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Issue #224, Epic Road Trip, July 17, 2018: Nashville, Tennessee

July 17, 2018 I’m thinking about the snippets of Keith Richard’s journal that we saw yesterday at the Rolling Stones exhibit in Nashville’s Hall of Fame Museum Hall. There were only one or two pages of his writing on display from January 1963, but those little windows into time past reminded me why it’s worthwhile to put pen to paper, and to recount the passing moments of time.

Kieth Richards was writing at a time when the Rolling Stones as a band were just getting underway, and I was close to being conceived. The exhibit as a whole was comprehensive, covering many aspects of their long career, including some fun gems: a reconstruction of their London flat, with it’s tiny kitchen and dishes piled high in the sink; their messy living room, with cigarette butts overflowing in the ashtrays and blues records spilling out of the console; reconstructions of their early recording studios, with consoles where you could experiment with the mix of certain songs, and some of their famous guitars. There were also descriptions of their stage designs, tour posters and costumes, all culminating a 3-D video performance of ‘Satisfaction’ in London’s Hyde Park in 2015. The exhibit was strangely lifeless, though, since it seemed like a finalized memoir of a band that is actually still performing, with most of it’s members still alive. They even had a video clip of Mick Jagger sitting with his guitar, welcoming people to Nashville.

Phoenix asked, “Are they dead”? Orion said he liked it, but “They are really old”. The cool connection between the Stones and this region of the country is the fact that they were influenced by music that was being recorded here in the 50’s by producers like Sam Cooke, who recorded blues guitarists. Displays of Sam’s studio and other gems were in the exhibit hall of the Musicians’ Hall of Fame. The kids liked the working displays of Roland’s current offering of drums and keyboards, while Paige liked the video room full of grammy-award winners; I liked the two pianos that were originally up at Caribou Ranch near Nederland, which had been used by Elton John and John Lennon while composing various albums and songs.

We dropped a lot of money this day in Nashville; in fact our entire stay here has been really expensive, since we also did a trolley tour that took us around the town, allowing us to get off where we wanted to explore. This was fine; and we made it to a parking garage near the Hall of Fame around 9:30 trying to find the first stop.

Unfortunately, I felt on the edge of getting vertigo all morning. I noticed my right ear was having piercing, elevated ringing, and that the rain clouds were low and dense. While we were waiting for the trolley, near the backside of the Hall of Fame, we we watched a road crew unload gear for two upcoming concerts with the Stone Temple Pilots, and then were on our way, making a circular tour of Nashville.

The first stop on the tour was at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. The kids played with an 18,000 lb spinning globe and walked across the top of a wall depicting historical events from Tennessee’s past etched into marble blocks. We made a circle around the city and ended up getting out at the ‘Belmont Mansion’, a home created by a slave trader and plantation owner, on the grounds of the Belmont University. We stayed outside, eating our lunch under an iron gazebo. I started to feel better, and convinced everyone that we should walk down through ’Musicians’ Row’, the center of Nashville’s country music industry, a section of town that contains numerous record label offices, radio stations and recording studios. We headed for ‘Bobby’s Idlehour Tavern’ where we knew the tour bus would be making a stop, where we also might get some refreshments.

The Tavern was quiet except for one guy at the bar, who soon left, and two bartenders, a woman in her early 50’s and a guy with a white beard and a bandana. The room was plastered with photographs as well as signed dollar bills. We chatted with the couple and ended up having a really interesting conversation with them. The guy’s name is Jonathan Long, and he is a songwriter and performer, and told me he had composed over 200 songs, and was struggling with some health issues. His girlfriend was the other bartender, and clearly indicated she was worried about him. There were several pictures of him on the wall as a younger recording artist. Despite his long career and many songs, he had not met with the ‘success,’ that perhaps is more elusive in Nashville than not. The contrast here between Jonathan Long - who ended up giving me a DVD of a PBS show documenting his work - and the posters of #1 artists on some of the music row publishing houses we walked past was clear. They liked our family, and gave us extra bottled water as we stood waiting for the bus to pick us up again.

We realized time was running out and we had a family debate about which extra stop to make; we walked through Nashville’s ‘saloon district’ briefly, felt the party vibe, and then headed back to the Music Hall of Fame where we began, for the tour (described above) in their final operating hours of the day.

Finally, back at the RV park in the evening, I swam with the kids and watched huge clouds billowing above. A solo singer-songwriter played from a spot near the pool, in accordance with Nashville’s country music status. It’s a music city. Next time, I want to see a show at the Grand Ole Opry.

Jonathan Long serves
up drinks instead of his old hits
along music row

publishing houses
hang banners of their success
for all to admire

Johnny Cash staring
over the Nashville skyline
not Jonathan Long

cheerful trolly guide
celebrating Minnie Pearl
and her hospitals

Gazebo luncheon
Belmont University
respite from the heat

Nashville trolley tour
driving through construction zones
of 8 new hotels

squalid London flat
unwashed plates of Keith and Mick
piled in the sink

Keith Richards’ journal
thoughts from 1963:
the brink of success

artwork for the band
flamboyant and outrageous,
designed to provoke

after 50 years
if people are still screaming
you’ve got a good riff

for every pop star
there are a thousand buskers
playing bars at noon

‘moving to tampa’
she says, with a wistful look
at our license plates

not enough music
at the music museum
instruments quiet

Santana’s drum kit
and Ringo’s funny shirt
repose in silence

grumpy kids in car
forced to interact
after video feed drops

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen