Friday, 22 June 2007

"Let me tell you a story 'bout a man named Jed" 162 Miles

I set off from Paducah with no particular plan in mind. Ahhh, the optimism of the Americans and their broad highways coursing through my increasingly clogged veins.

After the excitment of Fathers Day, they were yipping about the 20th June, which for us Brits is a moment of gloom being the longest day. Soon we will be plunged into darkness of winter. To the Americans the 20th is the first day of summer! This keeps them happy and is a useful peg for their advertising strategies (BBQ and pool sets) for a couple of weeks until July 4th - whatever that's all about!

After stopping at a roadside diner for catfish (damn, fried again), I thought I would head for Lexington.

The idea of this trip was to see the big country. The cities I can visit on a piecemeal basis another time. It has all been about the journey. However, the moment I saw a sign which read "Nashville 139 miles" I was toast.

I24 took me there in 2 hours and I took the downtown turnoff. Ten minutes later the valet parking guy "stole" my vehicle and it was out into town.

Not sure if I have been anywhere yet where the daytime temperature has been under 85- 92F, and a high humidity makes for a very sticky boy.

After getting my bearings, I picked up a free newspaper and had a look at the events listings. Who was on in town tonight? A rare performance by 83 year old banjo legend Earl Scruggs. I hot footed it down to the Ryman Auditorium and they had a few single tickets left. A little laundry, a shower and some chicken tenders later and I was being ushered to my seat.

The Ryman is a former church and so the seating is in the form of long curved pews with numbers screwed to them to denote places. The elderly usherette looked at my ticket and then at the pew said "No, this won't do at all - I am going to have to put you someplace else". The reason was enormously and bulbously clear - sitting in his seat.....and mine as well, was a bloke who at a conservative estimate must have weighed thirty stones! I was shown to a nearly empty row about 5 from the stage.

Earl Scruggs may be 83 and obviously frail but he can still cut it. With the help of an amazing band, which included two of his sons, and an audience who applauded every "plunk", it was a memorable evening. 61 years after he first appeared at the Ryman, he was headlining for the very first time. To hear everyone (myself included - I still remember the words), singing along to "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" brought a lump to the throat.

All over by 10.30, it was a short walk to Broadway and its bars. Every joint had a band playing....and a good one too. I went and sat in "The Second Fiddle" and watched a terrific group, which included a phenominal guitar player and a pedal steel player. They played for tips - no cover charge. What was interesting about the audience at the Ryman and the crowd in the bar, the age range was across the board - young to old. Country has no barriers.


Anonymous said...

RE:What was interesting about the audience at the Ryman and the crowd in the bar - the age range was across the board - young to old. Country has no barriers.

Erm, a bit like Radio Two...don't ya fink?!...sheesh ,sheesh,sheesh..

copter doctor said...

Ah, very good, you made Nashville. Ain't it a marvellous town? and, when we visited the Ryman, we were privileged to see the very last show by Waylon (though, of course, at the time we didn't know that was the way it would turn out) Whenever possible 'business' trips are always routed through TN. Thought of visiting Jack Daniels just down the road? If not next time.
Look forward to the next chapter - more whimsy, this end as well as yours.

Anonymous said...

I expected you would have to hit Nashville on your travels!

Sounds like you enjoyed the music, I think that I could remember the words to "man named Jed" as well!

Your blog is soooooo interesting!

Janet Cairns

Caroline said...

I hope you weld - I mean - I hope you're well. Earl Scruggs was on Letterman a while ago - he was great! I've never been to Nashville, now I may have to go. I'm glad everyone's being so nice to you, for the most part. (Didn't I tell you Americans were nice?? Another myth buster!) I'm glad you're being shown the same nice hospitality that you've shown to others.

Happy trails...

Anonymous said...

So pleased that you are enjoying Nashville, Alex. Stood on stage at the Ryman Auditorium myself a few years ago, amazing. The honkytonks are brilliant. Now get yourself to Memphis and Sun Studios!

Anonymous said...

Nice record of your trip Alex.
How about including a few more

I enjoy listening to your show
although, due to the time I get
up its usually only the last
half hour.

Good Luck with the rest of the trip.