CSO raving, I
mean roving reporters Leah
Anderson, Helen Neal & Helen Peterson (pictured right) spent 6
days at Fan Fair 2003! To follow their adventures keep reading! Thanks
ladies... great job!
Here comes the sun! The last day of Fan Fair and again we were
sitting on the bank at the Riverfront Stages, listening to The Foxx
brothers open the day with Gospel songs. Neither heat nor rain
cancelled any events this week, but floodwaters threatened to. With
the river rising to eight feet above normal, due to rain during the
week and releases from the dam, crews were busy during the night and
early morning. The barge that served as backstage had been moved
away; other equipment including generators and the port-a-potty were
moved from the lower level sidewalk. The crews were prepared to move
everything from the permanent stage. They were practiced - the stage
was flooded in May when Nashville had a record rainfall for the
this last morning it was Legends time. Eddie Stubbs, Large Market DJ
of the Year for 2002 and a walking encyclopedia of county music
knowledge, emceed the show. Highlight of the concert was the reunion
of Ferlin Huskey and Jean Shepherd, repeating their mega-smash of 50
years ago, "Dear John." Jean's quick wit and amazing voice
were evident. She was the first female country artist to sell a
the warm riverbank, we headed to the GEC (Gaylord Entertainment
Center). Had to get our tickets for next year while there was a good
choice of seats. Then onto the downtown park across the street from
the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for the Martina McBride
YWCA Charity Auction. We just missed seeing the sale of Chris
Cagle's shirt - right off his back. The auctioneers deftly worked
the crowd, but the action really picked up when Martina appeared and
personally held up items and walked the aisles. Last year's auction
we went back to the Convention Center and checked out the booths.
The line wrapped halfway around the center for Billy Ray Cyrus
before he was even scheduled to enter his booth. Among the other
attractions were Billy Dean, Neal McCoy, Rushlow, Bill Engvall and
Johnson sisters, Loretta, Loudilla and Kay were in the IFCO
(International Fan Club Organization) booth. The debt that Fan Fair,
fans, fan clubs and artists owe these ladies can't be measured.
Loretta, who's been battling a ravaging illness, told how glad they
were to be in their booth this year. They missed it last year
because she was in the hospital
buzz among the attendees was the article in the morning paper,
revealing that next year the CMA (County Music Association)
will change the name of the event from CMA Fan Fair to the CMA Music
Festival. The name change goes with the desire of the CMA to bring
in acts from other genres and to move away from the
"countrified" image of the fan. Gee, folks, there's an old
ethic in country music - "you dance with who brought you."
Comments from the stages even echoed the feelings that were
expressed by many during the day. Billy Ray Cyrus questioned the
audience at the Coliseum show, "How do you feel about them
taking the 'fan' out of Fan Fair?" You can guess the response.
Later press releases attempted to soften the rhetoric in the first
news reports. They declared that the musical element, a concert
series mixing country and non-country acts, would be referred to as
the CMA Music Festival. The autograph sessions in the exhibit halls
will be billed as Fan Fair. Current country acts donate their time
to this event, with half the proceeds going to the CMA and half to
we were on to the Coliseum for the last show, under some of the best
weather conditions of a week of good weather - no rain tonight and
pleasant temperature. Was there ever a show opener who could grab an
audience like Neal McCoy? He came to entertain and he delivered!
Everyone hummed to his hits, but it was his clever hillbilly rap of
the theme from "The Beverly Hillibillies," that just wowed
the audience. High energy was the keyword for the evening. Trick
Pony's all-stops-out performance, Billy Ray Cyrus' dancing, Chris
Cagle's energized vocals, Keith Urban's guitar licks, and Jo Dee
Messina's fervor kept the crowd rocking. The show closed on a
nostalgic note, as mom, Naomi, joined daughter, Wynonna, on stage to
share two of their hits - a great finish for a great day, a great
concert, a great week at Fan Fair.
we headed for the finale, we were thinking how exciting this year's
Fan Fair had been, and though the brain and body were beyond the
state we nicknamed, "Fan Fair-fried," we knew we were
already looking forward to next year. And, too, that those thousands
heading out of town the next morning, though in the same weary
state, were thinking the same thing! We'll look for you next year!!
.. And still going strong. Our fan club agenda is winding down, but
there's still such a grand musical buffet in town. The trouble is
there's just not enough time to taste it all. We were
schedule-squeezed in our very first outing of the day. In order to
keep another commitment across town, we had to leave Mark Wills' fan
club party before he was able to arrive,. Our disappointment!
other fan club parties for the day were Tommy Shane Steiner and Wild
Horses. We returned to the site of the GAC breakfast, Graham Central
Station, for Steiner's party. Steiner's rapport with his fans was
evident as he and guitar accompanist, John, sat down on two stools
to face the friendly crowd. Questions from the audience focused on
the next steps Steiner would be taking in his career and requests
for songs. He said he was in a song selection process now. That he
was trying to get a project ready to take to the several record
labels that were interested. Apologizing for not having prepared a
set program of songs for the party, he good-naturedly fielded
requests and asked for the audience to aid him when he missed a
word. They were more than happy to oblige!
later in the day we joined Wild Horses for their fan club picnic by
the lake in Shelby Park. Quite a departure from the rooms we'd been
in throughout the week. Blessed with great weather, the crowd really
enjoyed this outing with their favorites. If you live in a
hug-deprived world, head for a Wild Horses' event. Angela, Michael,
Steve, and Ralph believe in letting their fans know how glad they
are to see them. And the fans reveled in the high-energy performance
of original music. You don't know yet what B.B.S.W stands for? There
are lots of sources to get the answer - listen for their next single
release, check the song titles on their album, ask one of the
members of the "Loyal Order of the Herd," or anyone who
caught their riveting performance at Riverfront Park Stages earlier
in the day.
speaking of Riverfront Park Stages - we were in and out of there
several times during the day. It's one of our favorite spots -
sitting on the terraced riverbank, enjoying the acts that alternate
on the two stages located on the anchored river barge. The Coliseum
sits on the opposite riverbank and you can see the landscaped steps
and path that water borne Titan fans take up to the stadium in the
fall. Tugs, barges, and pleasure boats occasionally glide behind the
stage. No jet skis today - the recent rains powered a very strong
current, plus they would have been dodging a lot of free floating
logs.. We got there just in time to see Lyric Street Records'
Rushlow, a new act led by Tim Rushlow former lead singer of Little
Texas. That concert included country traditionalist Billy Yates,
Grand Ole Opry staple Jeannie Kendall going solo since her father
died, Wild Horses and Jill King. Great country music fare for the
sampling! Later in the day you could have enjoyed Andy Griggs, Kelly
Coffey (ACM's Top New Female Award), Michelle Wright, Little Big
Town and others - all in one of the best concert settings
so sue us. We opted to miss the big show at the Coliseum again
tonight. We're saving up for tomorrow evening, the grand finale of
Fan Fair. Downtown for the late night action, we strolled Broadway -
listening and looking. One thing about having Fan Fair downtown
instead of at the old fair grounds, is the wonderful overflow of
unrestricted, non-piped in music. Just stop at any door and listen
and follow your ears. We checked out Tootsies and Legends. We
entered The Stage, one of the clubs that line Broadway as Joe
Nichols and his friends were leaving. We just missed his impromptu
performance for the smallest audience he'd faced for the week.
Two-thirds of our crew heads home to Wisconsin in the morning. Have
a safe trip, Leah and Helen. You're gonna be missed!
Today was the second official day of Fan Fair 2003, our fourth day
on the run. Raring to go, we headed to Joe Nichols' Fan Club party
at the Baldwin Showcase. What an interesting venue for the event! In
one corner of the huge room, the band covered a raised platform,
fronted by several hundred white wooden folding chairs. In the rest
of the area, pianos of every kind and color had been moved aside to
make way for the stage, the audience, and the fried chicken buffet.
Nichols' rapport with his fans was very evident. As he emceed his
party, he deftly and charmingly interspersed the music with question
and answer banter with the audience. Every one of them was standing
by the end of the show. That mellow voice wrapped around traditional
country songs and packaged with personal warmth and natural charm
propelled his first two major label singles to number one status.
His is the story of how "overnight success" comes in
Nashville. The twenty-six year old has been working the roads and
going for his dream ever since his mid-teens.
the way to the Convention Center, we stopped at Demos on 3rd Avenue
for an excellent lunch special of Greek chicken spaghetti. As we
stepped outside, a lucky fan had just stopped Richie McDonald and
Dean Sams of Lonestar for a quick autograph as they headed down the
sidewalk. The Convention Center was filled with fans waiting to
endure long lines to see familiar faces and hoping to get an
autograph of some future rising star. We did a double take as we
ambled by the booth of Thom Shepherd, co-writer of "Riding With
Private Malone." We stopped for a chat, a picture opportunity,
and his new CD. Montgomery Gentry was in their booth signing
autographs and posing for pictures. Nashville Star winner, Buddy
Jewell, was in the Tower Records booth, and Lonestar had drawn a
crowd to their area. The Great American Country (GAC) and Country
Music Television (CMT) had an impressive line-up of artists
scheduled to meet fans. Occasionally you'd here a loud whoop from
one section of the center - the signal that a highly anticipated
artist had arrived at the booth. There were plenty of stars to be
came the rain as we exited the center. Some fans who braved the
weather - and there were lots of them - attended CMT's Most Wanted
Live at the Plaza outside the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Lonestar
and Darryl Worley were the featured artists. Worley testified to the
rigors of Fan Fair for the artist. Declaring that this year, his
management had done better by him in scheduling Fan Fair. He only
had to get up at 4 am and go to bed at 1 a.m. He revealed that he'd
passed up a trip to Kuwait with the President to keep his commitment
to his fans for the week.
another day with every minute filled, we headed back for some rest.
Actually, we'll just have to confess that we wimped out on the
Coliseum show because of the rain. Tomorrow we plan to leave bright
and early to catch the fan club parties for Mark Wills, Tommy Shane
Steiner, and Wild Horses, and the concerts at the Riverfront Stage.
We are wishing for more hours in the day to fit in all of the great
events that are being offered! Come back and see us tomorrow!
Day 3 Today, Fan Fair officially starts, and everywhere you go you see
lanyard-wearing fans, cameras loaded, sunscreen ready. Though this
year fans haven't yet been subjected to Nashville's infamous 90/90
(temperature/humidity) weather. Pleasant breezes, seventy-ish
temperature, it's hot only if you're standing in the sun.
an early start again this morning for all of us as we went different
directions. Keith Urban must still be on Australia time, since his
fan club party started at 8:00 am at the Gibson Bluegrass Showcase.
We weren't the only ones up early - nearly 500 fan club members were
in attendance. urban delivered a high energy show as always, and
then posed for photos with the fans.
(Great American Country Television) breakfast was held at one of the
many medium-sized bars (holds 200) that dot the city; each one with
its own form of a small stage. McHayes (the new duo of Mark McClurg
and Wade Hayes) opened the show with a trio of songs, a question and
answer session led by Suzanne Alexander (GAC personality), and a
signing session. That format continued with the other rising star
acts featured on the show. It's an up-close and personal event for
the fans and the performers. Listening to Jimmy Wayne tell the life
stories behind his songs brings tears. What a country music morning
- that delightful mix of artists, fans, great music. And the
breakfast was good, too!
of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge was on the other side of town
at Greer Stadium. It can be described in one word-HOT! This event
has raised a tremendous amount of money to help millions of people
with life-threatening diseases. Lorrie Morgan, Vince Gill,
Montgomery Gentry, Sixwire, Sammy Kershaw, Joe Nichols, and John
Michael Montgomery were just some of the artists displaying their
athletic prowess. Chris Cagle made many plays from shortstop, while
Ira Dean from Trick Pony kept the fans laughing from the
nominate the Andy Griggs 3-D Archery Challenge, as the event we
attended and would most like to have seen. With fans standing
five-deep at the fence it was nearly impossible to see what was
happening, even from the temporary bleachers. We did determine that
3-D meant that they were shooting at animal dummies and not
bulls-eye targets. The equipment looked impressive and an occasional
glimpse at an artist was impressive, too. But as for the winner,
we'll have to wait to see who claims bragging rights. The trash talk
for the week between Andy Griggs and Blake Shelton was heavy, but
who knows, a rank amateur may have taken the prize. Anyway, we
decided that after seeing Andy, Blake and Troy that we could skip
the play-by-play action for a steak at Longhorn's.
Country Music Festival in the world has a roster of country artists
with the magnitude of the Coliseum shows at Fan Fair. Sawyer Brown,
referred to as the "Rolling Stones of country music"
kicked off the first of the nightly shows. Other artists included
Joe Nichols, Darryl Worley, Jessica Andrews, Vince Gill, Steve Azar,
and more. The show wrapped up with a display of fireworks after four
hours of great entertainment.
time, we were across the river and back downtown. It was Rippy's, a
bar and restaurant on Broadway, that caught our eye. From across the
street, we could see someone playing the stand up bass with lots of
energy and animation. The place was packed, and the rockabilly band
from Memphis called The Dempseys never slowed down.
a few hours of sleep. Yes, it was the first official day of Fan
Fair,but we've been at it for three days and we're fast approaching
that state which we've dubbed, "Fan Fair Fried."
Friday, we are planning to attend Joe Nichols' fan club party, catch
some shows at the Riverfront Stages, and check out the exhibits and
artist booths at the Convention Center. Look for another update
2 Still feeling the effects of our long drive down, or our too
late the night before, we pulled ourselves out of bed to head for
Blake Shelton's early morning fan club party. Several of the fans,
some from as far away as England, won autographed door prizes. The
winners who really hooted won a pair of Shelton's jeans with his
autograph on the back pocket!
stop - Darryl Worley's party at the Baldwin Showcase. The
enthusiastic crowd of over 300 fans were on their feet as Worley
closed his set with "Do You Remember?". Worley spoke with
the fans as if they were all personal friends, talking about
everything from his support of the military, to his mother's ordeal
with cancer over the past year, to his new haircut and shave. Look
for his next single, Tennessee River Run.
breather and we were walking through the doors of Chris Cagle's
party at The Trap. Cagle was on a limited time schedule since he was
performing at CMT's 100 Greatest Hits show that evening. He vowed
that any fan club members that he did not get a chance to spend some
time with would have their meet-and-greet on his bus when the tour
brought him to their area of the country. We wondered how many
people went straight to the back of the meet-and-greet line!
several options to choose from for the evening, we decided to go
downtown to the Wildhorse Saloon for the ASCAP Live show. This
month's show featured some definite talent, beginning with the great
voice of 12 year old Ashley Gearing, recently signed with Lyric
Street records. Next up was the "man band"- they are tired
of being referred to as a "boy band"- Sixwire. What a
bundle of energy! They had the whole place moving to their music.
Bryan White closed the show by introducing several new songs from
his soon to be released CD. One of the songs, The Little Things, was
co-written by White when he found out he as going to be a father
this coming November. Of course, the crowd would not let him go
without singing a few of his old familiar hits.
couldn't leave downtown without checking out the activity on Broad
Street. Outside the legendary clubs where many well-known artists
have gotten their start, a crowd gathered around four young men
performing on the sidewalk. Brock, Spence, and their two friends
were fresh, spontaneous, and definitely entertaining. Knowing we had
a busy day on Thursday, we headed back to get some rest.
(Thursday) we are going to Keith Urban's fan club party, the GAC
breakfast, the City of Hope Softball Game, the Andy Griggs Archery
Tournament, the nightly concert at the Coliseum featuring Joe
Nichols, Darryl Worley, Vince Gill, LeAnn Rimes, and more, then back
downtown for some after hours activities. Wish you were here!
Day 1 We kicked off our Fan Fair week with the Trick Pony Fan Club
Party at the Trap. The party was at least twice the size as last
year's. They have vowed to have one of their musical heroes on each
of their albums. Their debut album featured Johnny Cash and Waylon
Jennings. Their sophomore album included Willie Nelson. They
announced at the party that they will be asking Loretta Lynn to be a
part of their third album. Also at the party, Ira Dean said that he
thinks Waylon Jennings came back to life as a pelican. You'll have
to wait for the write up for details on that!
afternoon of resting up for the full week ahead, we headed downtown
to see what was going on. Even though it is still early in the week,
the after hours venues were full. Wolfy's, who has great burgers by
the way, had Bart Hanson on stage when we arrived. He sang with a
traditional country sound and had a large gathering of people there
to watch. Next up were the Mickeys. These sisters and their band
played a variety of music, mostly from their debut CD to be released
July 1st in Europe. Their voices sounded great together and they
seemed to have chosen some good musicians to back them up.
before Fan Fair and we're in high gear already. A very appreciative
audience at the Ryman welcomed the many talented acts at the annual
IFCO (International Fan Club Organization) Fun Fest. For the 36th
time this stage exhibited some of country music's finest performers.
Always a treat to attend this one, because you know you're going to
see a mix of those who are big, have been big, or are going to be
(Wednesday), we will be heading out early to Blake Shelton's fan
club party, then off to Darryl Worley's party, Chris Cagle's party,
and John Berry's. Should be an interesting day!!