Perhaps the strangest thing about Nashville these days — and East Nashville in particular — is that people are actually moving here to make a go of it in rock ’n roll. It wasn’t that long ago when getting the hell out of Nashville was the top priority for any self-respecting band, with the destination being, more often than not, LA. Now there seems to be a movement afoot describing itself as the “new” Nashville. An interesting concept, although one that totally disregards reality. For what Nashville is today, especially where the music scene is concerned, results entirely from a continuum. One doesn’t have to work very hard in order to connect the dots.
To think that the foundation upon which some “new” Nashville stands was built in a year, five years or even a decade is ludicrous. Period. This is a concept that could only be generated by people who are willfully ignorant of history, especially where music is concerned. Such people, naive in their intellectual makeup, are ultimately inconsequential because theirs is an attitude of exclusivity. Not only that, they’re boring and have nothing to say.
But enough of that. Our September|October issue is called “The Music Issue,” and with it we attempt to connect a few of the dots. For me it really began in the early 1980s at a club called Cantrell’s. I was lucky to have been there and been a part of it, and I saw some of the best bands of my generation there.
Without a doubt, the leader of the pack back then was Jason & the Nashville Scorchers. I remember seeing those guys after they’d been on tour for a while. They’d already made a name for themselves, so this particular show was much anticipated and it was packed. That night they were absolutely brilliant. All the pieces had fallen into place, and they were, in that moment, the best rock ’n roll band on the planet. There has been a lot of ink spent on tracing the origins of what is known today as “Americana” back to the Scorchers.
Doug Lancio not only witneesed that scene, he was integral to it; the Questionnaires were one of the biggest draws in the late ’80s. He went on to produce Patty Griffin’s breakthrough record 1000 Kisses in the basement of his East Nashville home in 2001. I doubt anyone will argue about how intrumental Griffin has been in popularizing the Americana genre.
Peter Cooper moved to Nashville after the “alternative” music heyday of the ’80s, but he recognized the influence it had, and continues to have, on the Nashville music scene. As he puts it so succinctly, “I’m … terribly disinterested in the ‘Music Row is evil and the East Side rocks’ thing. It can all work together.” Can-I-have-an-AMEN?!?
Fast-forward to the two young bands featured in this issue: Los Colognes and The Wild Feathers. They recognize that what they do can’t exist in a vacuum of “new-ness.” On the contrary, they’re like sponges, soaking up everything they can find, exploring the myriad trails of musical influences like hounds on a scent.
Hit the rewind button and we go back to the 1950s and Randy Hughes. There was a really happening scene in East Nashville then. Those were the days when you knew somebody had hit it big because they moved to Madison.
The legendary Road Mangler Phil Kaufman rounds out our features for the music issue. The guy partied with Keith Richards and Gram Parsons — what more do you want?
Maybe, if I can ever find the time, I’ll get around to telling more of the story and connecting more of the dots. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this issue. I’d also like to give a shout out to Mary Ann at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as Celene, Heather and Jim at Hatch Show print for our cover.
Enjoy the music and keep on keeping on.q