It has been five months since the floods hit Nashville. All across Nashville plenty of evidence remains from the recent high waters. The neighborhoods that were hit the hardest still have homes that have been stripped-down, inside and out, some that will never be rebuilt. Hundreds of businesses in the Nashville area still remain closed due to the devastation of the flood. Just about everybody here in Nashville knows someone that was effected by the storm. But, Nashville has been resilient. It is a tremendous thing to see the way a national disaster brings the community closer together. A true sign that things are getting back to normal is the re-opening of the Grand Ole Opry house.
Though the surrounding mega mall, Opry Mills, remains mostly closed, The Grand Ole Opry house has reopened after having not been closed for so long since the flood of 1975. What to do when it’s time to rebuild? According to the folks at the Grand Ole Opry you make it bigger and better. Jim Ed came into the studio yesterday and I asked him how things were looking down at the Opry House. Of course, Jim Ed being a longtime member and host of the Opry was included in the re-opening event for the Opry House. Jim Ed raved about the repairs that were made, in particular the major renovation backstage. Sounds like the Opry folks spared no expense when rebuilding the backstage area. Good thing because the backstage needed to be able to handle the large crowd of stars that were invited to the event. The night included quite a lineup with artists such as, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Little Jimmy Dickens, Josh Turner, Trace Adkins, Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley, the Charlie Daniels Band, Blake Shelton, Del McCoury, Lorrie Morgan, Marty Stuart, Connie Smith, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs and Montgomery Gentry. In spite of everything Nashville has endured, the re-opening of the Opry was a reminder that most things can be brought back to the way they were.
It is a busy and fun time of the year in Nashville as the CMA Music Festival has officially arrived in town. Tourists from all over the world have begun combing the streets of Nashville in search of filling their hearts with as much Country Music as humanly possible.
Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to Jim Ed about his experiences playing the festival over the years. Jim Ed informed me that before what was once known as Fan Fair, the festival was actually created as a DJ convention here in Nashville. These DJ conventions became so popular that the Country Music fans started flocking to Nashville in hopes that they could meet their favorite stars and watch them perform. As the DJ conventions popularity continued to grow, it eventually made sense to create a separate event known for bringing the artists and the fans of Country Music together. In 1972 the Country Music Association created Fan Fair.
So many legends have played the CMA Festival since its inception in the early 1970s. I asked Jim Ed how many times he’s played the festival. He told me that he played the very first DJ convention, and has played the majority of Fan Fairs, and CMA Festivals ever since. I wonder how many artists have played the festival more times than Jim Ed Brown?
I am officially ready for the festival as I have just returned from previewing Marty Stuart’s new album, Ghost Train. What a fantastic record! Marty and his band, The Fabulous Superlatives, were joined by legends Ralph Mooney and Marty’s wife, Connie Smith to create the album. Ghost Train is packed with nostalgia for Nashville, enhanced by the fact that the record was actually cut in RCA Studio B! After hearing the album, I took the chance to step over and shake the hand of Ralph Mooney, one of Country Music’s all-time great pedal steel players. “Moon” invited me to come see the band perform tonight. Like I said, I am officially ready for CMA Festival to begin!
Among many other performances, tomorrow I’ll be hitting the streets to see the “Classic Country Showcase” on the plaza outside of Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Jim Ed will be joined by Lynn Anderson, Gene Watson, Jeannie Seely and Helen Cornelius. After all the years of Jim Ed playing the CMA Festival, I wonder if he still gets any pre-show jitters?