Chapter 373—Pt. 2
The Possum Turns 80
Onward. The festivities continued on Tuesday (9/13) with a downtown party to salute the 80th birthday of George Jones. We began at Rippy’s on Broadway in an upstairs dining room packed with reporters, photographers and videographers. The Possum patiently posed and did interviews, one by one.
“You never know when you’re going to pass away or what’s going to happen,” he said philosophically. When I asked him if he had a birthday message for his fans, he added, “I hope everybody lives to be 80 and more.”
Eddy Raven, Jason Michael Carroll, The McClymonts, Richard Young of The Kentucky Headhunters, Whitey Shafer, Ken Mellons, Billy Yates, Guy Penrod, Guy Gilchrist (who draws/authors the Nancy cartoon and writes country songs), Keith Bilbrey, Jimmy Carter, Randy Matthews of The Nashville Music Guide, Doak Turner, Rob Simbeck, Beth Gwinn and more well wishers crowded around the legend.
“You have been much on my mind this week,” I told attendee Travis Tritt. “And you, mine,” he replied. You see, we were together at his house in rural Georgia on 9/11/01. I was there with a CMT crew when the world stopped turning.
The vittles were – what else? – barbecue and fried chicken, plus raw veggies, tortilla chips and (huh?) chocolate cupcakes. Meanwhile, hundreds of fans jammed the main dining room, eager for a glimpse or a snapshot of George.
The birthday celebration continued at the Ryman during the Tuesday night Opry (9/13). It featured Alan Jackson, Joe Diffie, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Ann Womack and Jamey Johnson. But we had other fish to fry.
Leadership Music Alumni Reunion
Actually, there wasn’t a fish in sight at the Noah Liff Opera Center (9/13). Truth to tell, the schmoozing was so intense at the Leadership Music Annual Alumni Reunion there that I never got near the food table.
Everyone from Chuck Aly to Rolf Zwiep attended. Forgive me for this blur of bold type, but the massive crowd included such notable LM grads as Bill Lloyd, Bill Ivey, Billy Lynn, Peter McCann, Peter Collins, Tom Collins, Tom English, Dave Pomeroy, David Bennett, David Corlew, Ed Theis, Ed Salamon, Eddie DeGarmo, Charles Dorris, John Dorris, John Lomax III, John Beiter, Jonathan Yudkin, Jimmy Gilmer, Jim Photoglo, J. Fred Knobloch (in golf togs), Fred Vail and such other two-syllable stars as Ralph Peer, Ron Cox and Jay Frank.
The triple monikered Ree Guyer Buchanan, Melanie Smith Howard, Denise Stiff Sheehan, Hank Adam Locklin and Brenna Davenport-Leigh mingled with Tamara Saviano, Stacy Widelitz, Sheri Warnke, Deb Varallo, Garth Fundis, Kathleen O’Brien and Kira Florita (who was on her home turf since she’s now the opera’s development director). Bobby Rymer, Bo Thomas, Dale Bobo, Butch Baker, Sherrill Blackmon, Gene Kennedy and Caroline Davis worked the room, too. We congratulated the folks wearing red ribbons, since they represented this year’s LM class.
Meanwhile, Fabulous Superlative Kenny Vaughan was showcasing his new solo CD at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop (9/13). And The Dirt Drifters were celebrating theirs at 3rd & Lindsley (9/13). Are the plates still spinning?
On Wednesday afternoon (9/14) The Recording Academy held a reception at its office to kick-off its Grammy U program. Singer-songwriter Dave Barnes was the attraction there.
That evening (9/14) at the historic Hermitage Hotel downtown the inaugural NATD Honors banquet was staged. The gala’s genial host Colt Ford described himself as “the best lookin’ 300-pound country singer in the whole wide world.”
Rod Essig called honoree Mayor Karl Dean, “The Music Mayor,” citing such initiatives as Musicians Corner in Centennial Park, the Live on the Green concert series, the Music City Convention Center, the expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Music City Music Council, Nashville Rising, the National Folk Festival and the fact that Dean is the first mayor to go through Leadership Music. Coming up: a new Nashville amphitheater and the announcement at the Ryman on Friday of a major music-education program in the Nashville school system.
“The music industry is No. 1, because it is the one industry that brings to the city, every day, creative people,” said Dean, “and that is what makes great cities great.”
“One of the things we could do is play more Colt Ford on the radio,” suggested Ford.
The Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD) staged its first College of Knowledge program at Murray State in Kentucky this year. On hand were the school’s Sarah Clark and $2,500 NATD scholarship recipient Hannah Rodgers, now an intern on Music Row at The Bazel Group.
Steve Lassiter spoke of honoree Jim Gosnell’s commitment to Nashville. Thanks to his support, the APA office here has expanded from 6 to 17 staffers, from 10 to 40 clients and quadrupled its business. Danny Robinson recalled his 30-year history with Gosnell.
Comedian Lewis Black’s remarks are mostly unprintable. “I’m in this business 40 years and I have NEVER heard somebody call themselves a ‘talent director,’” he barked. “This fake organization! You’re all hired extras!” he added in his trademark, sputtering, on-the-verge-of-a-heart-attack delivery style.
“Now I have a glimpse of what my funeral is going to look like,” said Gosnell. “I accept this on behalf of everyone at APA.”
Pete Weber saluted Barry Trotz. The Nashville Predators honcho becomes the first in the NHL to coach the first 1,000 games in a team’s history. He also led the Preds to the second round of the playoffs last season.
“I’m very blessed that you would honor me to be part of your community,” Trotz said.
Mike Campbell told a funny Tony Conway story involving TNN, the Illinois State Fair, Ricky Van Shelton, a lucky belt and a wayward helicopter. Joe Guercio presented Conway with the Col. Tom Parker Award.
“This award is special to me because I knew Col. Parker, and we were buddies,” said Conway.
Greg Fowler said, “25 years with Alabama was, and still is, the greatest time of my life.” The group’s award was for, “four decades of musical success and timeless philanthropy.”
In accepting, Randy Owen told us that he is a cancer survivor. “We are going on the road for 15 or 20 shows next year, so come see us,” said Jeff Cook. “I’m not too good at looking back,” added Teddy Gentry. “We’re looking forward, so send us some songs.”
The capacity crowd included Kevin Neal, Neal Spielberg, Jeff & Terri Walker, Crystal Gayle & Bill Gatsimos, Moore & Moore, Bernard Porter, Preshus Tomes, Rod Harris, Robert Frye and Fletcher Foster, plus such NATD board members as president Steve Tolman and Bonnie Sugarman, Jeff DeBusk, Josh DeBusk, Ed Bazel, Randi Perkins, Mike Smardak and Philip Lyon.
You wouldn’t think it would take three hours to hand out five awards, but it did. One consolation was the tasty menu. Glen Leven Salad, followed by beef tenderloin au poivre demi glace with buttermilk potato puree, roasted broccolini and garlic comfit with fresh fruit tart or coconut dessert cake prepared to perfection by the elegant, on-site restaurant The Capitol Grille. Don’t be too impressed: There was a card on the table with helpful foodie lingo on it.