This past weekend was a large and significant one for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, as it debuted "Night Train to Nashville," an exhibit chronicling the history of blues, R&B and soul music in postwar Nashville. Beyond all the dogged, dedicated work that went into the exhibitresearch, interviews, digging up photographs, recordings and eye-popping TV footagejust as important are the goals behind it: to get Nashvillians to take a fresh look at our civic identity and at the Hall of Fame's still quite new and impressive downtown facility.
In this, the institution appears to have succeeded, given the anticipation and excitement that surrounded both last Friday's preview party and Saturday's opening night, which featured two performances by caramel-voiced singer Earl Gaines in the museum's Ford Theater. Indeed, if there's any complaint to be lodged about Gaines' warm-humored, easygoing performance, it's that the intimacy afforded by the Ford Theater kept some of that excitement in check. Audience members seemed all too eager to jump out of their seats and move in time to the well-worn R&B grooves, but were visibly constrained by the stadium seating. At the very least, they engaged in a bit of call-and-response with the singer on the chorus of "Let the Good Times Roll," testified right along with him during "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby," and leapt out of their seats at the end to give him a standing ovation. (Granted, this is a typical Nashville response, but considering the all-around goodwill of the event, it felt entirely appropriate.)
It was most exciting of all to hear Gaines, dressed head-to-foot in resplendent yellow and backed by an eight-piece band, revisit his decades-long career. He sang his 1955 hit "It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)" with verve and authority, and dug into the full-throttle emotion of "The Door Is Still Open," a plea to a wayward lover. Both these songs and others were written by Nashville R&B producer/songwriter Ted Jarrett, who sat in the audience, giving Gaines a chance to pay tribute to and kid around with his longtime collaborator.
For all the momentousness of this occasion, though, it was the previous weekend's in-store performance at Tower Records on West End that had the feel of a party and a uniquely special moment. The store was flooded with patrons, most there just to see a handful of the singers featured on the Night Train to Nashville CD, released in tandem with the exhibit. Gaines took the stage to sing one songmaking an impressive last-minute entrance due to a traffic jamas did Clifford Curry ("She Shot a Hole in My Soul"), Robert Knight ("Everlasting Love"), Frank Howard ("Just Like Him") and Leevert Allison (singing his late brother Gene's hit "You Can Make It If You Try").
But the most thrilling moment was when Bobby Hebb sang his 1966 hit "Sunny." This is, in fact, one of the most successful songs in the history of popular music, the kind of oldies-radio staple that runs the risk of being reduced to an overplayed cliché. But as presented by Hebb, who put himself totally in the moment, the song had all the resonance the writer intended when he wrote it some four decades ago, in the midst of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Hearing this direct, open-hearted message of love now, at a time when the world feels rent by violence and uncertainty, it was hard not be moved and somehow shaken, especially given the force with which Hebb sang it.
Would have liked to have known about the show and channel and time and day.....
Look for Lisa Simpson!
The word "SEX" is in between the last four flowers.
why is the forth flower from the right all whacky looking?
The fact of the matter is, the mass public doesn't give two shits about the…