Newsletter responses: Beginners, Miss Wannabe, and Singing at the Ryman

I had two very interesting responses to the last newsletter and I’d like to print them both. So here is the first one.

Bobbe:

Are you being too harsh on musicians who are possibly still in their growth stage? Imitating the greats, and learning their special licks and styles is the beginning of extending those lessons into one’s own personal style. Also, learning the levels of dynamics, the volume levels for various musical purposes is within that learning curve. I do agree that a player should be past those early levels when playing in a club in Nashville, and certainly has to be past those levels when entering a recording studio. In any case, a player will learn pretty darn quickly when not invited to return to that club or studio.

On the other hand, there are certain classic tunes that cry out for a close imitation of the original backing and breaks. So, in agreeing with you somewhat, the key is knowing when to be unique, and when to honour the past masters.

Bryan Bradfield

I appreciate Bryan’s perspective and thank him for the email. I was trying to make the point that simply memorizing 25 licks does not mean you’ve mastered the instrument as I think too many players are primarily lick oriented when they should be music oriented. This subject probably needs 30 or 40 pages instead of just 2 or 3. Now here’s the second one.

Bobbe,

Got to tell you a funny, but disappointing true story. Your “Patsy Cline or Martina McBride wannabe” line made me remember the last time I was in Nashville in 2007 for the IBMA convention. After the exibition hall closed down, and we had put away our display in our booth for the night we decided to “hit Broadway”, or lower Broad as I called it. It was sad to see no more Linebaugh’s restaurant behind the Ryman, but I hadn’t been in Nashville since 1964, so I wasn’t that surprised that it was gone. Anywho, we hit a few clubs on Broad, and then went out to where the new Op’ry was and hit a couple of clubs out there. In every one of the clubs they had a Reba/Tanya Tucker/Martina McBride wannabe. I swore if I heard Delta Dawn”, or “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” one more time I was going to commit hari kari right on the steps of the Ryman. But the real clincher for every one of them was the Miss Wannabe’s entrance. After they were introduced and the band started playing their intro, they came out on stage with this “overreacting/straight armed/wide sweep” of clapping their hands and saying, “Hey, Nashville. How y’all doin’? Put your hands together”, and went into their song. And they were all dressed pretty much the same way too, and the hair was pretty much the same….long and blonde. Another thing that was disappointing was the lack of support by the band. While the girl was singing, the band members were talking among themselves, some even stopped playing and took a drag or two from a cigarette(?). Real professionals.

There was one high point for me though. Walking back to the parking lot from Broadway we passed the Ryman. It was locked up tighter than Dick’s hatband. I said, “Fellas, hang on. There’s something I’ve been waiting to do for fifty-five years.” I stood on the front steps and sang a verse of the old song, “Froggy Went A-Courtin'”. My friends looked at me like I’d lost it, but I said, “I’ve always wanted to sing at the Ryman since I saw my first Grand Ole Op’ry show here back in 1954, and this is probably about as close as I’ll ever get.” They laughed and we walked on. When we got back home friends asked me how I liked Nashville. I told them it had its good points and bad, but that I got to sing at the Ryman, and it was worth the trip for me. Hey, I wasn’t lying. I just didn’t tell them it was “outside” the Ryman on the front steps. I had a friend who always wanted to dance on Broadway in New York and when she got to New York, she stood under the Broadway street sign and clog danced. Some dreams can come true if only partially.

Arkansas Red-Ozark Troubadour
Ozark Mountains, Arkansas

Red, you’re bringing tears of laughter to my eyes!

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