Returning to Nashville after 11 years was always going to be a shock as both Richard and Glenn, Nashville residents, said Mark and I wouldn’t recognise it. They were right to an extent but it’s still ‘Nashville’ but with heavier traffic and a vastly altered skyline. Our hotel is a new building called the Hutton Hotel situated on West End Avenue, close to our old haunt, the Leows Vanderbilt hotel. We must have stayed there for months on end over the years, when we used to come over to record Mark’s albums and before that when Mark first met Chet Atkins. Chet, of course played the major role in creating the ‘Nashville sound’ that ultimately led to Nashville becoming ‘Music City’ and the centre of the Country music scene in America.
Yesterday’s day off fell at a good time and the weather in the South is hot as High pressure dominates either side of Hurricane Dorian currently devastating the Bahamas. The Weather Channel is permanently on, revealing the sadness of a decimated island that has sustained 2 days of 185+ mph winds. Stark contrast to the heat in Nashville as a few of us headed for a visit to the wonderful Country Music Hall of Fame. We bumped into Mark’s ex publisher and great friend David Conrad outside the hotel who offered us a lift and entry into the Hall of Fame. David has been on the board for 31 years and is a respected name in town. The afternoon was spent in calm awe, looking at the fabulous exhibit displaying some of the rarest and most well known instruments and artefacts in the history of country music. Bill Monroe’s famous mandolin for example which he played his for whole career, even when an ex girlfriend broke into his house once and turned it into matchwood. Bill took it to a local repair man who spent 3 months rebuilding it. Bill went on to play it until the year he died in 1996.
My wife Laurie is with me now and it is her first visit here in 29 years. she has many old friends in town and we all hooked up in the evening for a fabulous dinner in one of the few restaurants open on Labor day night, whilst some of the guys went to 3rd and Lindslay to see Paul Franklin and Vince Gill in the Time Jumpers, THE hot Monday night ticket.
After waking on show day, it was time to see if either of the two Pelotons were functional in the gym. One was. Then it was breakfast in the hotel restaurant with the only recognisable thing on the menu being called a ‘Truck stop’. 2 eggs with Bacon, Hash Browns and a side of toast. It’s a strange hotel that is trying to be ‘boutique’ and failing slightly. As always though here in Nashville, the staff are great even if their tools fail them.we were off to the venue at 4:15 for a sound check on the hallowed stage once again. A union curfew meant the crew were behind but as always, we caught up and the stage was set. We’ve played quite a few shows here but for about half of the band, this was a new experience. Something about playing on this stage elevates the performer, well that’s the way I see it and Mark was clearly buoyed by this, plus the fact that the love and support coming from the audience which included a whole host of friends was palpable. Paul Franklin, Vince Gill, Emmylou, Jason Isbel, Tim O’Brien, Chuck Ainlay, David Conrad, Paul Kennerley to name but few.
Never have we played here and not felt this extraordinary feeling. After show, we hung at the venue and chatted with friends for as long as we could, or until they had to get home. Then a few of us headed to the only bar still open near our hotel, ironically, the Vanderbilt. One more drink and a toast and we were done in Music City once again.