Saturday, August 26, 2006

A grand ole time

If you don’t know anything about country music – and I don’t – the Grand Ole Opry is something of a mystery. But even if you don’t cotton to the nasal sounds of older-style country music, the pace is so quick that you’ll likely find something you do like.

The show takes place on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. In summer the show is in the Nashville ‘burbs at the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry; in winter it’s in downtown Nashville at the historic Ryman Theater, which holds less than half.

The Opry is a live radio broadcast that lasts two hours. It’s broken up into four half-hour segments, each sponsored by a Southern company that you might not know, such as Martha White Flour or Vietti Foods. (The only one I’d heard of this night was Cracker Barrell.) Each half-hour segment has a host who performs, plus several other acts. The result: If you don’t like one, someone else will be along toot sweet.

I had backstage access, thanks to my friend Tom Adkinson. We passed by the performer’s dressing rooms --- everybody wants No. 1, which was Roy Acuff’s room – and then behind the scenes. I didn’t know most of the performers, but I got to meet Little Jimmy Dickens, who at 85 is quite the charmer and the entertainer. (“You know you’re getting old,’’ he told the crowd,'' when your wife says ‘Let’s go upstairs and make love,’ and you answer, ‘I can’t do both.’ '')

My pick of the night was a newcomer named Rockie Lynne, a handsome fellow who told a story about being adopted at age 4. Country music is all about everyday people in everyday situations, and here it fit.

I actually preferred the music I’d heard during a songwriters’ show at the Bluebird Café (the usual lovelorn stuff, plus some anti-war and other themes) and down in the clubs on Lower Broadway. My fave lyrics were heard at Roberts Western Wear from a songwriter/singer named Dave Cox: “I can’t recall what I should regret, I have a suspicion last night ain’t over yet.’’

Here I am with Little Jimmy Dickens. Top photo, Rockie Lynne on stage.

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