BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Run, do not walk, to the new George Jones Museum.
At its gala grand opening party on Thursday (April 23), this place instantly vaulted into the top ranks of Nashville attractions. The space is awesome, the displays are imaginative, the souvenirs are dandy, the building is sensational and the food is delish. The address is 128 2nd Ave. N. (the Old Graham Central Station club). Go there at once.
“It’s an honor to have you here,” said widow Nancy Jones. “George always had quite a few friends,” she added, referring to the tremendous turnout. “I can’t even explain how happy I am. I wish he was here to see it. I love each and every one of you.”
Helen Scroggins, 93, is now the last living of the eight Jones siblings. “He was my world for a long time,” she said of her Hall of Famer brother. By the way, Helen’s husband was the one who left the keys in the infamous riding lawnmower.
“You can’t keep a good woman down, can you?” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn of the indomitable Nancy. “She was determined [to create the museum], and she absolutely pulled it off. Girlfriend, congratulations!”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey grew up as an East Tennessee farmboy who loved the legendary George Jones. “I’ve gotten to do a lot of pretty cool stuff in my life,” he said. “I mean this from the bottom of my heart, Nancy, this is the greatest of them all. What an honor it is to open this museum tonight.
“The Best Voice in Music – not just country music – is George Jones. Thank you for allowing George to live on. That’s what’s happening here tonight.”
Mayor Karl Dean added, “This is a wonderful tribute to him. People come to Nashville because of the music. On behalf of the people of Nashville, thank you for your confidence in the city. Thank you for your investment in the city. Thank you for all that you have done.”
The politicians weren’t the only celebs celebrating this terrific new attraction. Working the red carpet were Ricky Skaggs, Lee Greenwood, D. Vincent Williams, Moe Bandy, Tracy Lawrence, The Roys, Jeannie Seely, T. Graham Brown, T.G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang, Diane Sherrill, Con Hunley, Kayla Adams, John Berry, Rhonda Vincent, Billy Yates, Jan Howard, Dustin Miller of the new act Double Barrel, Naomi Judd, Rex Allen Jr., Branch & Dean, John Rich, Buddy Jewell, Lisa Matassa, Cerrito and emcee Bill Cody.
You enter at street level through the gift shop. A lifesize statue of Jones greets you with a raised hand to one of Music City’s largest such emporiums. His flaming-red Possum pickup truck is just inside.
Pausing to admire the goods were Charlie Monk, Alan Messer, Martha Moore, Moore & Moore, Rob Beckham, Sheri Warnke, Rose Drake, Keith Bilbrey, Bob Paxman, Ron Cox and Chuck Dauphin.
Beyond the gift shop is a spacious bar and Possum Holler restaurant overlooking the Cumberland River. We sampled chicken salad and ham pimento cheese on toasts, shrimp cocktails, barbecue pork sliders, coleslaw, spicy fried chicken skewers, imaginatively cilantro-flavored beef tacos and mini ham sandwiches.
On the second floor is the museum, itself. You enter through a vestibule with a tribute-video wall and a wall of album jackets. The first displays are about the star’s childhood in Beaumont, TX. An “influences” wall spotlights Roy Acuff, Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell. In the display saluting his boyhood radio stations KRIC (Beaumont) and KTZJ (Jasper) are listening stations of his early hits.
The main stopping places are the large “decade” display cases. The one labeled “1950s” contains Starday Records items, Louisiana Hayride posters and the like. The “1960s” case houses guitars, boots, vintage photos and rhinestone Nudie suits including the ones decorated with “Window Up Above” and “White Lightning” appliques.
The “1970s” case includes Tammy Wynette artifacts and duet videos. The “1980s” case salutes Nancy with a “She Changed Everything” section. These cases also include costumes, award certificates, photos and other memorabilia as do the “1990s” and “2000s” display cases. In addition, the last named houses material relating to his 1999 car wreck, his 70th birthday bash and his 50th anniversary in show biz gala.
There’s more. A separate display honors “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” There is a “Sing Along with George” vocal booth (“High Tech Redneck” is the selection) and a colorful diorama of the Jones country music park.
And more. His easy chair. His NFL helmets and autographed footballs. His award statuettes. His white grand piano (with “He Stopped Loving Her Today” sheet music ready to play). Mama Clara’s mink stole and Bible. His private barbershop. The riding lawnmower. Holograms. Video screens. Listening stations. More than 1,000 artifacts.
A “Friends of George Jones” case contains artifacts from Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Alan Jackson. You can have your family photo taken on the giant rocking chair, opposite the George Foreman display with boxing gloves, a photo, a framed letter and a video screen showing “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair.”
In the middle of the museum is a small stage, which featured bluegrass pickers. At the back of the museum is a small theater with leather-padded rocking chairs and costumes in cases. As you exit, there’s a star-studded giant photo of those who saluted him at the tribute TV special. Plus a guitar signed by all of them.
Oohing and ahhing were Michael Campbell, Mike Vaden, Mike Kraski, Sandy Knox, Katie Gillon, Tom Roland, Regina Stuve, new Country Music Hall of Fame publicist Edie Emery, Evelyn Shriver, Charles Bell, Jimmy Carter, Greg England, Susan Nadler and Buddy Cannon.
One special guest was screenwriter Alan Wenkus. He wrote the script for the upcoming rap movie about N.W.A. His newly finished script is for the No Show Jones bio film that backers are hoping to put into production in 2016.
Jaws dropped when we got to the third floor. This is a vast event space featuring a stage at one end (featuring a swing band), a long bar in the middle and a glass wall at the other end overlooking the Titans stadium, Shelby Street Bridge, Gholst Dance Ballet sculpture and Riverfront Park.
The grand finale was the fourth floor, a rooftop open-air bar also overlooking the sights mentioned above. Can you imagine viewing CMA Fest and/or the Fourth of July bash from there? I thought you could.
“I’m pleased with everything here,” said Nancy Jones. “I’m just thrilled.”
“George Jones didn’t live through country music; country music lived through George Jones,” said Naomi Judd. “Nobody will ever, ever fill his shoes.”
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