BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Nobody can stage a tribute show better than Music City.
In recent years, we’ve thrown all-star celebrations for Jack Clement, Billy Block and Kris Kristofferson. On Thursday (March 24) it was John D. Loudermilk’s turn. Like Clement and Kristofferson, Loudermilk is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The legendary tunesmith and his awesome catalog were saluted at The Franklin Theater with 30 performances during a terrific two-and-a-half hour show. Organized by Dixie Gamble, the evening was one highlight after another, whether the song was a giant standard or a little known gem. Loudermilk was lauded for his talent, his warmth, his eccentricities and his zest for life by one performer after another.
“Welcome to an auspicious evening honoring a giant among giants,” said Gamble. “I’ve waited 10 years for this. But John D., you have waited a lifetime. I want to tell you how honored we are to be standing on your broad shoulders.”
Able and glib host Peter Cooper called Loudermilk, “The bringer of laughter, the lover of life. Those of you who don’t know him, by the end of this evening, you will. We are here to thank him. We are here to cheer him.”
Sponsor Troy Tomlinson said, “John D. is the perfect example of how the American Songbook got written. I hope this is the best evening of your career. Enjoy.”
With that, Herb Pedersen kicked off the celebration with a hearty bluegrass arrangement of “It’s My Time.” The songwriter’s son, Mike Loudermilk, added deft guitar picking to his rendition of “Abilene,” then accompanied Norro Wilson’s “The Great Snowman.”
“I don’t have a better memory than you in this business,” said Wilson to the honoree. John Cowan shined brightly on “I Want to Live.” Buddy Greene was smoking hot on “Big Daddy’s Alabama Bound.” Beth Hooker did “Turn Me On,” then backed Claudia Church on “Sunglasses.”
George Hamilton V and George Hamilton VI did “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” originally a hit for their father and grandfather. Jimmy Hall delivered a bluesy “Bad News.” Becky Hobbs had a sprightly shuffle with “Talk Back Trembling Lips.”
Bluegrass Hall of Famers Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver were thrilling on “Blue Train” and drew a huge ovation. Rosanne Cash appeared on video doing “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.” The Americana duo Cory Chisel & Adriel Harris sang “Ebony Eyes.” Deborah Allen did a snippet of “Norman,” then a zesty version of “Sad Movies.” Harry Stinson, who sang harmony behind many of the acts, stepped into the spotlight with “Everybody Knows.”
John D. and his wife Susan appeared in a video montage while its soundtrack played him singing the love song “I Chose You.” Guitarist Tommy Emmanuel was dazzling on the Loudermilk instrumental “Windy and Warm.” Billy Burnette tore through “Sitting in the Balcony.” John McFee did a well-received “Indian Reservation.”
“How many great songs can you write in a lifetime?” marveled Beth Nielsen Chapman before sweetly singing “The Language of Love.” On video, Marty Stuart did “Katie Cline” with his Fabulous Superlatives.
The evening’s MVP had to be musical director John Jorgenson, who performed on multiple instruments, led the band and sang backup for several artists. His solo turn was a darkly rocking “Midnight Bus.” Bobby Braddock sang “Break My Mind” at the piano. Lee Roy Parnell gave slide-guitar licks to “Mr. Jones.” Sharon White and Cheryl White harmonized with Ricky Skaggs backing them on “Heaven Fell Last Night,” then Skaggs led the way on “Waterloo.”
“This should have been done a long time ago,” he said. “What a wonderful night.”
Rodney Crowell teamed up with Stinson for a rocking “Tobacco Road.” Kennedy Rose offered a daring a cappella arrangement of “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.” Pam Rose and Mary Ann Kennedy remained on stage to back Emmylou Harris on an ethereal “Where Have They Gone.”
“Thank you for sharing your gift with us, with the world,” said Harris.
Loudermilk performed the touching “I Have Forgotten It All”/”All But the Flowers” on video as the evening’s last performance.
“This has been quite an evening for me,” he said. He dedicated the night to his early Nashville mentors, the late Chet Atkins and the late Boudleaux & Felice Bryant. “Nashville is on fire. And we are here in the middle of that fire. This is a special place. We know the magic, don’t we?”
The audience was packed with familiar Music Row names. Gary Nicholson, Colin Linden, Buck White, Wood Newton, John Knowles, Nancy Cardwell, Virginia Team, Amy Kurland, Erika Wollam Nichols, Jay & Lee Ann Baron, John Dorris, Jody Williams, Pete Loesch, Susan Stewart, Bonnie Garner, Woody Bomar, Garth Shaw and Tennessee Poet Laureate Maggie Vaughn were working the room. By the way, rocking attendee Jonell Mosser is performing a free show at the Pour House this Sunday, March 27, from 2-4 p.m.
BMI’s David Preston presented Loudermilk with certificates commemorating Triple Million-Air performance honors for “Indian Reservation” and “Indian Outlaw” and six Million-Air performance status for “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.”
“The Nashville community, there’s no place like it,” commented Harris. “The best place and the best people in the world.” Amen, sister.
As for the honoree, John D. Loudermilk turns 82 years young next week, on Thursday, March 31.