Time Travel

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Yesterday in New England we enjoyed our first real day of spring. Sunny. Warm. Green all around. Naturally my thoughts turned to time travel.  Or more precisely, Nashville Time Travel.

Let me backup a bit.

When temperatures hit 70 and the sun is shining, our college town goes crazy.  Students temporarily forget about research papers. They roll down car windows and pump up Lady Gaga.

I join them, but the music in my car is Nashville. There is nothing like blasting a little Alan Jackson or Secret Sisters as I tool around back roads of Western Massachusetts.

A bumper sticker on my car

All those good tunes make me think of Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium and how much I regret not spending weekends there when I was in college.  My college wasn’t that far away.  My friends were always up for a road trip.  Why in the world didn’t we pile into someone’s Chevy Vega and head South on I-24? The trip was five hours door-to-door. Back when I was in my twenties that drive was a ten dollar tank of gas and a big bucket of the Colonel’s.

I was talking the other day with an old friend of mine about our mutual love of country music.  Classic country. He told me stories I never knew about his father spending time on Loretta Lynn’s bus, an old photo of his mother with Marty Robbins, and an antediluvian machine his family owned that cut real records.  “Primitive,” he said.  All the better, I thought.

That’s what I love about classic country music: its raw, unapologetic simplicity.  Oh, and narrative. Every good country song has a story.

Driving around yesterday with the windows down and listening to Kitty Wells, I got to thinking about the Ryman and the classic performances I wish I could travel back in time to see and hear.

Ryman Auditorium

Here’s a partial list:

1946             Bill Monroe “Blue Moon of Kentucky”

1961             Ernest Tubb “Walking the Floor Over You”

1965             Connie Smith “Once a Day”

1968             Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash “Jackson”

1974             Dolly Parton “Jolene”

1998            Tammy Wynette “Stand by your Man”

I’m sorry I never made those trips to the Ryman many years ago.

But I did make a trip this year for my birthday.  That afternoon there were no performances or official tours of the great old auditorium.

Just as well.

I sat on worn wooden pews and looked around at light streaming through the Ryman’s stained-glass windows.

You could say there’s nothing like having the Mother Church all to yourself–but I heard too many ghosts to ever feel alone.

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