Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Music City’

Travel Trip 5 Free Things Nashville

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP
“More than 15 million visitors came to Nashville last year, and country music is a big reason why,” says
CityLab.

I have never been to Nashville, but when John visited, he was impressed. He told us that music and signs of music were on very street corner. A recent article added other angles to Nashville’s music story.

Lee Gardner at CityLab writes, “Thanks to a surging economy and an onrushing hot-city rep, the Music City has been gaining about 100 new residents a day. … But as the skyscrapers and rents have risen, many of the hallowed offices and studios of Music Row, the industrial heart of the country, have come under threat from the wrecking ball.

“Country music has survived a lot worse, according to Don Cusic. He’s is a Nashville-based historian of the genre who served as a consultant for Country Music, the massive new 16-hour PBS documentary series from filmmaker Ken Burns that charts the genre’s trans-Atlantic influences and tracks its nearly 100-year rise from disrespected ‘hillbilly music’ to the vox populi of the white working class, and a multi-billion-dollar business in the streaming age.

“Cusic spoke with CityLab about why Nashville became synonymous with country [and about] what’s next for the city. …

“Gardner: Why do you think Nashville became synonymous with country?

“Cusic: Actually it was Chicago and country music that were synonymous until about World War II, and after that Nashville. It starts becoming synonymous because of the radio stations. In Chicago it was WLS, in Nashville WSM — the National Barn Dance in Chicago, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. But the Chicago show lost its sponsor, which was Alka-Seltzer, and the Grand Ole Opry didn’t. It was sponsored by Prince Albert Tobacco.

“The other basis for the Opry’s stability was that it was owned by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. The company used the Grand Ole Opry as a ‘door opener.’ Salesman would knock on doors with a brochure about the Opry, and that would lead into sales of insurance policies. When rock ‘n’ roll hit in the late 1950s, a number of radio stations switched to rock, [but] the Grand Ole Opry kept going because it could sell insurance. …

“Gardner: What is it about Nashville other than the Opry that allowed things like Music Row to take root?

“Cusic: It’s the people behind the scenes that made a difference. … You had a lot of these key figures who were executives who said, ‘If we’re going to have a show, it’s going to be top-notch show.’ I think that’s a lot to do with it right there.

“Gardner: People now talk about Music Row … as a forerunner of the ‘innovation district’ concept. Do you think that having this tight concentration of companies and creatives had an effect on the rise of country, and of Nashville?

“Cusic: Absolutely. Nashville attracted … a creative community, and that creative community feeds off of itself. I teach at Belmont College, and my students are always saying, ‘Where I come from, I’m the only person that writes songs; I’m the only person that plays the guitar. I get here and everybody writes songs and everybody plays the guitar.’ …

The other thing was the Nashville musicians’ union. Here, musicians could make a living playing, and when the studios developed, you had top-notch musicians here.

“Gardner: Country music — and perhaps Nashville, too — get stereotyped as being extremely white. … I gather the series explores some of those stereotypes. …

“Cusic: They did a survey not long ago, where about a third of the people in this country didn’t like country music, and not because of the music, not because of the artists, not because of the songs, but because of the image they had of it. They didn’t want that to be their self-image, and the image they had was we were backwards, we were hicks and hillbillies, we were racist. … I think this documentary takes that down quite a bit. …

“Gardner: Nashville has seen a lot of economic changes. … How is that affecting the city’s country music identity?

“Cusic: I wrote a book called Nashville Sound, and it really should have been Nashville Sounds. The public perception of Nashville is not accurate, totally, with music, because there’s a thriving jazz scene here. Contemporary Christian music has a huge presence here. You’ve got pop and rock acts here. …

“Gardner: I imagine, though, that many of the people now moving to Nashville don’t really care much about music. Do you think that the city’s musical identity has been watered down?

“Cusic: One of the things that comes through in Ken’s documentary — you can’t kill it. You can hold it underwater, but you just can’t kill it. It’s like a rubber ball that keeps bouncing back. That’s kind of frustrated the Chamber of Commerce at times, because they still want Nashville to be the Athens of the South. [But] it comes back to country music over and over again. That’s what stuck in people’s minds. Believe me, the business establishment and social establishment have tried to change that. They can’t do it.”

More at CityLab, here.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: