A long time ago
we were on our way to do a national television show
from the PBS main studio in Pittsburgh,
and then to a Nashville recording session.
Tennessee Birdwalk had become a surprise hit.
Sometimes life can be good.
The porter showed us to our compartment and stowed our luggage.
Orlando was sliding away past our windows,
so we settled down, propped our feet on our suitcases,
and waited for snow.
An official voice over the PA system:
“You’re invited to the dining car for the hospitality hour”,
Free coffee and orange juice”.
Misty said, “Let’s live a little”,
and we staggered forward with the sway of the train.
Passing through the club car, the train rounded a curve,
and Misty sat on an elderly man’s lap.
His wife said, “Well, I never” and glared out the window at nothing.
She failed to see the humor in it.
The best part of the dining car
is watching the scenery fly by in sunset colors.
Telephone poles tick away the time,
and up ahead the train whistle adds to the adventure.
At every road and city street, cars are lined up
waiting for us to pass by.
Make way for the train, the biggest thing that moves on land!
We stayed awake most of that night
wiping our breath steam from the train window,
and watching the sparkling towns and moonlit woodlands
fall away behind us.
Washington DC was having a brisk morning
as we left our luxury train
and boarded a coach bound for Pittsburgh,
which wove slowly through the gray land Appalachia.
There were untidy traces of leftover winter,
dingy crusts of snow and slush.
Smoky air had left its film on town and country alike,
dulling the colors.
Trees, houses, factories, cars, dogs, cats, grass, and people
all blend to a drab tannish gray.
Men in work clothes stand in the cold rain
waiting for the train to take them home after another hard day.
A pregnant woman
struggles to get a baby carriage over the curbside slush pile
without dropping her bag of groceries.
Clothes are functional.
No time for style.
A gang of workmen lined up in the aisle waiting to get off,
whisper and snicker at our haircut and clothes.
We must seem outlandish to them.
Misty and I smile at each other, taking no offense.
The train stops and they file off,
lunch boxes under their arms,
heads bowed against the gray rain,
each seeking out the dreary street that leads home.
The train was owned by The Baltimore and Ohio/Chesapeake
and Ohio Railroad,
and the train staff was proud of it:
R.G. Whitling, Conductor; L. Boone, Flagman,
and E.A. Popp, Baggageman.
Their hospitality brought color back to this leg of the journey.
Nature soon followed suit, producing a beautiful rocky river
that wandered for miles through scenic hill country.
Journeys can remain
after destinations fade from memory.
Opryland USA sat in a curve of the Cumberland River now home to a giant mall. It had roller coasters, Southern-themed restaurants and live country music revues. Memories of rides like the Screamin’ Delta Demon are still traded like gold among longtime Nashvillians — as are the rumors of why it all went away.
That was what some listeners asked about in Curious Nashville: Why did Opryland close? The answer is as murky as the waters of the Grizzly River Rampage.
The first thing people assume about the closing of Opryland is that the park was losing money. Recent visitors to Opry Mills Mall buy into that theory: One said he had heard it was “underperforming,” while another visitor assumed it lacked the amount of business to keep it “viable.”
But while attendance had been down slightly in the years leading up to the closing, the man who ran the business for most of its history says money was not the problem.
“Opryland was successful. And it was successful when they shut it down. We weren’t losing money,” said former Gaylord CEO Bud Wendell.
Wendell stepped away from his post early in 1997, and months later, new leadership decided the park should be scrapped in favor of a new fad: shoppertainment.
Here’s comedian Kathy Griffin in a TV ad from 2000 pitching the concept:
Wendell is not shy about his opinion of that decision.
“Dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” Wendell states. “And the people that were responsible for it, I would think today would look back on it and say, yeah, it was a dumb, dumb decision. But they felt they could get a greater return on that piece of acreage out there if it were a mall as opposed to a theme park — America’s only musical theme park.”
The people responsible for turning Opryland into Opry Mills Mall included the man who filled Wendell’s shoes for a few years, Terry E London. In addition to the mall, London had another vision for Gaylord — corner the market for Christian music online.
The entertainment world was in the middle of an internet land grab and after selling the park, London had Gaylord buy up Christian music dot-coms. But the internet bubble burst and London was pushed out as Gaylord’s fortunes plummeted far below where it had been when the theme park was still open.
At the time of the park’s closing, London told local media that Opryland would not be able to keep up with high tech investments by other parks but its closest competitor, Dollywood has survived. A recent study by the Pigeon Forge-based entertainment complex shows it has an annual economic impact estimated at more than $1.5 billion.
Beyond the monetary benefits to Nashville’s tourism industry that Opryland might have had were it still operating, Wendell says the city really misses another important aspect that came along with the park.
“We hired about 4,000 young people — you may have been one of them — every year. We trained them. We watched carefully over ’em. We had activities for ’em. They had their own ball teams. We had dances.
“And that disappeared just like that. Jobs. For 4,000 youngsters. Nobody ever thought about that. Nobody I guess still ever thinks about it.”
Wendell says at least once a year he’ll hear rumors about some group or other who say they want to build a new park. But nothing has come of it.
At least, not yet.
By Jason Moon Wilkins for Curious Nashville
Dierks Bentley is a marking genius putting out hilarious parody videos to spoof his upcoming headlining tours
Dierks Bentley is nothing short of a marketing genius when it comes to gearing up for a new headlining tour. For his past several headlining tours, the Arizona native has put out hilarious spoof videos to showcase what fans can expect from him and his openers.
On Thursday morning, Jan. 10, Bentley took to the ice for a parody of his 2019 tour, calling it the Burning Man Tour (On Ice). Bentley took to a skating rink, showing off his best figure skating moves. Openers Jon Pardi and Tenille Townes joined the “Burning Man” singer in a clip that promised a tour of magic and majesty.
But this wasn’t the first time Bentley has had his tourmates put their best comedic foot forward. Last year, the singer enlisted Brothers Osborne and LANCO for a trippy man of the woods style clip, where the spent a hazy few days out in the wilderness with a shaman in honor of their Mountain High Tour.
But his first spoof video came in 2015 when Bentley invited Kip Moore, Canaan Smithand Maddie & Tae out on the road. The singer is known for partaking in polar plunges, often bathing in ice baths while out on tour. But this time, he had his tourmates take the jump with him…right off the side of the boat into icy cold water. The prospect of jumping into an ice bath had Moore reconsidering his spot on the Sounds of Summer Tour altogether.
Check out Bentley’s past tour promos above and don’t miss out on his 2019 Burning Man Tour this winter!
It was a true celebration at the Grand Ole Opry on Wednesday, Jan. 9, as multiple generations of country music united to pay homage to their friend, the late Troy Gentry of the duo Montgomery Gentry, at the C’Ya on the Flip Side tribute concert.
The Opry house was filled to capacity with fans–or as Montgomery Gentry calls them, friends–who dedicated their time to honor the memory of Gentry, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 2017. An expansive lineup that featured co-hosts Blake Shelton and Storme Warren, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Chris Janson, Jimmie Allenand Dustin Lynch all entertained the loyal crowd with the hits that made Montgomery Gentry one of the genre’s iconic acts.
The event honored Gentry’s legacy not only in music, but in service. The inaugural concert served as a fundraising event for the Troy Gentry Foundation instituted by his wife Angie Gentry, benefiting causes they’ve long harbored a passion for including the TJ Martell Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Journey Home Project. “Behind that smile was a huge loving heart and he loved to give to other people,” Angie said glowingly of her late husband. “He was very humble, and I think this would have floored him, all of the outpouring and emotional support and the people that called and wanted to be a part of it.”
In addition to covering their favorite Montgomery Gentry songs, the artists also dedicated their own numbers to Gentry’s memory. After an honorable rendition of “Drink Along Song,” Bentley delivered a moving performance of “I Hold On,” bringing new meaning to the lyrics. “When I did my very first motorcycle Miles & Music events, they were the first ones to say yes to that,” Bentley said of the duo’s participation in his charity ride. “And Troy, he rode with me every year. For 10 years, he had his bike out there on a Sunday, giving up time at home to be there to help raise money for the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.”
One of the most stirring moments of the show came when Shelton offered a poignant reflection of his 17-year friendship with Gentry, looking back on the joyful moments and hardships they endured. “He was literally like a family member to me,” Shelton described. “He was one of my heroes.” He followed the sentiment with a haunting performance of “Over You,” the CMA Award-winning song he wrote with Miranda Lambert about his late brother, recalling the sincere impact the song had on Gentry.
Allen is another artist who knew what it meant to have Gentry as a close friend. The burgeoning star, who brought the audience to its feet with a lively cover of “Hell Yeah,” shared how he met his future mentor at the gym in 2008. Upon learning about Allen’s musical aspirations, Gentry offered him his phone number, and they remained friends that day onward. “He told me, ‘man, just stay true to who you are as a person, who you are as a musician. Eventually, you’ll find your way…it’s about your moral beliefs and who you are as a person,’” Allen recounted of Gentry’s words of advice and belief in him as an artist. “That really helped me, my confidence, for a long time.”
Brice offered another one of the evening’s powerful moments with “I Drive Your Truck.” He was inspired to perform the moving song about losing a loved one by an event that occurred in the days following Gentry’s passing, when a group of his friends took his black Camaro on a joy ride to one of his favorite bars. “Everything about Troy is something to look up to,” Brice reflected. “He was humble, but he was also fun and funny. Life is so short, obviously, and he made the most of it. We all wanna try to be like that.”
The evening came to a somber, yet celebratory close when Montgomery silently walked on to the stage, kissing Gentry’s guitar before placing it in the legendary Opry circle with a single spotlight shining on it. As Gentry’s personal triumph song “Better Me” played in the background, a slideshow of his life unfolded through personal photos with family, friends and on stage alongside his longtime music partner.
“I just wanna keep his legacy alive here, man, and make sure it stays alive in Nashville, and I’m gonna make sure it stays alive on the road,” Montgomery vowed. When he returned to the stage, Montgomery was joined by all of the performers for an all-star sing-along of one of the duo’s defining hits, “My Town.” It was a moment that not only honored the Montgomery Gentry legacy, but Gentry’s timeless spirit, which could be felt in the hallowed Opry house filled with pure musicianship and the fulfilling friendships he spent his life surrounded by.
BEAUMONT, Texas – With an amazing 34 singles and ten studio albums – four of which are certified gold, one platinum, and double platinum by the RIAA – Tracy Byrd is celebrating 25 years as a recording artist! The tall Texan first hit #1 in 1993 with “Holdin’ Heaven” and has continued releasing hits “Watermelon Crawl,” “Big Love,” “I’m From The Country,” “Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo,” “Drinkin’ Bone,” and “The Keeper of the Stars,” which went on to win the CMA Song of the Year honor.
Now circa 2019, Tracy Byrd is back at it. After taking a few years off from touring outside of Texas, Tracy is hitting to road to bring his hits to country fans across North America. In addition, Byrd will team up with fellow Beaumont native Mark Chesnutt for select dates billed as The Beaumont Boys. The Beaumont Boys package is being co-booked by Deric Brown of artistLIVE and Risha Rodgers of William Morris Endeavor (WME).
“I am really enjoying getting back out on the road,” says Tracy Byrd. “I loved spending time off watching the kids grow, but I have missed seeing the legion of fans that we had gained over the years. I look forward to reconnecting with them on the road!”
Tracy Byrd has always been something of a maverick. In an industry where careers are often decided in committee, Byrd has always held fast to his own creative vision and has never been afraid to take the road less traveled. That unbridled spirit again prevails on his newest release, “Different Things.” Not only does Tracy continue to deliver no-holds-barred country music, he does so while embarking on a new business model that is setting the standard for artists in today’s competitive music industry.
Country music has seen its share of loss in 2018. The list of country artists who have died in 2018 includes beloved singers and musicians whose deaths were publicly mourned, as well as key behind-the-scenes people whose contributions to country music didn’t garner as much spotlight, but were just as important. Songwriters, producers and engineers who helped shape country music are also among those the genre has lost in 2018.
Lari White, Daryle Singletary and Confederate Railroad founding member Doug Secrest are among the country musicians who have died in 2018. White died after battling cancer, and Secret also struggled with a long illness before his death, while Singletary’s death at the age of 46 shocked Nashville’s music community. Red Dirt country artist Brandon Jenkins was also tragically young when he died in March after experiencing complications following heart surgery he underwent in February. He was just 48 years old. Scroll through the gallery below to look back on the lives and careers of all of the country artists who have died in 2018.
Very few release dates have been announced for the year’s biggest albums, but country fans are amped for albums by Texan Cody Johnson and hitmaker Randy Houser, both slated for January. Carly Pearce, Old Dominion, LoCashand Aaron Watson are a few more with new albums coming, and we’re hearing rumblings from Brantley Gilbert’s people … but we’re not supposed to talk about that yet.
Artists who may be due to release new music but haven’t shared specifics include: Miranda Lambert, Chris Youngand Thomas Rhett. Luke Combs also revealed that he’s hard at work on new music, as is newcomer Riley Green. Which of these albums will be the surprise album of 2019? Take a look at our list so far and then share which album you’re looking forward to in the comments section below.
January: Randy Houser, Magnolia
Jan 18: Cody Johnson: Ain’t Nothin’ To It
Jan. 18: Ronnie Milsap, Ronnie Milsap: The Duets
Feb. 15: Hayes Carll: What It Is
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae
Here Are the Best Albums of 2018, So Far
In February, actor William Shatner will make his way to Music City for a once-in-a-lifetime experience: his Grand Ole Opry debut. The actor will take to the famed stage alongside Alabama member Jeff Cook in support of their collaborative project Why Not Me, which debuted in August 2018.
The record follows a long line of other musical projects from Shatner, including Has Been, Seeking Major Tom and Shatner Claus. The decision to take a more country approach on this album was easy for the actor who has been a longtime friend of Brad Paisley. (He appeared in Paisley’s 2003 “Celebrity” music video.)
“Brad Paisley has become a really good friend of mine over the years, and I’ve been an admirer of his and country music for the longest time, and when Brian Curl [of Heartland Records] asked me if I would like to make a country music album I jumped at the chance,” Shatner told Sounds Like Nashville previously
At Sounds Like Nashville, we pride ourselves on bringing our readers updates about the latest and greatest songs coming out of Music City. Whether it’s a new single from the biggest superstar or the debut track from a new artist, we hope to bring fans a wide range of what’s hot in country music.
At the top of each month, our staff selects their personal favorite new songs and updates SLN’s ongoing 10 Songs You Should Be Listening To playlist. This month, Sounds Like Nashville is starting the new year with a bang, featuring some of the best rising acts out of Nashville. Among those new acts are three of our Ones to Watch in 2019: Lauren Jenkins, Filmore and Lauren Duski. The list wouldn’t be complete, however, without a few country music staples, including Brad Paisley and George Strait.
For the third year Keith Urban rang in the new year as the headliner for Music City Midnight: New Year’s Eve in Nashville. As the countdown to 2019 began, the singer performed a free show for fans at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.
Urban continued with a tradition he began during his first NYE headlining set where he honored the artists we lost over the past year with a special medley of songs. For his 2018 tribute the Australia native performed a variety of tunes, including Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” The Cranberries’ “Zombie” for lead singer Dolores O’Riordan, Roy Clark’s “Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” in honor of the late Ed King.
“The last few years we’ve played New Year’s Eve I’ve taken the opportunity to put together a medley of some of the people we’ve lost across the year and I’ve done it again this year. I’m gonna play a couple songs to just recognize a few of the people we have lost,” he said before kicking off the performance.
At the close of the medley, Urban was joined by fellow guitar aficionado, Peter Frampton, who was also on the bill for the New Year’s Eve show. The two went back and forth with a guitar riff-off for a special jam session.
This year’s Music City Midnight brought record attendance with event organizers estimating 175,000 to 200,000 people in the park.
Watch the medley in the video above…