Tag Archive | Nashville

Dolly Parton

I Will Always Love You

January 19, 2021

Hers is a household name. Superficially, she is known for her over the top persona as a country music performer and icon. There is, however, a reason for her successful career which has now spanned 60 years. Long before Madonna or Lady Gaga invented their outrageous selves, we had Dolly Parton, a true original.

Today, January 19, 2021, marks the singer/songwriter’s 75th birthday.

It’s been a remarkable career. Especially for a woman born in a one room cabin in east Tennessee. The family was beyond broke but it was, perhaps, that beginning which helped to galvanize Parton’s will. We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for the background:

“Parton has described her family as being ‘dirt poor.’ Parton’s father paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of cornmeal. She outlined her family’s poverty in her early songs ‘Coat of Many Colors’ and ‘In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)’. For approximately 6 to 7 years, Parton and her family lived in a rustic, one-bedroom cabin on a small subsistence farm on Locust Ridge. This was a predominately Pentecostal area located north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains. Music played an important role in her early life. She was brought up in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), in a congregation her grandfather, Jake Robert Owens, pastored. Her earliest public performances were in the church, beginning at age six. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar. When she was eight, her uncle bought her first real guitar.

Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area.] By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At 13, she was recording (the single ‘Puppy Love’) on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her own instincts regarding her career.”

Unless you were a fan of country music you likely had never heard of Parton until the 1970’s or 1980’s. It was in these two decades that her career crossed over into the Top 40 charts; she was also cast in several movies and featured on variety music shows with such stars as Cher and Carol Burnett.

Parton has won two Academy Awards, seven Grammys, 11 Country Music Association awards, and five Golden Globes. In her career, she has sold over 100 million records.

In my mind, however, it is her songwriting which will be her most enduring legacy. I would argue that she’s been, perhaps, the most prolific and successful songwriter of the 20th century.

During an interview on Larry King Live in March 2009, she answered his question about how many songs she’d written this way:

“Well, you know, I don’t count them, Larry. But I’ve been writing since I was a little bitty girl. I was probably 7 years old when I started playing the guitar and writing some serious songs. So, I know that I have at least 3,000 songs that I have written. I’ve got songs in boxes, drawers, stuff I carried from home when I left, that I still haven’t gotten through. And I write something almost every day, least an idea down. But that’s not to say they’re all good, but that’s what I do and it’s what I love to do.”

Image from quotefancy.com

I understand how powerful the impetus to write is for a person. One’s brain is constantly tumbling new ideas and thinking ‘what if.’

Songwriting, however, is a completely different world and one which inspires awe, at least for me. For some songwriters, they hear the music and can create that alone. For others, they work with composers to make a marriage of their poetic words with someone else’s music. And then there are those, like Dolly Parton, who do both things. It’s a rare talent.

Over 3,000 songs – that was in 2009 – and she is still writing them. Amazing.

When the hubby, my son and daughter, and I visited Nashville in 2013, we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame (CMHF); A truly fascinating place which pays tribute to the biggest stars of the genre.

My favorite section in the building turned out to be an interactive display which featured five Country Music songwriters including, of course, Dolly Parton. The rest of the visitors, as well as my own family, melted into the background as I really began to understand and appreciate Parton’s amazing contribution to the American experience.

It was there – still reading about Parton – that the family found me quite some time later and pretty much had to force me to leave to go get lunch.

The fact that I never got through the entire display just gives me an excuse to return to Nashville so I can read the rest of what I missed. Next time I’ll head straight to that section of the CMHF. And, as long as I’m in Tennessee, I think continuing east for a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains and Dollywood might also be in order. Sounds like a great roadtrip!

The exhaustive article from the Infallible Wikipedia is found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_Parton

A list of songs she’s written which have been published: https://www.azlyrics.com/d/dollyparton.html

Grand Ole Opry

Will The Circle Be Unbroken?

November 28, 2017

It was called the Golden Age of Radio and one of the best known programs was first produced on November 28, 1925. In fact, that program is still heard every week as a live stream on the internet and is the longest running radio broadcast in US history.303

WSM  radio called the program a ‘barn dance.’ The name we all know it by: The Grand Ole Opry.

From the infallible Wikipedia:

“The phrase ‘Grand Ole Opry’ was first uttered on the air on December 10, 1927.  At the time, Barn Dance followed the NBC Red Network’s Music Appreciation Hour, a program of classical music and selections from grand opera presented by classical conductor Walter Damrosch. On that particular night, Damrosch had remarked that ‘there is no place in the classics for realism.’ In response, Opry presenter George Hay said:

‘Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the earthy.’

Hay then introduced DeFord Bailey, the man he had dubbed the ‘Harmonica Wizard’, saying:

‘For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on, we will present the Grand Ole Opry.’

Bailey then stepped up to the mic to play ‘The Pan-American Blues,’ his song inspired by the Pan-American, a premier L&N Railroad passenger train.”

When people wanted to watch the broadcasts, the producers obliged but the show quickly outgrew its original locale. It moved a half dozen times – to larger and larger facilities – before finding a home in the 3,000 seat Ryman Auditorium in 1943. Then, in 1956, a new medium entered the equation and once a month, for the next few years, the Opry was broadcast on television.

In the 1960’s it was determined that the Ryman – old and falling into disrepair – was no longer adequate. Additionally, Nashville’s central core suffered from urban decay and the show’s owners made the decision to build a new facility on farmland east of town. The 4,000 seat facility opened in June 1974 and, despite catastrophic flooding of the Cumberland River in May 2010, continues as the home of the Grand Ole Opry.

322One interesting thing is that a circle was cut from the floor of the Ryman Theater and installed in the center of the new Opry stage. When our family visited Nashville in March 2013 we toured the facility and stood in the famous ‘circle.’ Later that evening we attended a show which featured Craig Morgan as that night’s main act. I was surprised, however, by the number of long time Opry acts which were still being performed including a ‘Minnie Pearl’ impersonator and also Little Jimmy Dickens who, until he died in 2015, was the oldest Opry member.

316If you go to Nashville, a visit to the Grand Ole Opry is a must and very worthwhile.

For more about the Opry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Ole_Opry

There’s a song which is sung following the induction of new members into the Opry ranks. It’s titled “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” Take a listen:

Taylor Swift

November 14, 2017

Teardrops On My Guitar

One could say that she is the most successful female recording artist of all times. As such, it was on November 14, 2009 when six songs from her album, Fearless, were all in the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 40.

TS FearlessThat artist: Taylor Swift.

She has inspired a generation of young women, capturing the angst and emotion of the teenage years through her catchy country tunes, and has since grown up to become a bona-fide pop diva.

Amazing to think, that at the ripe old age of 20, the Fearless album spawned 12 songs which reached the top 40, the most ever for any album.

During her career, she has (thus far) had 52 singles chart on the Billboard Hot 100, the most of any female performer ever. According to the infallible Wikipedia, she comes in fifth place as follows:

Most top 40 singles

  • 114 – Elvis Presley(Pre–Hot 100 charts included)
  • 69 – Lil Wayne
  • 57 – Elton John
  • 56 – Drake
  • 52 – Taylor Swift
  • 51 – GleeCast
  • 50 – The Beatles
  • 49 – Madonna
  • 47 – Rihanna
  • 46 – Stevie Wonder
  • 45 – Jay Z

No doubt that number will increase this week as her latest album, Reputation, was released on November 10th and sold over 717,000 copies on the first day alone.  It is expected that by the end of the first week it will have been purchased over one million times.

A search through the first linked Wikipedia article shows an impressive career. By holding down the CTRL plus “F” key (to do a search) and then typing in Taylor Swift produces 22 references to her accomplishments. One other notable ‘first’ in the article is that she possesses the all-time record for most top ten debuts on the Hot 100, with 14.

My daughter has been a huge fan of the artist since about age 12 and, as an advisor for the Rainbow Girls during those years, my car was often filled with Taylor Swift’s music with the girls – and their chaperone – singing along.

Taylor Swift mania reached its peak in our household, though, in 2013 when it was announced the artist would be coming to the Tacoma Dome at the end of August. My daughter sprang into action and put out the all points bulletin to her network of friends and found others who wanted to attend the concert with her. I bought the 6 tickets (all that were allowed any one purchaser) and then Michelle collected the funds from her friends. At some point prior to the concert, Michelle was entered into a ‘drawing’ for the opportunity to purchase two additional tickets. But these were not just ANY tickets. These were tickets to the Pit, that coveted area just in front of the stage. And she was chosen so now two additional lucky girls were added to the mix.

The day of the concert, we held a going away party for Michelle, as she was literally leaving to move to Nashville the next day. I drove some of the girls to the Tacoma Dome and the rest rode with her. No doubt that concert was a highlight for all of them.

These two photos of Taylor were snapped by Michelle  with her phone from the “pit.”Taylor Swift Red Tour 2Taylor Swift Red Tour

 

Then, on September 1 as we made our way east on Interstate 90 the most amazing thing occurred. We came up behind and subsequently passed truck after truck which  all bore huge photos of Taylor Swift and were carrying the staging, lights, sound, and other equipment. It became a game of sorts, to see how many Taylor Swift trucks were on the road. We saw the biggest number in Post Falls, Idaho, late in the afternoon as a six pack of them were parked in a trucker’s parking lot just to the north of the freeway.

Michelles Move to Nashville 062We spent the night near Coeur d’Alene and the next day stopped at a rest area just east of the Continental Divide on I-90. There in the parking lot was an unmarked tour bus, its darkened windows a detriment to prying eyes. Was Taylor Swift on that bus? I like to think so. It is highly possible as the next stop on her tour was just five days away, September 6th, in Fargo, ND.

The tour bus was the last thing we saw that might possibly be related to Taylor Swift before we dropped south to go to Lewis and Clark caverns and Yellowstone National Park. From there Michelle and I traveled on through Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky and, finally, Tennessee.

It was a magical week and a memory worth keeping. And in the two years Michelle was in Nashville not once did she ever see Taylor Swift.

And my favorite Taylor Swift song… has to be Teardrops on My Guitar.

As always, a couple links for your further education:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billboard_Hot_100_chart_achievements_and_milestones

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Swift