I’D READ all about Nashville’s Fan Fair for years but only got to experience it for the first time on Friday morning, day two of the CMA Fest.
Marie, Gordon and I headed in to the Nashville Convention Centre, walking into that big room with posters and signs of all the artists you could meet and greet.
They had varying schedules and were all very accessible to their fans, even those of us who weren’t keen to line up – you could still get close and say g’day, which I did with Raul Malo, lead singer of the newly-reformed Mavericks.
You could buy CDs, posters, T-shirts, clothing, souvenirs and so much more in there and have it signed by them. I caught Buddy Jewell live in the Fan Fair arena, singing Help Pour Out The Rain, the big hit he had a few years ago. Lovely stuff.
When I was a little kid growing up in Bingara, I can remember Lynn Anderson bringing out that song, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, which we had on a 45. I played the life out of it and finally got to meet the lovely lady in person.
Marie did her daily spot that afternoon on the Tomkins Showcase at the Sheraton and we headed off to “church”... Friday afternoon at Dan McGuinness’s Pub with some of the local Nashvilleans.
It’s a weekly ritual for Bob Saporiti, Denise Fussell, Melanie and John Lomax III, Steve Haggard, Paul Siels, Garry Fletcher and quite a few others who gather to discuss the events of the week and enjoy each other’s
It was so much fun, I missed getting along to LP Field that night for the big concert. I really only wanted to see the opening act, Ronnie Milsap, but as Bob pointed out to me, Ronnie wouldn’t see me in the crowd anyway. Naughty boy, but likeable.
After we left the pub, we found ourselves back at Robert’s Western World again, our favourite haunt, drawn in there by a band playing the Marty Robbins song, El Paso.
It was Brazilbilly, who play there every Friday and Saturday night, and what a super band they are. Played all the old stuff, no new cowboy pop here. It was hillbilly heaven and I was wearing just the right T-shirt for it: Think globally, act hillbilly.
I’d bought it that morning from an old record shop just down from Ernest Tubb’s. I told the man in the shop how much I liked the sentiment behind the shirt and he told me he was the designer; it was George Hamilton V, a top bloke who knows quite a few Aussies and has impressive lineage. Google him.
Back to Brazilbilly though. They were amazing. We stayed quite late (again). I’m not sure how you actually have an early night in this city of music. It seems the days just fly by so quickly and before you know it, it’s 2am and you’re still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
The security man at the door, Maury, was a dead ringer for Fox Lanagan, a bloke I grew up with in Bingara. He knew all the words to every song Brazilbilly sang – and he could hold a tune.
On Saturday morning Marie and the others had a gig at the Full Moon honky tonk on Broadway. Marie, Alby Pool, Craig Morrison, Ted Simpson, Dan Murphy and Travis Collins sang their hearts out.
After lunch at Diana’s old style diner, Gordo, who’d picked up the dreaded Nashville flu, headed back to the motel so Marie and I wandered down towards the Hall of Fame. The Soleil stage was operating and we caught the tail end of Levi Lowrey’s set. He’s got a great way with words and a fine voice.
Marie and I sought out the coolness of the Hall of Fame gift shop, but on the way there got sidetracked by an acoustic guitarist picking a Marty Robbins tune in the entry foyer.
He ended up playing Waltzing Matilda for us after chewing our ear off for a good 20 minutes, but we didn’t mind – it was cool in there.
Marie handed him $10 for his CD, and he thought it was a tip, so thanked her, quickly put it into his guitar case and directed us to the gift shop, where his CDs were on sale for $10 a pop. We laughed all the way home.
It was a real Aussie showcase that night at the Sheraton. The Le Garde Twins were special guests and among the audience was Matt Scullion and Pru Clearwater – Pru would be familiar to Tamworth audiences of a decade ago for her Shania Twain tribute shows.
Also in the audience was Mike and Barbie Twitty – the son and daughter-in-law of the late, great Conway Twitty.
We had a brilliant night getting to know them and Marie got a real history lesson from Mike, who grew up around all the big stars of yesterday – Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline among others.
Mike and Barbie live at Hickory Lake, a suburb of Nashville. They were so impressed with the show they returned the following evening.
We had a reasonably early night, by Nashville standards; in bed by midnight or shortly thereafter.
After eight days in Music City, we were almost ready to leave. Where did that time go?