Loretta Lynn Remembers Tootsie’s

Two major icons are celebrating their 50th anniversaries in 2010: Loretta Lynn and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. You certainly know Loretta, the woman whose feisty songs about contemporary womanhood made her an easy selection for the Country Music Hall of Fame. If you don’t know about Tootsie’s, you should. The purple bar sits on Lower Broadway in Nashville, across the alley from the Ryman Auditorium, where the the Grand Ole Opry was held when Loretta made her debut in 1960. Tootsie’s is a small watering hole that still exists. During its early years, it was the gathering place for many of country’s songwriters and biggest stars, including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Mel Tillis, Faron Young, Marty Robbins, Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran. Read More

Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins Among ACM Honorees

Martina McBride, Randy Travis, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kenny Rogers were among the artists who showed up to perform on their behalf. Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith and Barbara Mandrell were among the acts who sent their support via video. But even more can be said by taking an inventory of the artists who were not on hand that were affected by the people who graced the stage Monday at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium: George Strait, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Josh Turner, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain… The real task would be to find artists who did not benefit from the raft of people — musicians, producers, concert executives, songwriters and pioneering artists #151; who were honored at the fourth annual ACM Honors. The event allowed the Academy of Country Music to give a more detailed account of the behind-the-scenes people and the pioneers of the genre than it could provide during its fast-moving televised awards. Read More

Joanna Smith: Put Her On Your Radar

“Aaaaaaall my girlfriends are gettin’ married…” If you’ve heard that line delivered with an amped-up energy and an acerbic little drawl, you’ve been listening to Joanna Smith. And if you haven’t heard it, you need to get her on your radar. Columbia Records held an eye-opening luncheon showcase for her Friday in the label’s cafeteria, an informal setting that allowed her to deliver an intimate little musical introduction. She sang just a handful of songs and introduced herself to a few Music Row decision-makers, including Grand Ole Opry Vice President Pete Fisher, and in the process, Joanna demonstrated some real potential with a spunky demeanor, forceful right-arm rhythms on her acoustic guitar and a clear, penetrating voice. Read More

Brad Paisley, Little Jimmy Dickens Bring Opry House Full Circle

It’s a six-foot piece of circular wood, scuffed and nicked and grooved, but it’s a monumental symbol. Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens joined four construction workers Wednesday in installing a major piece of oak into the center of the stage at the Grand Ole Opry House. The moment was captured by a herd of reporters and photographers as Nashville continues its recovery from a devastating flood in early May. At that time, water from the Cumberland River swamped the historic venue, piling 46 inches of liquid on top of the stage. The waters were so significant that mud was hurled onto the ceiling and Opry VP and general manager Pete Fisher literally floated a kayak through the house. Dirt and construction dust still litter the grounds around the Opry House, but the placement of the circle back onto the stage was a hardy symbol for the restoration of the Opry and its history. The circle was cut from the floor of the Ryman Auditorium and installed at the Opry House when it opened in 1974, providing a physical link between current generations of Opry members and some of the late performers who stood behind the mic stand on that same wood — people like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff and Marty Robbins. It was damaged during May’s floods, but not so much that it couldn’t be repaired. Its resilience embodies as well as ever the durability of the Opry and its legend. Read More

The Life and Legacy of Hank Cochran

Hank Cochran, a legendary songwriter who had hits in four decades, died Thursday after battling pancreatic cancer. A longtime member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, his words and melodies were significant in the careers of such signature artists as George Strait, Patsy Cline, Keith Whitley and Eddy Arnold. Hank was part of the first generation of Nashville’s full-time songwriters. Born in Mississippi, he was living and performing in California when he signed his first songwriting contract in 1959 with Pamper Music, a publishing company owned in part by Ray Price. In January 1960, he moved to Music City, where he became a regular at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a legendary music-business hangout. Tootsie’s provided an informal meeting room for country’s artists and writers, including Harlan Howard, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins and Willie Nelson, who Hank first met there. He helped Willie get signed to Pamper and even gave up a raise to make sure the company could afford Willie. Hank’s legend was practically cemented when he and Harlan co-wrote “I Fall To Pieces,” a landmark Patsy Cline song with a nicely contoured melody and deftly direct lyrics. It was not just a great calling card. The National Endowment for the Arts named it one of 365 culturally significant recordings in a new-millennium list of the Songs of the Century. Read More