Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Remarkable as it may be, I’ve been to Nashville many times over the past 25 years, and not once had I set foot near the Grand Ole Opry.

Last Saturday, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I, along with our friends Steve and Sue, finally rectified that Unfortunate Cultural Omission.

The Opry began life as a radio show and gradually morphed into a Big Whoop-Tee-Do. Thirty-some-odd years ago, it outgrew its old home at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville and moved to more spacious quarters a few miles east. The analogy that comes to mind is that of Disneyland, hemmed in by the surrounding city of Anaheim, eventually supplanted (if not replaced) by the roomier environs of Walt Disney World.

Opryland - for the Grand Ole Opry is but the nucleus of Bigger and Better Things - is a little like a Southern-Fried Disney World. It seems to be missing an amusement park with rides (or we just may have missed seeing it), but it has every damn thing else. Shopping malls! Movie theatres! A Fancy Resort-Style Hotel!

And the Grand Ole Opry House itself is...immense. We couldn’t quite absorb just how huge it was, looming up out of the nighttime dark. Bejus!

Hordes of patrons crowded to get in. Whole families with little kids. Wholesome? It was...downright upright.

The show? Two and a half hours, divvied up into convenient half-hour slices, each with its own sponsor. For this, after all, is a Glorified Radio Show, with an advertisement after every song. But we got to see such luminaries as Porter Wagoner (the Liberace of Country, what with that sequined outfit à la Fat Elvis), The Whites (you saw them in O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Lorrie Morgan, Vince Gill (filling in for Lee Ann Womack, who was a last-minute dropout), Ricky Scaggs, Riders In The Sky, and many others.

The biggest buzz was reserved for Carrie Underwood, who jumped right from the American Idol winner’s circle into the Unbroken Circle on the Opry stage...right where she belongs. She delivered a powerful “Stand By Your Man,” and followed it up with “Jesus, Take The Wheel (And Drive My Fucking Car).”

I came away impressed with the superb musicianship, the sheer entertainment value. Country music may not occupy a big chunk of my home Music Library, but there’s something infectious about the Opry that will bring out the Bubba in anyone.

And as an extra special treat, there was a new group: Moses and the Three Commandments, all the more surprising because, let’s face it, Jews are sorta thin on the ground at the Opry.

Here they are:

Moses and the Three Commandments

...and here’s what they sang:

When Mama Died
(All I Got Was the Double-Wide)

I’ve never known an easy way of livin’
Had to sweat and bust my butt for years and years
But you know I’ve never thought it’s right to give in
To heartbreak, with all its pain and tears.

When things looked bad, I listened to my Mama
She always knew exactly what to say
To help me deal with hurt and pain and trauma,
Lift my spirit up to face another day.

My Mama said to always hold my head up
And shoulder all my burdens with a smile
When your back’s against the wall, no time to let up
That’s when you’ve got to go the extra mile.

Well, Mama never was no Rockefeller -
Her trailer home was all she had for wealth.
She never had two cents to rub together,
But what the hell, at least she had her health.

And then one day, she went to see the doctor
“I’m feelin’ a mite poorly,” ’s what she said.
He ran some tests, and told her she had cancer,
And then, inside of six months, she was dead.

My Mama said to always hold my head up, etc.

Oh, Mama, now what did your suff’rin’ get you?
A hole that’s six feet down and lined with dirt
In fifty years, your grandkids will forget you
Thank Gawd you’ll be stone-dead, so it won’t hurt.

And what have I to show for all your labors?
Your double-wide, with mortgage almost paid -
I can go and get shitfaced with all your neighbors
Whose cars all sit on blocks there in the shade.

My Mama said to always hold my head up, etc.

No comments: