September 9, 2010, Nashville, TN, The Ryman Auditorium
Just as Robert Plant was finishing up his surprise guest slot at The Americana Music Association Awards Show, former Dixie Chicks, as of late, Courtyard Hounds, Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson were emptying out the famed side door of The Ryman, signing autographs and taking pictures with a few of the media and locals that wandered down the beer light lit alley where John Ritter played as a boy while his father, Tex Ritter would be performing in the Mother Church, the home of The Grand Ole Opry.
I asked Martie if they were the surprise guests being talked about and she said “Nope, it was Robert Plant”. After which, I let her know that we had a general consensus that is who it would be. Yes, every time the stage door would open to the back door at the top of the stairs, there was no mistaking the voice of the Golden God.
It appears this could be a big turning point for the Americana Scene as it increases the sheer volume of styles and talent. WSM 650, “The Legend” will not only play the “Americana Files” on AM radio but will stream a 24/7 Americana Channel starting next week. It is amazing that a radio station that was there in the beginning is leading the way into the future.
Other performers and presenters began streaming out after Robert Plant had finished his Buddy Miller lead set. Peter Buck stopped briefly on the misty asphalt for a couple of pictures. It seemed that Artists from Country and Nashville understood what the side door of The Ryman meant. It was where Elvis, Bill Monroe, Lefty Frizell and others used to disappear into the backdoor of Tootsies and other Lower Broad watering holes back in the day after performing before sold out crowds. It has been a place where a few fans would chance to meet the Entertainers from the Saturday night airwaves.
Lucinda Williams slowly made it down the stairs, appearing to be a little exhausted, maybe a little travel weary. Lucinda made time to talk, sign, take pics and hang out with the few of us who had gathered to greet them in the late dewy air of The Ryman. Lucinda was Indie before there was “Americana” helping to define the genre by being fiercely independent in her songwriting and delivery.
Lucinda expressed concern about what was going on in the Country, she felt she had never been this concerned before. We discussed the Pastor who was planning on having a Koran burning on 9/11. Lucinda was relieved to find out he wasn’t going through with it.
A few more people came through the alley and lined up about 4 or 5 long with a man in a fresh clean promotional shirt of some new upcoming Country Artist at the very end. He waited patiently as he approached Lucinda with a piece of paper he found to get her autograph. He had a big smile on his face. A little luck had come his way this time as he walked the back alley.
He could have been a homeless man or a local African-American maybe from the Southside. Who knows but he is a part of the Carnival feel that attracts even those with not much to hang down on Lower Broad.
He politely asked for her autograph and shared some words with her. As he wandered west towards Tootsies, Lucinda was a little reflective and teary eyed. She said “Excuse me” as she tried to regain her composure. Lucinda lived in Nashville for nine years and I am sure some things still have not changed. I just said, “he kind of touched you didn’t he?” She responded, “He probably wasn’t even at the show, if I had known, somehow, you know I would have gotten him in somehow… his name was Perry”.
She was very reflective for a moment. I said “You never know. There may be a song in that”. Her Manager said, “There can always be a song in something”. Lucinda noted “You know it’s one of those things where what if Jesus was somebody in the crowd that nobody paid any attention to”. We all seemed to think about it for a moment. Lucinda shared a little of her thoughts and some “Real Love“. What a big heart.
I said, “You ought to move back to Nashville.” Lucinda just came back, “Too many cloudy days, I need sunshine”. Well, it has been cloudy this week but then again they always say “It Never Rains in Southern California ”.
As she left, a few others streamed out. We soon found out Robert Plant decided to make a rock star escape out one of the other doors after security had cleared the quad and he jumped into a waiting Hummer. Not quite the “rub shoulders with Country fans” type of thing, but, hey, he is a famous person who values his privacy.
As I was getting ready to leave for the next big show, Lucinda’s new friend came wandering down the alley again. I smiled at him “Hey Perry how’s it goin?” He stopped and smiled and said “How do you know my name?” I said “ Lucinda told me. You made a big impression on her”.
Perry smiled and said “it’s not every day you get to meet somebody famous”. He put his hand on my shoulder for a minute and smiled at me. It was there that I realized what Lucinda saw. The eyes don’t lie. He had a smile that penetrated your soul. He was as common as anybody down at the Mission with a couple of missing teeth, but, he had that “One of Gods Children” vibe that only a person with a pure soul could have. As he backed away, he stared at the Press badge with my name on it for a minute and strolled down the same path he was on before. In God’s hands.
– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN email@example.com