Well, it’s “that week” again….and for the 40th out of 41 times, I’ll be right here in the middle of it all.
I’m speaking of Fan Fair, of course, or as it’s known today, the CMA Music Festival. It doesn’t officially crank up until Thursday the 7th, but just like Christmas and Halloween, it seems to creep forward a little more every year. Someday it will probably begin right after Easter!
It’s a fun time, though, if you love country music and country folks. It’s the world’s biggest elbow-rubbin’ between stars and their fans. I was there when the idea was hatched, and I’ll probably be the oldest teenager in attendance one more time. The only year I missed was in 1985 when I was in the hospital.
There are so many memories connected to this event for me, like the first Fan Fair in April, 1972, at the old Municipal Auditorium. They were trying to get the gathering as far removed from the October DJ Convention and Opry Birthday Celebration as possible, and April seemed the logical choice. Until they discovered that kids were still in school in April and families weren’t quite ready to travel that early in the year. When it was moved to June, it took off like a rocket.
From inside at the Municipal to outdoors at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, where it seemed as though it had to rain every day, the event grew and continued to grow until it landed at its current site in downtown Nashville. With the opening of our massive new Music City Center in 2013, I’m already wondering what the Music Fest will look like in its next incarnation.
I’ve held fan club parties and introduced country fans to superstars in waiting like Taylor Swift, who came when she was 14, and Josh Turner, Craig Morgan and more. We hosted legends like Kitty Wells and Jim Ed Brown. We fed our faces and laughed and cried and made 40-years worth of wonderful memories. I miss the old days of autograph lines snaking out the door and my late fan club president, Jean Brown, barking out orders to everyone in sight….including me. I wish she were here to do that one more time.
This year I’ll get to perform in front of 50,000 or so of my closest friends at LP Field, which wasn’t even a pipe dream back in ’72. I will hopefully renew old friendships and cement some new ones. If you’re planning to be here, I hope our paths will cross. If they don’t, well, there’s always next year.
Welcome to Nashville. Let’s make some music and have some fun.