Monday, May 16, 2011

The grand ol opry

October 5th, 2010 took the bus to the Opry.  Would like to have taken a limo but maybe in my next life.  What a venue!  Any Country Music Artist would be excited to perform on that stage.  The centre piece of the huge stage is “The Circle”, a 6 foot round piece of dark oak wood cut from the stage at the old venue, The Ryman Auditorium.  A circle of wood that has had the footsteps and foot stompin boots of the the worlds cream of country artists upon it.  To become a member of this iconic venue would be a dream come true to so many.  Weekly concerts have been hosted and broadcast via 650 WSM AM since 1925. The night I was there was the 85th Birthday of just that.  Reaching over 30 states, the Opry for many years was the weekly entertainment for many folk that would design their events and gatherings around it.  The focus is Country Music and the commitment is keeping the History alive.  They do it so well.  To a first timer there is little evidence of the destruction that occurred May 2nd 2010 when Nashville was inundated with waters spilling from the meandering Cumberland River.

Although not every business, venue or resident has resumed life as it used to be prior to that date, there has been progress enabling homecoming celebrations at the Grand Ole Opry.  Just 5 months after the devastation the evenings of entertainment have returned to schedule at the Grand Ole Opry.  The adjoining resort and shopping complex are yet to be reopened but it will happen in the not so distant future.  More Shopping!!!

Grains of Bluegrass, Folk, Gospel, Comedy, Traditional Country, Contemporary Country and everything country in between can be enjoyed in the prestigious line – ups.  Age irrelevant the 2 hour shows deliver a host of talent.  Steve Martin, comedian, has even played some scorching banjo whilst standing on that “Circle” centre stage at the Grand Ole Opry.  The show I saw had artists I had never heard of but be sure that I will never forget them.  It was hot!!  Mandolin, fiddle, banjo, double bass, honky tonk piano, crisp vocals, superb harmonies the majestic tones of pedal steel and funny ditties.  Each and every artist masters of their craft.  Unbelievable right there so close you could almost shake their hand. Wow!

Relocation to the Opry Mills site was in 1974.  Prior to this time the War Memorial Hall and Ryman Auditorium, Downtown, were the venues for The Grand Ole Opry.  The inclusion of “The Circle” in the stage of the new venue was in honor of those that have gone before us.  A magical tribute to the likes of The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Tammy, Kitty, Patsy and countless others.  There is something magical and spiritual about the Opry and so many other places I have visited here in this huge country.  Nashville is the real Home and Heart of Country Music and there is nothing like it in Australia.  The Opry has all the normal tourist things such as gift shop, bar, popcorn and cotton candy with hundreds of thousands of visitors each and every year.  You can also host your own functions there with an outdoor stage bigger than any I have seen in Gympie.  It would be a great place to showcase our students!

The line up I enjoyed included The Whites, James Otto, Jack Greene, The fabulous Quebe Sisters Band, Jessie McReynolds and The Virginia Boys, Lee Brice, 92 year young Jimmy Dickens and the velvet voice of Mr Josh Turner.  It was fabulous.  Each of the artists are on YouTube so check them out, some you may love, others you may not but certainly worth a look.
The Whites: Dad and the Girls, Sharon and Cheryl with son-in-law Rick Skaggs.  These guys have been regulars at the Opry since 2007.  Traditional Country/Bluegrass/Gospel covering all bases.  Music delivered with fun and excitement.  “Keep on the Sunnyside” one of the songs off the soundtrack to “O Brother Where Art Thou” was their opening song.  They have enjoyed countless other achievements throughout their careers with several chart toppers in the 80?s.  “Down From The Mountain” a movie documenting the artists whose music contributed to the soundtrack of “O Brother Where Art Thou”.  Certainly something to look for.

James Otto: A young man with a passion for his country music, age 37.  James has enjoyed success with his hit song “Just Got Started Loving You” from the Album Sunset Man in 2008.  It was his first number 1.  With rich vocals and a commanding stage presence his 15 minute spot was a pleasure.  Once again all original material.

Jack Greene: Starting his 1st band in 1950 and at the early age of 20 years only, Jack has enjoyed a fulfilling career.  In glittering attire Jack at 82 entertained with his medley of songs from the past.  The most recognisable song one of the timeless hits, “There Goes My Everything”.  Jack’s performance was so polished it was appreciated with a standing ovation, the audience in true appreciation of a man that has given his life to Country Music.  Drummer, guitarist and vocalist he was first discovered by Ernest Tubb.  He became a member of the Opry in 1967.  In the same year he was awarded Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year with “Since My Baby Went Away”, and Album of the Year!  He continues to tour enjoying life and all it has to offer.  A shining star.  Gentlemen like him make it really special.  Time has change what we see but what he feels is still so obviously alive.  Moving!  Never think you are too old, while the heart beats a true love lasts.

The Quebe Sisters Band: Flavours of western swing, hot jazz, vintage country and texan fiddle these young ladies were sizzling on the strings.  The have toured nationally and internationally, having over there young years, won every major fiddle competition and championship in the country.  Polished and seemingly very humble accompanied by a guitarist and a fine double bassist.  They were together all the way.  Mum and Dad home schooled the girls and also taught them the fiddle. Reserved in their onstage appearance but wild when they cut lose on their fiddles.  Beaming smiles and magnificent harmonies these girls, Grace, Sophia and Hulda new how to lift the crowd to new heights.  I can’t forget to mention Josh McKenzie and Drew Phillips together a very entertaining team.  Such Talent.

Jessie McReynolds and The Virginia Boys: Mandolin extrordinaire! Fingers like ants running,  each knowing exactly where to go.  Jessie developed his own style of playing which is recognised as the cross picking style.  Originally performing with his brother, Jim.  They were inducted as members of the Opry in 1964.  After his brothers death in 2002 Jessie hit the road himself, picking up where they had left off.  Born in 1929 Jessie still continues to tour and record.  Younger family members now join him onstage offering perfect harmonies and electric fiddle playing.  His captivating style on the mandolin and his warm persona behind the microphone kept you on the edge in total enjoyment. This fine old gentleman and his line up are Bluegrass Heroes.

Lee Brice: Although Lee’s major influences have been Garth Brooks and Hank Jnr he has included flavors of Cold Play, 3 Door’s Down, Tom Petty and the likes which gives him a very unique tone.  Totally different to the previous artists in the line up Lee is 100% Country.  His look, his onstage manner and his warmth.  A very commanding presence.  Born in 1980 Lee has enjoyed success with 4 of his singles entering the Billboard Charts.  He co-writes with some of the industries best, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw.  There are a couple of good names for one’s resume.  He hopes to one day hear his music on rap stations as well as country airwaves, touching more people in a diverse society.  That may give you an indication of the difference in his style, it is great.

Jimmy Dickens: Little Jimmie, born in 1920 and standing tall at 150cm’s.  Jimmy has been a member of the Opry for the last 60 years and mighty proud of it.  Hank Williams Snr once penned him a song because he needed a hit to survive.  The song was “Hey Good Lookin”, a song that suits him to the bone.  An absolute corker of a personality.  At 92 he graces the stage in rhinestone adorned suits and big hats.  At heart a comedian and good at it.  The audience were in stitches with his antics for the duration of his spot.  He is the oldest living member of the Opry and has appeared in film clips with Brad Paisley.  A National Gem.

Josh Turner: Last but by no means least.  Josh Turner began to sing and seduced the audience with the rich tones of his baritone voice.  It may even be deeper than that.  Endless beauty, absolutely gorgeous. He has a smile that would soothe the saddest heart and the most engaging eyes that invited you instantly.  He was in charge and the audience followed his every request. Opening his set with “The Long Black Train”  he had the audience on their feet and clapping with every word.  Singer, Songwriter and Actor Josh has certainly carved his path in the industry.  A devout Christian, as many people are, he closed the evening with each and everyone of us wanting more.  Josh has won Grammies and many other noteable awards within the industry.  Four Studio Albums and 10 of his singles reaching the Charts, non of which have been number 1,  this young man will be around for a long time.  It just goes to show you don’t have to be number 1 to achieve great heights.

Well that was the Night at The Grand Ole Opry another wonderful experience in America.  So many moments and memories to gather and hold on to.  Let’s see if we can get a few more Aussies at the the iconic Grand Ole Opry.

Remember all of the artists can be seen on YouTube and I encourage you to take a look at the diversity of what American Artist’s have to offer.  Simply inspiring.

Don’t forget to check out the devastation of the floods on the Tube as well.
Stay tuned for more blogs and start saving. xo

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