The Concert Tour: Day Two
Oct. 17th, 1991
Day two. A long day spent in Nashville and traveling through Memphis, on our way to our first gig in Natchatoches Louisiana. I fail to adjust my clock for Nashville's central time zone and wake up an hour early. Fine. Even with all the extra time I manage to stay too long at breakfast and suffer the fate of being "the last guy." In rock'n'roll, where schedules are sometimes loose, showing up late only carries a penalty if you're last. If three people are an hour late, and you're an hour and five minutes late, you're the one who gets the looks and comments.
The day begins with "Eddie's Tour of The Stars." First on the agenda, well, Eddie's house. But only so we can meet his wife and see Roy Orbison's house in the same subdivision. Orbison's house is an extremely modest brick structure which might belong to a plumber, accountant or bus driver or one of the greatest American singers? Eddie tells us how self-effacing and nice Orbison is, very private. Next, Johnny Cash.
Cash lives in a style more befitting a legend. In a more exclusive "subdivision," it is a tourist drive-by attraction. There's a guard on duty 24 hrs./day. The sprawling contemporary home is secure, but not very private. He seems to own a lot of land; the house faces Old Hickory Lake. It's gorgeous setting, but right on the narrow road jammed with tourist traffic. Cash, according to Eddie, has his own private zoo.
We pass (in the same subdivison) the Hank Snow "Rainbow Ranch," and then one of the strangest sights of the tour: Conway Twitty's "Twitty City." Twitty City is a tacky arcade style theme park, which contains a weird walled-in complex where Twitty lives with his entire immediate family. They occupy separate homes all within spitting distance, all subsidized by Twitty of course. Kids, Grandkids, Mom, all RIGHT THERE, behind the brick walls, which are in turn surrounded on all sides by grotesque Twittified commercial development. One has to wonder: do they really live there? Twitty is reportedly fanatical about Christmas and lights 50,000 lights every year. According to Eddie, there may be trouble in brick-walled paradise: "I hear he's gone bankrupt; his wife suing for divorce. You can hear anything though, I don't know that." (Note: Conway Twitty passed away in 1993.)
Twitty City aside, most of the homes we see are not ostentatious, but rather reserved. They all have one thing in common however: the tour bus. The ubiquitous symbol of the big time, especially in Country Music with its emphasis on travel and performing.
Next stop: Opryland, the enormous, sprawling 10,000-car parking lot Disney-meets-700-Club showbiz complex which has license to the great tradition of the Grand 'Ol Opry radio show. On the way, we traverse the exit ramp where Country star Dottie West died. Running late for an Opry gig, her driver lost control on the ramp. The spot is marked with a pole wrapped in day-glo, an assortment of flowers scattered about.
As we pull in to Opryland, the billboard shouts the corporate slogan in red, white and blue: "Share the Wonder." Sitting in the parking lot is a gleaming, custom-painted (you guessed it) tour bus, with matching trailer, on which sits a matching gleaming pickup truck. Aside from the 'oohs and aahhs' we wonder: "Who's is it?" We circle Opryland for a look-see, but due to our tight schedule (we need to make Memphis before dark) we don't disembark.
The bus now heads to Music Row, where publishing houses and studios originally congregated. This little strip on a hill exists today primarily as a tourist site chock full of gaudy shops. Our destination: The Elvis Presley Museum. Aside from his love of The King, Danny is interested in this museum's claim to ownership of (Presley guitar player) Scotty Moore's original Gibson hollow-body electric guitar, a claim Danny privately disputes. Danny is an expert regarding the variables and rare differences among some of these instruments, and has (he believes) identified certain traits and odd customizations on a guitar he acquired through various back-channels, reputed to belong to Scotty Moore, used during the classic mid-fifties period. Danny also claims Scotty Moore himself identified his instrument as being the real one, but due to financial and contractual obligations with the Elvis museum, he has never and will never confirm it formally. Inside the museum, Danny has one look at the reputed "original" guitar and scoffs harshly.
Leaving the Elvis museum, we brush by a husband and wife street musician team, performing for tips. He's playing guitar, she's singing, their repetoire of country standards comes through a combination boom-box/PA which obediently churns-out rhythm tracks, a kind of mix-and-match Karaoke. Their names are announced on a hand-lettered sign. It's a sad little scene: she's a weathered, bleached blonde caricature with a halting dance and struggling, stilted delivery. He's clad in black leather vest and plastic boots, his angular beard and taut, bony face make him look like an Amish man who took a radical left turn. It's a bizarre sight. Pedestrians pass by, not noticing.
We leave and head for Memphis, but arrive too late to actually tour Graceland,
(Oh, did I mention that a visit to Elvis' home was our primary Memphis agenda item?) but we are able to troll the tourist pavilion across the street, and tour one of Elvis' buses. (Again with the buses!) The bus is spacious and very 'sixties'; lots of vinyl, formica and mirrors. Given Elvis' story, one can't help but notice the full kitchen
Elvis' two jets are there as well, the little one and the big one (read, Boeing 727). How much money does one have to have to afford this scale of extravagance? All are generously labeled with Elvis' "TCB" logo - "Taking Care of Business." As is well known, the Business pretty much took care of Elvis.
The final leg, from Memphis to Natchatoches (pronounced "Nak-i-tsh) Louisiana will take half the night. The evening is passed watching the 7th game of the National League Championship Series (the Atlanta Braves "Tomahawk Chop" is all the rage), telling stories, and listening to more of Danny's bootleg tapes. We hear a long tape of (alleged to be real) phone conversations between a chronic telephone harasser and his victim. Dubbed Al White Motors, so named because the victim receives every call at a car dealership of the same name, this long recording is a brutal combination of tortured verbal and psychological abuse, felonious harassment, and (sadly) hysterical humour.
I can't listen to it all, and head for sleep at 2am. Though the bus pulls in to the parking lot of the gig (at North West Louisiana State University) at 3:45am, I sleep through until 8:30.
Next: Breakfast at 'Me Maws': eggs, red beans and a side of bigotry.
The final leg, from Memphis to Natchatoches (pronounced "Nak-i-tsh) Louisiana will take half the night. The evening is passed watching the 7th game of the National League Championship Series (the Atlanta Braves "Tomahawk Chop" is all the rage), telling stories, and listening to more of Danny's bootleg tapes. We hear a long tape of (alleged to be real) phone conversations between a chronic telephone harasser and his victim. Dubbed Al White Motors, so named because the victim receives every call at a car dealership of the same name, this long recording is a brutal combination of tortured verbal and psychological abuse, felonious harassment, and (sadly) hysterical humour. I can't listen to it all, and head for sleep at 2am. Though the bus pulls in to the parking lot of the gig (at North West Louisiana State University) at 3:45am, I sleep through until 8:30.
Next: Breakfast at 'Me Maws': eggs, red beans and a side of bigotry.