Tag Archives: Carrie Underwood

Observations from a Justin Timberlake Concert

22 Dec

Justin Timberlake brought his tour to Nashville, and we went to see him. My wife saw him because she thinks he is one of the greatest humans on the planet. I saw him because my wife thinks he is one of the greatest humans on the planet. I also saw him because he is one of those people who I think a concert addict should see.

The arena was packed, and no one was disappointed. Justin Timberlake is an extraordinary entertainer who can sing, dance and make the crowd feel like they are part of the show. Everything about his band was great. Horns. Backup singers. Dancers. Everyone on stage was top-notch. It was an event more than it was a concert. It was one of those shows that brings out the Who’s Who of the Nashville music industry.

I did not know many of the songs and was lost when he asked the crowd to sing along, but even an old AC/DC fan like me got caught up in the excitement.

With all of that being written, I came away from the concert with a few observations.

1. The 15th row is a great place to sit. When I made up my mind to get tickets, I wanted them to be good and ended up getting them through a package. We had to pick up the tickets at the door and had no idea where they would be. They ended up being in the middle of all the action. We were surrounded by lights and sound.image-18

2. Most of the women dressed as if Justin Timberlake could see them from the stage and, if they look good enough, get invited to leave the arena with him. They must have forgotten that there is a woman named Jessica Biel.

3. On the subject of being seen from the stage, there was a woman in front of us who kept holding up a sign. There were several fancy signs that people had spent a great deal of time making. They lit up. They said cool things. They were close to the stage where he could see them.

The woman in front of us made the sign after she got to the show. On the back of a white poster, she wrote “Grizzlies” with a pen. Justin Timberlake is one of the owners of the Memphis Grizzlies. It was not a sign that he was going to notice, but she was determined to hold it up.

Her friend, realizing that it was blocking the view of others, asked her to take it down. When she refused, the friend forced her to take it down. The woman who made the sign sat down and did not stand up for the rest of the show.

The sign lady was obviously inebriated, and that brings a question to my mind. If someone is blasted at a concert, then have they really been to the concert? People have told me that concerts and other moments in life are better experienced in an altered state. To those people, I say you are full of crap. I will experience concerts and other moments in life with my senses running at their naturally sharp state.

4. Justin Timberlake kept saying how happy he was to be in Tennessee and how it is his favorite state. Every performer says that wherever they are. However, I think he really meant it. After all, he is a native Tennessean, and his band is called the Tennessee Kids. We can excuse the fact that he is from Memphis.

5. He also talked about how great it was to be in the Country Music Capital of the World and fell into the trap that a lot of performers find themselves in. He invited a country artist to the stage. I cannot count all of the concerts I have attended where some local artist joined in on a song. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it does not. The greatest sacrilege was when Vince Gill played guitar alongside Eric Clapton.

Anyway, Justin Timberlake was joined by Garth Brooks. Granted, Garth was a superstar of the last century, but he looked like some bum who walked in off the street. Carrie Underwood was at the concert. I think she would have fit in better with the style of the show.image-19

6. At one point, Justin Timberlake made his way to the center of the arena in one of the coolest ways possible. Half of the stage lifted him up and carried him there. That is when he offered up a few tributes to fallen stars. First, he sang an Elvis Presley song and asked everyone to remember his greatness. Then, he sang a Michael Jackson song and asked everyone to remember him.

On the surface, this made sense. He, like Elvis, is from Memphis and was probably influenced by the presence of his memory. Also, he has probably been influenced by Michael Jackson’s style of performing. He dances. He sings. He is a complete performer.

However, I had the feeling that something else was going on. Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll. Michael was the King of Pop. It could be that Justin wants to be considered the King of whatever today’s music is called. It is a lofty goal but one that I feel he cannot reach.

Elvis was a groundbreaking performer who brought something new to the eyes and ears of the masses. Michael was doing things that his contemporaries could not compete with. Although Justin is an awesome performer, I get the feeling that other performers can put on just as great a show.

None of this is to disparage the show. Justin Timberlake performed one of the best concerts I have ever seen. He is an awesome performer, and I am glad that we got to see him. There are a few people I would see more than once, and he is one of them.

Listeria – Cattle Towns, Mining Camps and Other Assorted Outposts

14 Feb

True West magazine came out with their list of the “Top 10 True Western Towns of the Year”, and I had to see what they came up with. As it turns out, other lists were included – “True West Towns to Know” and “True West Towns to Watch”. A quick counting brought the total number of towns mentioned to 30.

I decided to weed that list down to those that I have visited. I have no idea what criteria the people at True West used to compile the list, but here is a little information about the places that I know about.

1. Dodge City, Kansas is, in my opinion, the most famous of all the cattle towns. It was the epicenter of a huge industry and the home of real life lawman Wyatt Earp and fictional lawman Matt Dillon. Dodge City is still a player in the cattle industry, but I do not see it as a tourist mecca. Obviously, any lover of the Old West must go there, but they will be disappointed with the fake western town that sits on the main drag. However, the trolley tour is cool.

Inside a fake saloon on a fake streetfront.

Inside a fake saloon on a fake streetfront.

2. Durango, Colorado is a cool western town that has held on to its past. Historic buildings, such as the Strater Hotel, line the streets. The famous train from Durango to Silverton starts its journey at one end of town. There are restaurants, bars and a bookstore with all of the great western historians.

A couple of cars on the Durango and Silverton Line

A couple of cars on the Durango and Silverton Line

8. Lincoln, New Mexico is a state monument that looks almost like it did when Billy the Kid was roaming around. There are all kinds of buildings and museums, but the best is the old building from which he made his famous jailbreak. Billy the Kid is the most famous of those who participated in the Lincoln County War, but I find myself more interested in John Chisum and some of the others.

9. Tombstone, Arizona which its economic peak during the 1880s and had its growth stunted when the minerals ran out. That circumstance makes it still have that feel of a frontier town. Of course, that could also be because they ripped up the concrete sidewalks and put down wooden ones. The OK Corral is cool. The Birdcage Theater is cool. However, the coolest thing is talking to Ben Traywick, the town historian.

If this building could talk, then it would have some real stories to tell.

If this building could talk, then it would have some real stories to tell.

10. Lewiston, Idaho is a place that I have never been. However, I must mention it because the Cumberland University baseball team has won two national championships in Lewiston. It is a western town, but it is also a baseball mecca.

There is half of the Top 10, but some interesting towns are on the other lists, as well.

Prescott, Arizona is listed as one of the “True West Towns to Know” and, on the surface, looks like any other regular old town. However, a walk around its square gives you an idea of what it used to be like. The square is huge and is bustling with activity, as people venture into the historic buildings.

This statue stands in front of the county courthouse.

This statue stands in front of the county courthouse.

“True West Towns to Watch” lists several places that I have visited.

Juneau, Alaska is the state capital and can only be entered by plane or boat. It is a small place that has a frontier and isolated quality. One of my great memories of Alaska is having a drink with my brother in one of Juneau’s saloons.

Cody, Wyoming is another good western town. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is one of my favorite places to visit. A few years ago they had a traveling exhibit in Nashville, and I was able to take my students.

Checotah, Oklahoma sits on Interstate 40, and, frankly, I have never been in the downtown area. We have only stopped a few times for gas. Most people probably know it as the hometown of Carrie Underwood.

Custer, South Dakota is one of the less famous mining camps in the Black Hills and is overshadowed by Deadwood and Sturgis. However, it is a good place to stop and look around. Also, it is named in honor of George Armstrong Custer, the man who led the gold-finding expedition into the Black Hills.

Bisbee, Arizona sits several miles down the road from Tombstone and is a place that I like better. Its economic boom lasted into the 20th Century, which means it has a more modern look than other mining camps. It also has a great mining museum operated by the Smithsonian Institute.

Those are the places listed by True West that I have visited. It would be interesting to read if any of you have been to these places. What are your thoughts and stories? What other towns have you visited that you think may be or should be on the lists?

Musical Journey

14 May

In a few days, we will be leaving on our annual field trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I will return with stories from the Wild West, but, until then, I will be out-of-pocket for a while.

The trip to Santa Fe is an adventurous one. Four teachers and ten students jump into a couple of vans and journey from one end of the continent to the other. It’s a long way, but the directions are easy. My town sits on Interstate 40. That means we stay on one road through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and part of New Mexico. Like Bugs Bunny, we take a right at Albuquerque.

Or maybe it was left.

Or maybe it was left.

The stretch of Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis has been dubbed the “Music Highway”, but the entire road to pretty musical. It seems that a lot of the places we pass have songs written about them.

Nashville has a bunch of songs written about it, but one of my favorites is “Nashville Cats” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Not long after Nashville, we go through Jackson. Now, I don’t know if June and Johnny Cash were singing about the Jackson in Tennessee or the Jackson in Mississippi. However, this is my blog, so it’s going to be Tennessee.

Next, we go through Memphis, a city of Blues and Rock n’ Roll. Like Nashville, there are a lot of songs about Memphis, but one of the best was by Johnny Rivers.

I guess Little Rock has some songs about it, but we don’t really go through that town. This means that Oklahoma is the next musical place we hit. Obviously, there is a musical about this state, but Three Dog Night recorded my favorite Oklahoma song. It’s a weird tune that talks about Spain and the Beatles.

We stop in Oklahoma City, but I can’t think of a good Oklahoma City song. However, Carrie Underwood has a song about her hometown of Checotah.

From Oklahoma, we venture into the panhandle of Texas. There’s not much in the panhandle of Texas but the city of Amarillo. George Strait has a great song about Amarillo.

That’s about it for Texas, but there is one more song. When we get close to Albuquerque, I always think about a song that is about a guy driving on Interstate 40. However, he is traveling the opposite direction. Instead of going west, he is going east through all of the towns that we have passed. He is leaving a bad woman, and “by the time I make Albuquerque she’ll be workin’“.

So, that’s the musical journey I will be making this week.

Grand Ole Opry Song

29 Mar

Most people probably know that Nashville is known as “Music City”, and those same people probably know that it is called that because of the country music industry. Nashville actually has been a hotbed of several musical genres. At one time, there was a strong R&B scene, and Jimi Hendrix honed his craft in the clubs on Jefferson Street. Bob Dylan spent a great deal of time in the city, and Elvis Presley recorded here all the time. Heck, the Black Keys and Jack White currently call Nashville home.

Despite a diverse history, country music was and continues to be the dominating form, and, these days, it is dominated by performers like Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown. I can’t name them all because I don’t really like what they do. Today’s country seems like a Frankenstein’s monster to me. Take a little bit of country. Take a little bit of rock. Throw in a few more things. Once, you are finished a monstrosity has been created. Personally, I blame Garth Brooks.

Nashville didn’t become “Music City” because of today’s stars. It became “Music City” in the early part of the 20th Century because of a radio show, the Grand Ole Opry. It could be heard every Saturday night on WSM, a powerful AM station that took its signal throughout the United States. In the days before nationwide concert tours, artists could get their music to the masses over the radio. Since the performers gathered in Nashville to perform on the Opry, it made sense for record companies to set up studios nearby. As years passed, Nashville became the destination for those who wanted to get in the country music business.

Sometimes, I think that story gets lost in the glitz and glamor of the modern country music industry. In the old days, country artists didn’t have laser shows at their concerts. They definitely didn’t run around the stage and shake their asses. They stood behind the microphone and sang about heartbreak and trains.

Jimmy Martin was one of the old-time singers.

Jimmy Martin

Jimmy Martin

Known as the “King of Bluegrass”, he performed on the Opry many times. Unfortunately, he faced the demons of alcohol abuse, and uncertainty kept him from becoming a full member of the Opry. Despite that, he recorded “Grand Ole Opry Song“, an ode to the show and the people who made it special. I thought it would be interesting to use that song to introduce (or remind) the blogosphere to some of the people who turned Nashville into “Music City”.

Come and listen to my story if you will I’m gonna tell

About a gang of fellers from down at Nashville

First I’ll start with old Red Foley doin’ the ‘Chattanooga Shoe’

Red Foley

Red Foley

We can’t forget Hank Williams with them good old ‘Lovesick Blues’

Hank WIlliams

Hank Williams

It’s time for Roy Acuff to go to Memphis on his train

Roy Acuff

Roy Acuff

With Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield and Lazy Jim Day

Minnie Pearl

Minnie Pearl

Rod Brasfield

Rod Brasfield

Jim Day

Jim Day

Turn on all your radios I know that you will wait

Hear Little Jimmy Dickens sing ‘Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait’

Little Jimmy Dickens

Little Jimmy Dickens

There’ll be guitars and fiddles, Earl Scruggs and his banjo too

Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs

Bill Monroe singing out them ole ‘Kentucky Blues’

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe

Ernest Tubb’s number, ‘Two Wrongs Won’t Make a Right’

Ernest Tubb

Ernest Tubb

At the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night

There  was Uncle Dave Macon his gold tooth and plug hat

Uncle Dave Macon

Uncle Dave Macon

Cowboy Copas singing ‘Tragic Romance’

Cowboy Copas

Cowboy Copas

Signed sealed and delivered with Sam and Kirk McGee

Sam and Kirk McGee

Sam and Kirk McGee

And the master of ceremony was Mr. George D Hay

George D. Hay

George D. Hay

There was Lonzo and Oscar a-poppin’ bubble gum

Lonzo and Oscar

Lonzo and Oscar

George Morgan singin’ ‘Candy Kisses’ yum, yum

George Morgan

George Morgan

‘Got a Hole in My Bucket’ ‘Bringin’ in that Georgia Mail’

We’ll sing ‘The Sunny Side of the Mountain’

And dance to the ‘Chicken Reel’

You can talk about your singers in all kinds of way

But none could sing the old songs like Bradley Kincaid

Bradley Kincaid

Bradley Kincaid

With his old hound dog ‘Guitar’ and the famous ‘Blue Tail Fly’

Stringbean with Hank Snow and old fiddlin’ Chubby Wise

Stringbean

Stringbean

Hank Snow

Hank Snow

Chubby Wise

Chubby Wise

Now, that’s country.

Seeing Stars

25 May

Last night, I was having dinner at a local Mexican restaurant when I looked across the patio and saw someone who I recognized. It wasn’t an old friend or acquaintance. It was Gretchen Wilson, a singer who has gained a modicum of fame. I didn’t think much about it, and it seemed that the other diners didn’t think much about it either. However, it gave me an idea for a blog post.

One of the great aspects of Nashville is that you can see someone famous almost anywhere you go. A greater aspect is that those famous people do not get harassed by fans or paparazzi. They do their thing while non-famous Nashvillians do theirs. For example, if you want to see Vince Gill, then all you have to do is go to a Belmont University basketball game. Kenny Chesney shows up each time the University of Tennessee has a game in town. Once, I sat in front of Reba McEntire at a Nashville Predators game, and, last summer, I sat behind Wynonna Judd at a U2 concert. Although I haven’t seen her, I understand that Carrie Underwood and her fantastic legs spend a lot of time at Whole Foods.

Never fear, country stars are not the only people seen in these parts. Once, I played pool at a table next to Nicole Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban. Also, Reese Witherspoon is a native of Nashville. It seems that artists from all genres and endeavors are attracted to our fair city. Nashville isn’t Los Angeles or New York (thank goodness), but it has its fair share of famous people.

As I chewed my enchiladas, I began to think about this part of the Nashville experience and thought about a couple of encounters of my youth.

When I was a kid, my mom and I spent a lot of time at Opryland, a theme park that used to be here and still should be. One afternoon, we were leaving, and my mom needed to go to the restroom. Being the days when parents could leave children for a few minutes without worrying, my mom left me sitting on a bench and eating an ice cream cone. As I sat, an elderly man perched down beside me with an ice cream cone of his own. He asked a few questions but only got one word answers in reply. It was typical nice old man questions, but I was too shy to say too much.

My mom returned and spoke with him for a few minutes before we went on our way. Once we left hearing range, she asked if I knew who that was. I said that I didn’t, and she told me that it was Roy Acuff. Don’t know who that was? He was known as the “King of Country Music” and was the genre’s first superstar. I had been eating ice cream with a legend.

As a teenager I, like a lot of teenagers in the 80s, hung out at the mall. Unlike  a lot of teenagers in the 80s, I hung out at the bookstore in the mall. One day, I stood in front of a bookshelf, the history section I guess, with my head buried in a book. In the midst of reading, I felt someone walk up behind me and just stand there. It was like they were reading the same book over my shoulder. Honestly, it wasn’t comfortable. I kept reading and hoping they would move when the man behind me yelled for his son. I knew immediately who it was.

I turned my head to say hello, and he replied, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Well, he didn’t actually say that. He said something along the lines of how are you. The most interesting thing was that the “Man in Black” was wearing black sweatpants, a black sweatshirt and white tennis shoes.

So, if you are ever in Nashville keep an eye open. You might see a star. Just remember to act like a Nashvillian and not bother them. That’s one of reasons Nashville is great. Although, it’ll probably be alright to say hello or stare at Carrie’s legs.