not a cult. I don’t think. I’m pretty sure it’s not.
Although curiously, I think actually quite like country music now. Despite the food-dye/peroxide related hair trauma of my youth I find myself quite keen to open my mind a little bit. I’ve found myself trawling through Spotify and opening up playlists such as ‘Country Kind of Love’ and ‘Hot Country Favourites’. I don’t know what’s come over me.
(One of us, one of us…)