Those of you coming to Nashville early next month for Fan Fair…..o.k., the CMA Music Fest….are going to have quite a treat in store when you reach our downtown area.
The sparkling, sprawling new Music City Center opened this past weekend, and while I didn’t get to see but a fraction of the mammoth interior, I saw enough to come away very impressed. I think you’ll be impressed as well.
I was there on Sunday afternoon for the opening of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, whose new home rests inside these imposing walls. As a songwriter and a member of the NSHOF since 1975, it was like a dream come true. There has been a hall of fame for country songwriters since the early seventies, but we’ve never had a physical structure in which to display the artifacts, the music, and memorabilia of our most creative citizens. They were handing out sheets of paper at the opening that said, “Home At Last.”
And that’s what it felt like. Songwriting icons from across the years were there, some to perform others just to lend their support. I shared a few moments on stage with Sonny Curtis, who wrote the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore show among other classics, and the incomparable Bobby Braddock, who has been writing hits for five decades and shows no signs of letting up. Others who performed included Thom Schuyler (“16th Avenue”), Rory Bourke (“The Most Beautiful Girl”), and Don Schlitz (“The Gambler).
I saw mingling in the crowd such songwriting luminaries as host, Pat Alger, Jim Weatherly, Kenny O’Dell, Bob DiPiero, Red Lane, Mike Reid, Kye Fleming, and Larry Henley. I’m sure there were others I missed.
I sang the song, “Songwriter,” to open my part of the show, then had a little fun with the crowd, telling them that everyone was going to be singing their best songs and their biggest hits throughout the afternoon. I said I wanted to be a little different and sing my worst song. With that I proceeded to do “Peel Me A ‘Nanner,” inviting the audience to sing along with me. They did, and the room was filled with tapping toes and smiles.
I don’t want to give away all the special features of the Hall, but each member has his or her name and the name of their most famous song chiseled into a stone walkway outside at the corner of 5th and Broadway. Inside, three large interactive touch screens let fans pull up the name of each enshrined writer, see a list of their accomplishments, and listen to some of the music that they created. In my case, even one of my old rhinestoned stage suits rests in a large glass case nearby.
For years the Nashville Songwriters Association’s motto has been, “It All Begins With A Song.” Obviously, there would be no hit records without the people who first write the music. On behalf of all the creative souls who have come before, and those who will come in the years ahead, I can truthfully say it’s great to be “Home At Last.”