Mayor Karl Dean has another feather in his “convention center” cap.
“The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum is a key element in our convention-center campus,” said his honor at the grand opening of its 210,000 square foot expansion of the museum. “I guarantee you, we have the most compelling convention experience of any city in the country,” he added, citing the Hall of Fame, the attached Omni Hotel, the Music City Center, Bridgestone Arena, Lower Broadway, the Frist Fine Arts Center and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center as components of this district.
A liquor store and a convenience shop on Korean Veterans Boulevard would help. I know what conventioneers need.
“This is a day of celebration and thanksgiving,” said CMHoF exec Kyle Young. “Today, we begin a promising new era. We’re gratified to be in the ‘It’ city.”
“This is yet another milestone in our growing SoBro,” added the Mayor. “For the past year, you’ve heard me say that The New York Times called us the ‘It’ city. Last month, Time magazine called us the ‘red-hot city of the South.’ This is a moment to celebrate Country music as a genre that made us Music City.”
“Thank you for your generosity and for your belief in our city,” said CMHoF board chairman Steve Turner. He, Young and Dean were all speaking in the facility’s new Event Hall, which Turner praised as having “the best skyline views in our city.”
The opening was celebrated with both afternoon and evening events at the museum on Tuesday (April 15). The official gig in the afternoon was characterized by music, music, music. Which is how we always do things best in Tune Town.
Following the presentation of the Colors by members of the Tennessee National Guard, “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung by The Valentines. The fabulous McCrary Sisters did “Amazing Grace” a cappella. Then Ricky Skaggs performed the museum capital campaign’s “fight song,” The Carter Family’s “Working on a Building.”
“There’s a lot of great cities in the world, and I’ve been to a bunch of them,” said Skaggs. “But there’s only one that can call itself Music City.”
Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill performed “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Its author, Fred Rose, was one of the first three people inducted into the Hall.
Lee Ann Womack sang “You Don’t Know Me,” which was written by Hall of Fame member Cindy Walker and introduced by Hall of Fame member Eddy Arnold.Buddy Miller and The McCrary Sisters romped through “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” by Hall of Famer Buck Owens. Buddy was the bandleader and musical director of the event. And what a band: Tammy Rogers (fiddle, mandolin), Viktor Krauss (bass), Tim Lauer (piano, accordion), Russ Pahl (steel) and Jerry Rowe (drums).
“This speaks to who we are as a state,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “The thing we’re most famous for is making music. Music represents us all over the world.”
Confetti canons blasted colorful paper bits onto the heads of attendees at the finale. Everybody got pieces of cake and commemorative posters from Hatch Show Print.
Well, almost everybody. The afternoon event was originally scheduled to take place out of doors. Weather forced things to take place inside. The Tennessean failed to mention that this meant that the event was no longer open to everyone. Once the Event Hall was filled past capacity, folks from the pubic were turned away. Also: The Hall ran out of posters as well as printed programs.
Lucky fabulons who did get to move and groove included Bobby Braddock, Bobby Bare, Jo Walker Meador, Jody Williams, Jody Maphis, Rose Lee Maphis, Don Light, Donna Nicely, Lon Helton, Harold Bradley, Rod Essig, Jimmy Fortune, Chris Horsnell, Bud Wendell, Irene Kelly, Brian Mansfield, Earle Simmons, Ed Salamon, Diane Pearson, Al Bunetta, Mark Ford, Tom Roland, Lori Badgett, Kathi Whitley, Andrew Kintz, Mary Ann McCready, Allison Auerbach, Jennifer Bohler and John Ingrassia.
Needless to say, the galleries were packed after the ceremony. So we returned to a Members-Only Preview event that evening at 5-7 p.m. Apart from Steve West, Jimmy Carter, Dan Ekback and a few others, we had the expansion galleries to ourselves.
There is 10,000 square feet of new gallery space. We’ve already seen the new Event Hall, its lobby, its balcony, the 800-seat CMA Theater, the Jerry & Ernie Williams Lobby off Fifth Avenue and the new Hatch Show Print headquarters. What we didn’t see is the expanded storage space for artifacts and the library.
What we did see is the Taylor Swift Education Center, with its three classrooms and a learning lab. That’s on the third floor. So is the spectacular Glen Campbell exhibit. Beyond Glen’s many costumes, guitars and artifacts you can peer into the museum’s exhibit-prep area.
On the second floor are the adjoining Dinah & Fred Gretsch Family Gallery and the ACM Gallery. These showcase contemporary Country stars, featuring costumes, hats, plaques, video props and paper collectibles from Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Eric Church, Thompson Square, Tate Stevens, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, The Zac Brown Band, Gregg Allman, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Craig Morgan and Jason Aldean, as well as such legends as Charlie Daniels, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
A few things that caught my eye were Kellie Pickler’s costume from her championship on Dancing With the Stars, Trisha Yearwood’s blender and kitchen utensils from her cooking TV show, Don Schlitz’s typewriter (on which he wrote “The Gambler”), memorabilia from the farewell tours of George Strait and Ralph Stanley, farewell/funeral artifacts from George Jones, stuff representing Darius Rucker’s Opry induction and bluegrass instruments plus an IBMA Award from the gifted Gibson Brothers.There are song lyrics, award statuettes and LOTS of interactive video screens. There’s a wall-size display of bobble-head dolls representing jobs in the music industry. I didn’t get the turntable where I think you were supposed to put post-it notes containing song ideas. I did get the big “anatomy” guitar with a kiddie play-slide inside. Do not be deceived by the room in the shape of Taylor’s tour bus. It does not house tour-bus bunks or kitchenettes. Just more touch screens.
Afterward, we headed to Josephine’s on 12th Avenue South. Don’t miss the heirloom-beet salad or the scallops main course. Sitting at the next table was Connie Britton. I resisted the urge to tell her that we’re addicted to her Nashville TV series.