My Dad tells this story about how his cousin and her husband got banned from Graceland. This was back in the day and they had taken a motorcycle trip to Memphis and pulled up at the gates of Graceland and were taking pictures, as tourists are wont to do, when all of a sudden the gates open, the front door opens, and out runs Elvis.
“Man, that’s some motorcycle. Can I take it for a spin?”
Well, of course. And so onto the motorcycle goes Elvis and he’s circling around the front yard and out comes his people screaming and yelling at him to stop acting like a fool and to get off the bike. Finally he does, having had a hell of a time, and he wants to invite the cousins in for lunch, but his people are like “absolutely not.”
And my dad’s cousin will tell you that something about the look on his face, when he acquiesced to that, instead of insisting, told her that something was deeply troubled with him.
But the important thing is that, when my dad tells this story, the point is always that there was a time when two people could come up to the gates of one of the biggest stars in music and it wouldn’t be weird for them to almost get invited in to lunch.
Now, who knows if this story is true. It’s almost not important whether it’s true or not. It’s just that it seems plausible.
And if you talk to folks who went to FanFare back in the day, they will tell you that the reason they loved it was that you got to talk with the artists and industry folks and really get to know them as real people–that the demarcations between artists and fans were not so deep and hard to navigate.
I think for a lot of folks there’s something that happened, psychically, to country music when it went from being FanFare out at the Fairgrounds to the CMA Music Festival downtown, that it introduced a separation between fan and artist that is common in many other forms of popular music, but hadn’t been in country.
Which, you know, fine. Things change. We have the internet now, etc.
But, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
So, the other day, I’m reading over at Nashville Gab, which is a blog about country music done by a woman out west somewhere that has been in my feedreader for ages, basically so that I can enjoy rolling my eyes at the exploits of John Rich, and she’s got a post about a little unfortunate run-in she had with Kenny Chesney’s label.
And I mention it to the Butcher and say, “Shoot, I wonder how that’s going to go.”
Well, today she says that, basically, she’s gotten an apology from someone at the label and that someone from Chesney’s management, who was very concerned about the situation, also contacted her. And all is well.
But this is the part that I, as a fellow blogger and country music fan, just cannot help but love just a little:
I guess part of my problem is I’m still pretty clueless about how much of a reach my writing has. It’s not that I think I’m this all powerful person or anything like that, it’s just that I don’t stop to think about the fact that if I bitch about Kenny Chesney and his peeps, that one of those peeps might actually be reading and might just take me more serious than I take myself. I still write my blog for myself and my enjoyment and just hope that anyone else who reads will also enjoy it. What I still have a hard time comprehending is that my readers aren’t necessarily just made up of country fans like myself. Big brother is indeed watching. And damn, that’s an exciting prospect!
I mean, yeah, that exactly is an exciting prospect. And it used to be part of what made country music so important to its fans, that the artists and the labels really cared about the fans as people they needed to keep happy. To me, that’s what the internet can do for an artist–bring back that feeling of the fan and the artist being in a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship.
It’s kind of nice to see that coming back.