Archives for category: Lower Broad

David Andersen photo-davidandersenmusic.com

While the Honky Tonks beckon tourists from all over the world, there are two ambassadors that get right at eye level and can play with skill, discuss and share the heritage of Nashville. That is David Andersen in the lobby of The Country Music Hall of Fame, whose recordings are available in the gift shop and “ Mandolin Mike” Slusser with his weathered mandolin usually somewhere near Gruhn Guitars down on Lower Broad.

Both are top quality musicians. Both tell the story of Nashville through their playing, their interaction and approachability.

“Mandolin Mike” Slusser photo- Brad Hardisty

The difference is Mike is no longer allowed to sell CD’s out of his guitar case when he plays. Never mind the fact that the bands that play in the Honky Tonks, who also play for tips, sell their CD’s at the foot of the stage in the same manner.

Slowly but surely, the true Street Musicians have almost disappeared.  

Just four years ago, prior to the recession, a musician could survive on tips while connecting with tourists, other local musicians and figure out how to make it in Nashville.

Townes Van Zandt once commented that he made more money playing for tips on Lower Broad than gigging around town.

J D Simo at Robert’s photo- Collings Guitars

In the last few years, J D Simo did some street gigging before landing a spot with the Don Kelley Band at Robert’s. J.D. has gained notoriety for some great guitar playing and is now seen in ads for Collings Guitars in guitar magazines.

Years ago, Lower Broad attracted tourists because that is where the hit songwriters and musicians hung out. Lower Broad has continued to develop as a tourist playground while the street ambassadors, The Nashville Street Musicians are dwindling and getting no support from City Hall.

The ability to make it as a street musician has been severely affected by The Contributor vendors (not to put down a unique effort), the economic downturn and the fact that more and more tourists and locals do not carry cash.

There has to be a way to support and develop a healthy community of street musicians.

It is possible to develop a hybrid vendor license similar to the system used in Memphis on Beale Street.

“Mandolin Mike” Slusser with tourists Andrew and Rachel Downs from Birmingham, AL – photo – Brad Hardisty

It could be quite simple either by utilizing the downtown ambassadors or a non-profit street musicians union that collects license fees either monthly or yearly for specific locations. The fee needs to be low, as an example maybe $75 per year since musicians earn about 1/3 of what they used to.

The musician or group would receive a license that could be worn like a badge with a strap like a trade show or be displayed in the guitar or instrument case and be assigned to a specific spot like Beale Street in Memphis. A committee could get the spots cleared with the approval of local businesses where they would not be blocking any doors or foot traffic.

There could also be a few spots for weekenders that would need to stop in and get a weekend license and claim the spot.

This would stop random musicians from showing up and creating a nuisance without understanding local ordinances.  Musicians would also need to audition to show some sort of musical viability that honors the traditions of Nashville or shows strong performance, songwriting or playing ability.

I feel this could actually help to build on a great Nashville tradition without throwing musicians into the same category as panhandlers and vagrants.

My 1936 Gibson Electric Hawaiian, Soldano cabinet and Custom handmade early Samamp 45 watt all tube head made in Birmingham, Alabama by Sam Timberlake.

When I first came to Nashville, I got out on the block for fun, usually playing in front of Lawrence Record Shop, because, I wanted the experience and it was a way to develop chops and make a little money. One of my personal high points was when Little Jimmy Dickens stood and watched me play my 1936 Gibson Electric Hawaiian (that I purchased at Gruhn Guitars in 2007)through a little Roland Street amp and after about ten minutes, threw a $20 bill in the case and said, smiling,”Keep it up.”

Tristan Dunn at Cash Wall, sometime street musician, sit in with local bands. photo – Brad Hardisty

Their needs to be an advocate for the street musicians, true musicians that bring music up close and can discuss what it is all about with tourists and locals. It could be a benefit to downtown Nashville in the Lower Broad Entertainment District.

While Homeless Photographers and Writers are able to develop talents and abilities through The Contributor, homeless musicians and true troubadours are made to feel unwelcome and have all but disappeared.

Somebody start the discussion! We need to make it possible for musicians to be safe and able to ply their trade, making tips, selling CD’s, photos and buttons (making available, not verbally asking to buy) in the Lower Broad District. It can be tough surviving as a musician even with talent and ability.

It would be simple to kick out random wanderers if we had a vendor’s badge system and there were assigned areas along the route. Police would not have to make it rough for everybody, only those operating outside the guidelines.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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Wanda Jackson at Mercy Lounge 2010

Easter is all about a renewal, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it means to us. Nashville itself is a town of resurrection, a place where Jack White has produced two great albums by Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson and where the underbelly that was East Nashville is the place to be.

Speaking of East Nashville, Bob Dylan came here in the Sixties to make a 180 in his career and where Robert Plant came just a couple of years ago to do just the same.  Speaking of which, I have heard that he has set up shop with Patty Griffin in Austin since the Band of Joy tour.

What is Nashville to me? A Californian-slash-Alabama bluesman? I started making the drive up to Nashville quite often starting in 2006 from Birmingham. I liked the fact that you could wander from one honky tonk to another and check out all the Telecaster blasters playing through mostly Fender tube amps almost any hour of the day.

I finally made the move after getting positive feedback about my songwriting abilities from a local publishing head at the end of 2007.

It was a very surreal world, where one Saturday morning, wandering around a guitar show, I ended up talking to Scotty Moore about how many Bill Black Combos, Bill really had.  The next minute, I am jamming on my 1936 Gibson Electric Hawaiian down on Lower Broad when Little Jimmy Dickens comes wandering out of nowhere and watches me jam for about 10 minutes, throws a $20 dollar bill into the vintage case and says. “Keep it up!” Mind you, I’m not making this up. In fact, if you are from Nashville, you know what I mean and are probably saying, “So what.”

I realized that everybody had a story, whether it was the Baskin Robbins on Lebanon that said Porter Wagoner used to come in all the time, or a snapshot in the window of Robert Plant stopping in to check out the guitars.

So what do I like about Nashville, now that I have been here a few years?

Strange Karma down on Lower Broad celebrating the bassist birthday!

Let’s see, there is more diversity than what outsiders would think, for starters, I have met a ton of Aussies and I, seriously, have never met one I didn’t want to hang with whether it was Anthony Snape or Strange Karma. I wonder if it was like this when Keith Urban first came here and was playing at the Guitar Bar? Did the Aussies start coming after Keith’s success or is Nashville a big magnet?

As far as diversity goes, you can get world class Indian Cuisine, of which I am all about Tamarind on Demonbreun. I’ve ate Indian food all over the place and that is about as good as it gets.  There are several ethnic communities here, whether it be Egyptian Coptic Christians or Somalis, the list goes on and makes for Eateries that go way beyond the meat and three.

Something is in the water in East Nashville, with several upstart, one of a kind places like Far East Nashville, not only your typical Vietnamese Pho and Vermicelli bowls, but, the actual family recipes fixed by the owners brother, in a totally unique way.

Porter Road Butcher Shop makes some amazing sausages featuring probably the best Andouille Sausage this far north of Bayou Country.  In fact, that is what I had for Easter. I could have whatever I wanted, so, I faxed three eggs with some sharp Vermont Cheddar and some of that Andouille Sausage on the side.

Nashville is a vinyl fanatic’s pipe dream, wandering between Grimeys, The Groove, Phonoluxe and the two Great Escape locations there is no reason to ever come up empty handed. In fact, there is a plethora of radio station promo copies which are usually on heavier, better quality vinyl.  Record Store Day is almost like a city holiday where a huge migration descends mainly on Grimeys by the thousands. My only gripe would be, is there no bootlegs? Back when, I used to travel over to Berkeley to Moe’s Bookstore and get vinyl Beatles bootlegs as well as concerts and demos engraved onto vinyl by everything from Queen to Aerosmith to The Clash it was something nobody else had.

Music is everywhere, as I laid down to bed the first few months in Nashville, I could hear music in my head like never before, like ghost radio stations, it seemed like there were thousands of songwriters who had passed on and never left Nashville, they were just trying to get that next big hit. It seemed as if there was singing in the netherworld and all you had to be was a little bit spiritually aware.

Tommy Tutone and Mario at Nashville Amp Expo

I think there are more Telecasters in a 30 mile radius than the whole state of California, where they were invented.  If you can’t find the perfect Telecaster, there are boutique builders from Mario Guitars in Murfreesboro to Chad Underwood in Lexington, Kentucky.

As far as electric guitar parts go, Rock Blocks Guitars has a wall of supplies juts minutes away.

Looking at the Musical Instrument section in Craigslist can be eye opening. You never know what you will find, anything from a 1964 Fender Precision sold by the bass player in Cinderella after a career’s worth of touring to a Gold Top Les Paul owned by Duane Allman. If there is a vintage Sho-Bud Steel around, no doubt, eventually, you’ll see it on Craigslist.

Southside Gentlemans Club at Burt's Tiki Lounge, newly acquired Dr. Z Stang Ray in the backline. 2009

My favorite personal story is about my Dr. Z Amplifier. I had been writing and playing my own brand of Ragtime Blues when I moved to Nashville. I had been using a 45 Watt Samamp from Birmingham when I got here and it was just too much. I was ready for a little 30 Watt or less combo. There are so many and I just decided to try them all. I brought my arch top with me and made the rounds from Corner Music to Gruehn Guitars to Rock Blocks. Finally, when I plugged into this Dr. Z Stang Ray at Rock Blocks, I had met my match, a simple tone stack, where you could really fill out the bass and a simple good looking black with white trim amp.  The speaker had been changed out to a Cannabis Rex and it had a sound all its own.

The price tag was $2100. I didn’t have $2100. In fact, even with selling some gear, donating blood and street gigging down on Lower Broad, I still probably would be $1000 a way. I needed that amp. I put it in God’s hands. It’s okay to say that in Nashville isn’t it? Well, that’s what I did, true story. I prayed and said, I’ve tried all the amps out that I can think of and that is the one that sounds right then tucked it away.

Well, things looked bleak when I lost my job in 2008, in fact, really bleak, I left Nashville, worked five months in Memphis, then that company went bankrupt and I ended up taking a job with a national company in Utah and moved out of Tennessee.

I never gave up on the music, I got my five piece ragtime blues band together in Utah, playing at Burt’s Tiki Lounge, finding some great musicians from an add I put out in Craigslist. On a whim in early 2009, I looked up the Nashville Craigslist and found that exact Dr. Z Stang Ray for sale. Guitarist, Gary Ishee, had put an add up that read something like this;“I bought this Dr. Z Stang Ray earlier this year at Rock Blocks and I need to sell it.”

It looked identical. I called him up and explained that I was stuck out in Utah, but, that I knew the amp and through our talk, he knew I was the real deal. I wired the money to his bank account including the cost to ship it. I bought it for $1250. I was able to come up with that only because I went out west to a company on a bad stretch, because of the economy, they let me have all the overtime I could handle. I got the amp in a big Roland amplifier box from UPS in Farr West, Utah and it was the exact amp. I sat there and cried. It was the exact same amp, in fact, the only amp I ever prayed about and I will include the picture of my group, The Southside Gentlemens Club playing at Burt’s Tiki Lounge a couple of months later with the amp in the backline.

Thank you Brad Paisley for input on the AC30 hybrid design, what a great amp. I still own it and fire it up almost every day in hopes to lay down some tracks here soon.   

Okay tracks, let’s talk about that. I was in Utah almost a year, when I came out here on vacation in September 2009. I had hoped to move back to Nashville someday, maybe when the economy got better, but, on a whim, I had kept in touch with a realtor, who didn’t give up on me, even though, I was out in the Rocky Mountain West. I will drop his name, because Kenneth Bargers is an amazing Realtor. He emailed me faithfully every month some houses I would be interested in.  When I was here for a week in September 2009, Kenneth Bargers took me around on two afternoons to look at houses.  I felt like I was back home, I wanted to be back in Nashville, I did not want to get back on the plane.

Daniel Turner

We found a house I really liked. The last night I was in town, I was hanging around and moping by the pool at the airport Courtyard over on Elm Hill Pike, not wanting to leave Nashville. I decided I needed to go do something, pull myself up by my bootstraps. So I got dressed and headed over to Commodore Grille to check out some songwriters. Cowboy Jack Clement was in the round and it gave me goose bumps. I thought, if I had stayed at the hotel, I would have missed this.  I decided I need to get back and I was heading out the door when I heard somebody call my name. “Brad!” I looked up and it was Daniel Turner, one of my music friends from Birmingham, Alabama walking in. I said to him, “What are you doing here?”  He explained that he was going to be playing the next round. It was a great reunion of old friends. I have so much respect for Daniel as an all around musician. He can play, write and sing. If anybody could make a great classic country album, he could. He has such a great voice, but, he had really been influenced by a lot of the Alabama Blues that is around Birmingham.

I went back to my hotel room on cloud nine. I could hardly sleep. I was going to find a way to get back and I did. I interviewed by phone and got a transfer. I found a house on Zillow.com and Kenneth Bargers looked at it for me and on his word, I bought it. In fact, Kenneth represented me at closing in November 2009 and I never walked into the house until the first week of December as an owner. It’s a true story, call Kenneth, if you need a Realtor and you can ask about it. He is the best Realtor in Nashville as far as I am concerned.

Kenny Malone at a clinic at Country Music HOF

Okay, so, I am back. I work hard. I have got to hang with some great musicians and do some great interviews. It’s been a great ride, but, I need to resurrect my own career. Sometimes, I think it would be easier to move down to Pensacola and put together a group from Craigslist and center on a little club or bar to be “our place,” but, there is the dream recording session, the possibility that I can put together, with a little cash or luck, Kenny Malone on drums, “Slick” Joe Fick from The Dempseys on Bass, the violinist I saw at Mike Farris’ in store at Grimeys and get a trumpet player that can play like Al Hirt and get this manic New Orleans meets Memphis circa 1940 music to record. I work hard at the music and I have some great friends. If that part of my career is supposed to “Resurrect,” it will.

For now, I will just enjoy the ride.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Strange Karma on Nashville set - Fade to Black

Monday Night saw Nashville State Community College’s PEG Studio rocking the campus with Aussie’s Strange Karma on a stopover between live dates in Chicago and Detroit before heading to the West Coast.

To be featured on an upcoming episode of Local TV Show Fade To Black, Strange Karma performed four numbers with hints of classic hard rock such as Led Zeppelin to Aussie style heavy Midnight Oil Rhythms of “America”, this is the first Nashville will get to see of Strange Karma live as well as an interview with show host, Steve Lockett and yours truly.

Jason McDonald - Strange Karma

Jason McDonald sat behind a DW double bass kit reminiscent of Cozy Powell, laying down solid percussion, wearing his DW sponsorship proudly with a full tattoo on his arm of the drum kit. Jason was playing in Australian Van Halen and Led Zeppelin tribute bands before hooking up with brothers Martin and Paul Strange.

Paul, was running his 58’ Classic Ebony Black Les Paul almost straight into the Marshall JCM800 half stack, employing just a couple of pedals, leaving a dense analog wall of sound, with nods to Jimmy Page as well as Paul Kossoff.

Martin & Paul Strange

Brother, Martin Strange fronted the band with a Jim Morrison presence and a little Robert Plant thrown in for good measure. These references may be a little over the top, but, in actual fact this is original Hard Rock with all the grit and none of the digital high end squelch ring of busy activity associated with so much computer processed ADD Ear Candy in today’s metal.

Bassist, Doe Prijono, of Indonesian descent who arrived in Australia in his youth, provides not only six string bass prowess, but, acts as the guy that everybody likes in the band. Everybody wants to hang with Doe, with a demeanor as smooth as a mountain lake and matching musical depth, the four members of Strange Karma spur each other on to higher climes.

Local band, Scarey Larry, had finished a TV taping of their episode of Fade To Black just prior and decided to hang for the Aussie’s set. It has to be said, every time I get the chance to hang with Aussies, the more I want to visit Australia. It may be that they are the only people on par for friendliness with Southerners. The only difference is they still have that daredevil west coast attitude as well.

Australians like to conquer the world and Strange Karma is willing to do it one American fan at a time.  Although their music is rooted in solid hard rock roots, it is their own thing with enough in the mix not to be associated with just one of the branches in the tree.

Dutch, Steve, Paul, Nashville South, Doe, Jason, Martin, Nashville North on Lower Broad

With just a short time between dates up north then on to two Texas shows, 11/24 & 11/25 before headlining a gig at The Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood on November 30th, Strange Karma wanted to make the most of their night in Nashville by celebrating Doe’s Birthday down on Lower Broad, cruising through Legend’s Corner, Roberts, where Eric Clapton found five vintage Stratocasters and built “Blackie” out of three of them when it was partly known as Sho-Bud Guitars, as well as The Stage before ending up at Full Moon Saloon where Megan Ellis just blew away the whole band doing everything from Patsy Cline to Stevie Nicks. The band was immovable till it was time to go crash before heading to Memphis to visit Graceland then head southwest to Austin, Texas.

Strange Karma plans on making a return visit to Nashville in the near future, especially with plans for a new album in the coming year, the current FnA Records release, Volume One is available now and the Fade To Black episode will be aired soon on NECAT Channel 19 in Davidson County and probably YouTube on a computer near you.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Town Mountain on Mainstage

On the second night of World of Bluegrass, the boundaries were being stretched from groups influenced by Bluegrass music growing up, but, showing hardly a hint of a Bluegrass foundation to neo-modern traditionalists Town Mountain, the future of Bluegrass lies in a cross section of those that would hold high the Monroe flame at this celebration of the 100th Anniversary of his birth to seeing if Pat Benatar can go well with a side of Mandolin.

The Farewell Drifters

The Farewell Drifters, with a fairly current Americana meets Pop Music took the stage, with two releases debuting in the top 10 of the Billboard Bluegrass charts, Zach Bevill and the crew were a push forward with varied influences. The fact that they have progressed this far shows that a younger generation is carrying acoustic music across the universe.

Nu-Blu backstage

Nu-Blu, featuring the beautiful voice of Carolyn Routh, premiered a great video for a strong number, “Other Woman’s Blues,” before playing live to the full house. The real strength of Nu-Blu is their songwriting, even though they finished the set with Dolly’s “Jolene” and a Pat Benatar rave-up of “Shadows of the Night,” they have some interesting stories of their own to tell.

Crystal Shipley, Joe Zauner and Jed Clark

If there was a particular theme, it seemed to be that just about any acoustic music was welcome. Even in the after hours, showcases, which featured the Gypsy Jazz / Old time Texas style swing of Casey Driscoll, Taylor Baker and Brennen Ernst playing “Blue Skies”, was really a bridge to the Americana Conference and Folk Alliance.

Backstage with Randy Kohrs

Jim Lauderdale had one of the strongest sets, playing songs from Reason and Rhyme, with Producer and Dobro shredder, Randy Kohrs and a hot band hitting all the right spots. Jim is a neo-traditionalist chameleon that works in tall bluegrass and with Grateful Dead songwriters in the same breath. Jim has such a volume of output; he wears me out just thinking about it.

Jim Lauderdale with WSM 650 staff

Town Mountain was a fitting finish, with great musicianship and a strong nod to Bluegrass.  They were drawing in the lines and at the same time fresh faced.

Rodney & Beverly Dillard

Rodney Dillard of the generational Dillards (The Darlings, Andy Griffith Show) was taking a breather this year while his band was all about mixing it up.

Casey Driscoll, Taylor Baker and Brennen Ernst Showcase

The jams go late into the night. Some of the impromptu meet ups are what makes this fun. You could catch anybody from Crystal Shipley (The Dixie Bee-Liners), Joe Zauner on banjo and Jed Clark (The Roys) on guitar, just hanging on a cluster of couches talking instruments to see what happens.

Harry Fontana at Robert's

After hours, one could hang and catch the late night showcases or go grab a bite to eat down on Lower Broad in a couple of minutes at Robert’s listening to the three piece straight up Rock and Roll of Harry Fontana on “Rockabilly Boogie.”

Martin McDaniel at The Stage

A couple more doors down and the soulful country of Southern Alabama’s Martin McDaniel, with some of the most fluid guitar lines in town was at The Stage. Martin has been building a local audience ever since he arrived a few years ago, doing it the hard way, honky tonks and opening sets.

WAMU's Bluegrass Country Showcase

Music City; where music never sleeps.  

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Johnny Cash Memorial Wall August 2011

When a new sewer main was replaced just a couple of blocks from The Country Music Hall of Fame, a landmark was almost completely obliterated.  Street art at its finest, the Johnny Cash Memorial by Rex2, Pako, Audroc and Scar at 4th Ave. South and Molloy, was somewhere one could take relatives and tourists just a few blocks off Lower Broad and watch faces light up as they wanted to get their picture taken in front of the mural.

Johnny Cash Memorial Wall 2004

The Johnny Cash Memorial Wall was an oasis among the fading old glory of the original downtown. Day after day, I watched TDOT as they jack-hammered and imploded the road just a couple of feet from one of my favorite spaces. The wall became covered with debris as the street was dug up like somebody’s backyard getting ready for an Olympic size pool.

The words “Manifested Thoughts” and approaching trains all but gone.

Cash detail before damage

Couldn’t somebody have thought of putting a canvas up on the side of that building?  With all of the blasting shrapnel, eventually all that has been left is parts of the name CASH.  The train murals and phrases all but gone.

Pre-destruction," Andy Warhol style" Cash Multi-prints

Okay, it was street art.  Street art is part of Nashville. There are other more recent murals as well as the old painted logos of businesses of days gone by. These are things that people look for. A remnant of the past is part of what Nashville and Country music is all about. This was a great work of art.  It was an outdoor Andy Warhol/Banksy-“Mona Lisa” of the most recent member of the Sun Records Million Dollar Quartet.

Really, how could anybody do that? This is a meaningless travesty of justice and politics.

Tristan Dunn – 2010 at the Cash wallBrad Hardisty, Cash Wall 2010Hank Williams new appearance on the wall
Brad Hardisty, Cash Wall 2010

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com