I’ve seen three shows at Ryman Auditorium, known reverentially down in those parts as the “Mother Church of Country mMusic.” The first time was for a live broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry, which — airing continually for 92 years — is radio’s longest-running show. More recently, my wife and I were at the Ryman for a fantastic Little Big Town concert. On that same trip (last May), we waited outside Margaritaville for two hours to get into the Music Row Happy Hour, and were interviewed by the Highway’s (SiriusXM) host Buzz Brainard.
I’ve had ribs at Jack Bar-B-Que and Rippy’s and Mason’s, and I’ve stuffed myself with biscuits, country ham and eggs at the Loveless Café. I’ve taken the riotous NashTrash pink bus tour, and have stopped in at studios along Music Row.
I’ve sifted through the record bins at Ernest Tubbs’, admired the gleaming guitars at Gruhn, and seen exhibits for Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Garth Brooks at the Country Music Hall of Fame. I’ve heard some of Music City’s most beloved singer-songwriters at the Bluebird Café and the Listening Room, and I’ve had beers and have sung along with guitar-slinging troubadours at Robert’s Western World, Legends Corner, Tootsie’s, and pretty much every other honky-tonk on Broadway.
So when I saw an article in The New York Times last Thursday — Thanksgiving — that “a new Southern-themed restaurant and concert space,” Opry City Stage, was about to open in Times Square . . . was I thankful?
According to Colin Reed, the chairman and CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, the Opry City Stage will be the “first-ever satellite venue by country music’s most hallowed institution, the Grand Ole Opry.” Another spokesperson said that new hires had undergone a two-week “cultural training” program, and by the end of it, “staffers could do a credible version of Minnie Pearl’s signature ‘Howdee!’ ”
More from Reed: “Forty million people come to New York from all over the world every year, and they want to see American culture at work. The lights and shopping is one part, but this is a chance to see country music in a very authentic way, the kind they’re thirsty for.”
Call me crazy, but if they want to see country music in a very authentic way, wouldn’t Nashville be a good idea?
Ah, but there’s yet more exciting news. Reed adds that his group is looking at other markets, including Las Vegas and Orlando.
Las Vegas. Orlando.
I’m old enough to remember when the first Hard Rock Café opened — back in 1971, in London. There are now close to 200 Hard Rock locations in more than 50 countries. And there’s nothing special in any of them.
The NFL played its first game in Great Britain 10 years ago, and that event has grown into an on-going series called the NFL London Games — there were four of them this year. Last year, the NFL Mexico series (Mexico City) was added to the league’s international march. Future plans include Germany and/or Canada.
Players hate these games; the travel kills their routines. American fans hate them, too, because a lot of the games are played at weird times. Can’t we just leave the good old NFL in the good old U.S. of A., and let the rest of the world play soccer?
I know. Money, money, money. Global chains. Expansion. That’s the name of the game. But the more you expand, the more watered down your product gets. Until there’s nothing very “authentic” about it.
So here’s my modest proposal: The No Clone Zone.
Example: There’s a pub around the corner from us, the Little Barn, where my wife and I often go for a bite and a cocktail. We know the bartenders. We know the servers. Do we need another version elsewhere in town — a “Big Barn,” maybe? No! Not in the No Clone Zone!
Does Westport need Elvira’s East? Sherwood Diner II? Joey’s By the Compo Shopping Center?
I think not.
“The Home Team” appears the first Friday of every month. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/
beagleman/ To reach Hank, email him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.