Monday, April 18, 2016

Five More Things I Learned in Nashville

Nashville schooled me on the ins and outs of country music and more. Here are five more things I learned during my recent visit.

Livingston Taylor
1) Quiet environments with singer-songwriters are more my "thing" than a loud bar on Broadway. (I know this is a real shocker.) And so I loved our visit to the Bluebird Cafe, made universally known by the TV show "Nashville." The concert featured Livingston Taylor (James' brother), Pat Alger, Don Henry and Jon Vezner in the round.

Bluebird Cafe logo
There was definitely a mutual admiration society going on among these guys, with lots of songs written by Alger sung over the course of the evening.  (Alger might be best known for co-writing songs like "Unanswered Prayers" and "The Thunder Rolls" with Garth Brooks before Brooks was a household name.)  There were lots of sweet songs with lyrics about how "ever since the beginning, to keep the world spinning, it takes all kinds of kinds" and "love made a fool of me."  But I like a country music song that makes me laugh, and Alger's rendition of "BFD" by Don Henry and Craig Carothers did just that.  Here's one of the verses:

It ain't no B.F.D he's got his C.M.T
No S E X but that's okay
At least he ain't no S.O.B like that Ph.D
That took his EX and ran off to L.A.

Biscuit Love's bonuts
2) It's hard to find a healthy meal in Nashville. I have to admit, though, that I specifically sought out the most caloric dining experience we had during our visit -- breakfast at Biscuit Love.  What started as a food truck in 2012 has segued into a local hot spot complete with a 45 minute wait (in a light drizzle, I might add).  After a guy in a condo across the way came out with a sign proclaiming "the bonuts are worth the wait," it was a given that we would start off our meal with an order.  In case you're wondering, bonuts are essentially fried doughnut holes made from biscuits and topped with marscapone cheese and blueberry compote. Deadly and delicious. My next course was the East Nasty, which was Bon Appetit's 2015 sandwich of the year.  The sandwich begins with a biscuit and then a fried boneless chicken thigh and sausage gravy are layered on.  In my defense, I didn't have lunch that day.  

3)  The Grand Ol' Opry got its name in an unexpected way. Radio station 650 AM WSM was established in 1925 by an insurance company. ("WSM" stood for "We shield millions.")  A country music show followed an opera program.  The lead in of "You've been listening to that grand old opera" eventually led to the show being called the "Grand Ol' Opry." 

Jackie Lee on the Opry stage
The live radio show lives on today, and Andrea and I took in the Friday night performance.  Being an aging star is not a problem at the Opry, and the host of each half hour segment seemed older than the last.  (Host Bill Anderson, for instance, was inducted into the Opry in 1961. He was adorable.)  Each performer sang two songs and got his or her time in the "circle."  The Opry was originally broadcast from Ryman Auditorium (also known as the "Mother Church of Country Music").  In the 1970s, the concerts were moved to the Opry's current venue for better sound and air conditioning.  A circle of wood from the Ryman stage found a home on the Opry stage, leading to lots of "may the circle be unbroken" comments.

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner
4)  Dolly Parton has more going on than a pretty face and big hair. (Admit it -- that's not the "big" that you thought of.)  Parton made a name for herself on The Porter Wagoner show, which she co-hosted from 1967-1974.  Their break-up provided the inspiration for her song "I Will Always Love You" (made most famous by Whitney Houston).  Elvis wanted to record the song but would only do so if she gave him half of the rights.  She trusted her business sense and bravely said thanks, but no thanks to the offer.  The song went on to make her over $39 million in performance rights.

5)  While catching a ride with Uber is not unique to Nashville, our trip did introduce me to this way of getting around. My observation is that Uber drivers are much chattier than your typical NYC taxi driver (my point of reference). I think it's because they know your name and therefore feel like you're acquaintances. The driver who dropped us off at Biscuit Love told me that he wanted to "punch me in the face" for going there. I thought it was because he was jealous of our upcoming dining experience.  But no, it was because he thinks Biscuit Love is overhyped and that the biscuits at Burger King are just as good and much cheaper. Coincidentally, he was also our driver to the airport later that day, so I had the opportunity to tell him that we had enjoyed our feast.

As Andrea and I parted at the airport, our consensus was that "we didn't hate" Nashville.  I know, high praise indeed.  Even though it wasn't our favorite destination of all time, it was a wonderful get-away.  We're open to suggestions for next year's adventure. 

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