And to 50,000 of my closest friends, welcome to Nashville and the umpteenth annual CMA Music Fest.
OK, there really haven’t been that many “Music Fests” as such, but if you go all the way back to the first gathering of country music fans in Music City, known in the beginning as “Fan Fair”, this celebration has actually been in existence for quite some time.
If memory serves me correctly, and these days it doesn’t always do that, the first Fan Fair was in 1972. There were nowhere close to 50,000 folks on hand, but we thought it was a healthy gathering, never dreaming that in forty years it would lead to something like this.
I used to run myself silly during Fan Fair….performing on every show possible, signing autographs inside my fan club booth every day for hours on end, and visiting other booths sponsored by folks like the Grand Ole Opry, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, The Nashville Network, and more. I would often try to schedule my yearly vacation for the weeks following, not because I wanted to but because I needed to!
This year I will probably be doing less than ever, but that’s by choice. I’ll be performing five times on the Opry, attending the Reunion Of Professional Entertainers’ (ROPE) breakfast, autographing for two hours inside the TNN booth, and trying to not wear myself out. I’ll be in the recording studio a bit during the week, too, leading up to another studio day next week plus a photo shoot. With a new album and possibly once again a new book in the works, the vacation will have to wait for awhile.
But that’s all right, too, because I still enjoy meeting the friends and fans who come here from all around the globe to rejoice in this thing called country music with us. The music has changed, the faces have changed but, thankfully, not the spirit. I can’t begin to tell you how many people come up to me each year and say they came to Fan Fair with their parents when they were children and now they’re carrying on the tradition with their own kids. Their parents came to see me and Conway and Loretta and George and Mr. Acuff….their kids are excited about seeing Carrie and Taylor and Luke and Jason and all the others.
So, to those of you who are here….regardless of your age and who you came to see or meet or listen to….welcome to our incredible city. While you’re enjoying the sights and sounds, I think I’ll slip off somewhere and sing a chorus of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”
Somehow it seems fitting.