About 12 years ago, Doug, Jacquelyn and I ventured out on a road trip to Nashville, Tennessee to visit the Grand Ole Opry. By the time we arrived at our hotel stop in Harrisburg, PA, I had a full blown case of the flu – temperature of 103, sore throat, body aches and so on. The next morning we got back in the car and headed home. That Saturday night, through a fog of fever and medication, I watched the TV as my favorite country artist, Vince Gill, made a surprise appearance on the Opry stage. Oh that cruel, cruel twist of fate! The only saving grace: I was so sick I didn’t have enough energy to be sad or angry. I just thought, “wow,” and shook my head.
Monday, after many years and an 8,000 mile drive (we took the long way), we finally made it to Nashville! The landscape here looks a lot like home – lots of green trees, rolling hills and roads cut through rocky earth. In fact, on the way to our hotel last night, Jacquelyn said, “Doesn’t this look just like we’re driving down route 189 to our house?” We all agreed.
We walked the club and shopping strip on Broadway, near the historic Ryman Auditorium both days. Live music drifted through the open doors of every club as we passed by. With every few steps, one sound and style of music swelled and faded and swelled into another and then another and then another. I was overwhelmed to think of all these people striving to get a break and make it big. I guess, instead of being positive, I am inclined to think of all the ones whose dreams will never materialize. I pray they find new dreams! Then we visited the area known as Music Row, where some will see their dreams come true.
Monday we ate some fried chicken and barbeque at the legendary Loveless Café and on Tuesday we shared lunch at the Noshville Deli with our neighbor’s daughter, Christen, who works for Vanderbilt University. Christen often comes home during the holidays, when she and we are very busy, so getting a chance to catch up with her was a real treat! She also suggested a number of places to visit. One of our favorites? Las Paletas – a little, gourmet popsicle store on 12th St. Yummy! (You might catch them on Food Network this weekend!)
We also had the chance to swim in the hotel’s salt water pool just before the rains rolled into town. When the lightning flashed we raced out of the pool and back to our rooms. The Tennessee thunderstorms were intense this week, but perfectly timed; no storms when we were sightseeing!
Tuesday night was the big night. Tickets to the Grand Ole Opry! Because the Grand Ole Opry house is undergoing repairs from flood damage, Opry shows are currently being held at the original Opry House – the Ryman Auditorium, which is half the size of the new venue. This meant that in order to accommodate our front row tickets, two rows of chairs were placed directly in front of the stage for us and about 15 other people. We were so close that I could straighten my leg out in front of me and set my foot flat on the stage wall. At first we all thought this was a bit too close for comfort, but as you will see, it all worked out in the end.
The star studded, live radio broadcast, family show began with the ever entertaining, bling wearing, cowboy band, Riders in the The Sky – they even performed their song, Woody’s Round-Up from Toy Story 2! (I have included, in parentheses, the name of a song played by each band which may help you identify them and/or their kind of music.) Legendary artists included cajun country musician Jimmy Newman (Jambalaya) and singer/comedian Jeannie Seely (Ode to Bille Joe/Chocktaw Ridge). Chris Young (The Man I Wanna Be) and Mark Chestnutt (Bubba Shot the Juke Box) also took the stage before we were treated to rockin’ double headliners Montgomery Gentry (Roll with Me) and The Charlie Daniels Band (A Few More Rednecks).
Active military, just back from Iraq, were at the show Tuesday night. For that reason, Charlie Daniels, a frequent entertainer of troops overseas, rolled out a blues song he wrote and plays specifically for troops in Iraq. The song was a real crowd pleaser and the troops received a standing ovation.
As I mentioned before, we were seated, quite literally, under the noses of the performers. This resulted in singers and musicians interacting with us throughout the night – posing for pictures, smiling, winking and waving. For Christina, who was sitting center stage, this was all the encouragement she needed. She was wiggling and rockin’ and dancing as if she were there to entertain the entertainers. The grandmotherly ladies behind us got quite a kick out of it all.
Charlie Daniels closed the night with one of Doug’s favorite songs, the smokin’ Devil Went Down to Georgia. During this already exciting moment, Charlie leaned forward and tossed Christina his fiddle bow! I am not sure you can imagine the state of shock into which that put me. For a few, very brief moments, I was speechless. And even though before tonight, Christina probably didn’t know Charlie Daniels from Charles Dickens, she was very excited. I think she really understood the extraordinary nature of that moment. As for me, I am driving home with Charlie Daniels’ bow in my car. ‘Nuff said!