Nashville-Atlanta 3, 4, September

3 September

There’s no better bed than your own and the same goes for your personal brand of coffee and prep. Being home for a couple of days while still mid-tour is great and strange. Woke to do all the normal things of home… coffee, take the trash and recycling to the curb, make the bed…. all leading to re-entering the tour bubble this afternoon. I re-organised my bags then turned up late in the afternoon at a hotel in my own hometown I’d driven by hundreds of times but never had occasion to stay. Checked in and re-joined the band for short drive to our Nashville show at The Ryman Auditorium. Opened in 1892, it was built by former steamboat captain turned evangelist Thomas Ryman as a church. Over the years its stage has been a home for the likes of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, opera singer Alma Gluck and virtuoso violinist Efram Zimmbalist, Bob Hope, countless other stars of stage and screen. Perhaps its most famous years were from 1943 to 1974 when it was the home of The Grand Ole Opry radio show. By the late ‘60s and early ‘70s it had fallen in to disrepair and was condemned to the wrecking ball after the Grand Ole Opry was to be moved to a more modern theatre in another part of the city. It managed to escape that fate after being listed in the National Register of Historic Places and survive as a tourist attraction where for $1.00 you could walk through the place and stand on its stage in front of a “WSM Grand Ole Opry “ labeled microphone and have a picture made. In 1991 I had the very good fortune to co-produce with Allen Reynolds a live album of Emmylou Harris and The Nash Ramblers in this auditorium. At that point the structure was so compromised that only 200 or 250 were allowed in the place at one time for safety reasons. The entire balcony known as The Confederate Balcony was unstable and off limits to the public and there was no seating allowed beneath. That album, “At The Ryman” won a Grammy award and a great deal of attention. It is credited for fuelling interest in restoring, reviving and modernising The Ryman Auditorium. I claim and take no credit for any of what followed but am extremely proud to have been a small part of that recording. Wikipedia the Ryman for a far more detailed history if interested. All that to say, this historic venue was our office tonight. It’s been 11 years since we played here last and it’s always a special stage and gig for us and anyone who’s had the good fortune to walk its boards. A very intimate venue seating just 2,360 people, it has been sold out for months and was packed to the very rafters of the place. Everything about the gig was exquisite from the sound of the venue which the Ryman is noted for, to the audience, to MK & Co. which somehow elevated itself to still a higher rung no doubt spurred on by the house we were in and its people who joined us tonight in the audience. I’ve played on many stages, large and small going back to the early ‘70s (when I first played The Ryman with Neil Diamond) but there are few venues that can match this one. I was so buzzed from the gig that I lay in bed ’til well past 2 reliving it. A brilliant hometown show. Thanks Nashville.

4 September

Up very early, 6:30 to be exact, still firing from last night’s show. That’s about 4 hours sleep. Coffee and a rare room service breakfast which I normally don’t eat. I ate next to nothing all day yesterday and went to bed feeling very hungry waking even more so. A relatively early bag call and a 1:45 wheels up to Atlanta and another venue we love to play, Chastain Park Amphitheatre. We arrived in the city as it was peaking in the mid-90s fahrenheit… from the heaven of The Ryman to the hell of Atlanta. To be fair, Nashville was about the same yesterday but we didn’t have an outdoor gig. We’ve played this venue many times and tonight’s max crowd of 6,700 gave us a rousing ovation at the end. Back on board the jet, drinks in hand we sailed off south-westerly to San Antonio where we’ll base for a few days and a day off tomorrow.

Richard Bennett