NASHVILLE: For the past couple of weeks I’ve been out traipsing over Indiana and Ohio, so I drove down to Tennessee for a break. Those two states, and most of the middle west are still dry. Farmers have started harvesting what little bit of corn and soybeans they’ve got. Recent rains from that storm named Isadore was just enough to settle the dust.
Farmers are optimistic. The big Ohio farm show drew almost 150,000. Judging by the parking lot, all but about a thousand must of come by pickup truck. I don’t know if John Deere and New Holland are selling many tractors, but Ford and Chevy sho’ are selling the trucks.
Half the country is suffering from drought. Even Arizona claims they are in a long dry spell, but how can they tell? Did the desert turn a darker shade of brown?
Arizona is where the sun shines all day. It’s a wonderful place to live, and it’ll be the perfect place if anyone can show ’em how to get along without water.
Nashville has the Cumberland River and the TVA, and if this town ever runs short of something, they’ve got country music to take their mind off their troubles. I went to the Grand Ole Opry (the Friday night version) and I’ve never seen a more appreciative crowd. These folks weren’t as loud and demonstrative as some of the younger audiences I’ve seen, but whether it was Porter Waggoner, Holly Dunn, Mike Snider, or the Osborn Brothers (no relation to that family on TV) or any of the other twenty or so singers and performing groups on the stage, they loved every minute of it.
Saturday I stopped downtown at the old Ryman Auditorium, home of the Opry for so many years starting in 1925. And just down the street they have built a new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. That place sure brings back memories. You can hear old recordings of people like the Carter Family, Roy Acuff, and the yodeler, Jimmy Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music”. Then there’s old video film clips of Red Foley and Tex Ritter, and some not-so-old ones of Hee Haw, and Dolly Parton as a young girl. (I started to say “little girl”, but I’m not sure she was ever “little”.)
Saturday night I went on down I-65 to Franklin, to see the Will Rogers Follies. (More on that in a minute)
I guess this town was named for Ben, and it’s almost as old as Philadelphia. This place earned it’s own spot in history during the War. They’ve got a monument right in the middle of Main Street honoring their Confederate soldiers.
They are proud of their heritage. The Chamber of Commerce says they have 15 blocks of historic buildings; you have to go two miles out of town to find anything built since 1900.
No, really, they got some new structures. They even built a 4-story parking garage to accommodate all the tourists. All the old buildings have shops, restaurants and offices, mostly for lawyers. It seemed to me they have an abundance of lawyers offices for a town this size. I mentioned it to one of the local fellows, and he agreed, “It’s probably more than we need. There’s six lawyers to every ambulance.”
Back to the Follies… I never tire of watching a great performance, and these local folks put on quite a show. Of course they had already done it 12 times before I got here, and this was the last one, so they put all they had into it.
I would like to see a couple of changes though… “Will” was played by Bobby Moore, a Nashville songwriter and singer, and he did a marvelous job. But just once I would like to see it done by someone who really don’t sing so good. No more Larry Gatlin or Mac Davis. Someone who sings more like Don Rickles.
Having seven sisters where only three existed in history is all right with me because a fellow can never have too many sisters. And keeping your father close by forever is a good idea.
But just once I would like to change the ending. It’s where Wiley Post enters and says, “Come on Will, it’s time to fly to Alaska.” And Betty says, “Will, why must you go to Alaska?” And then Will says, “Because I did.”
You know, I think a lot of folks would like to see Will skip the Alaska trip, and go on another twenty or thirty years.
Historic quote from Will Rogers:
(from an article where Will described the tour he made putting on several shows a day to raise money for drought sufferers)
“We flew out … for our night show… where we joined all the rest of our troop, The Revellers, and Jimmy Rodgers who was with us then, the Yodler De Luxe, and Chester Byers, the Roper.” WA #426, February 22, 1931