I don’t know why it has taken me so long to write about our trip to Tennessee in October. Maybe because it was so special, or because I know I don’t have the right words to describe what an incredible day it was, or maybe because I know I never deserved to get to do something so awesome in the first place and feel like I’m just bragging. Either way, I definitely wanted to share our daytrip up to Tennessee to see Loretta Lynn perform at the Ryman.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Ryman Auditorium or Loretta Lynn, here’s a one minute crash course. The Ryman Auditorium (nicknamed the “Mother Church of Country Music”) is essentially the birthplace of country music. It’s where it went from a bunch of people picking around on instruments to getting together and really creating something amazing. Every legend in country music spent time playing on the weekly shows (called the Opry) at the Ryman and most attribute their success to the time they spent there. Loretta Lynn, (who has been dubbed the Queen of Country Music) played on the Opry for about 17 weeks straight after her first song “Honky Tonk Girl” hit the charts and has played there probably over a hundred times since. For country music artist getting to play at the Opry is an honor that you can aspire to, but not an opportunity that all get. Even more rare, is to be inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry (Loretta Lynn is one of the oldest living members). After decades of sold out shows three nights a week, the Ryman auditorium fell into disrepair in the 70’s and was closed in 1974 and faced possible destruction. In the 90’s, money was finally raised to restore the Ryman which is now open for tours, concerts, and the Opry still plays there a few times a year. For any die-hard country music fan, the Ryman is a sacred place with more history than anywhere in Nashville. So to have Loretta Lynn, a living legend in country music return to the holy auditorium for a show, it was more than a big deal, and something I didn’t expect I would ever get to attend, however, after some kind of miracle, (and a little saving), I held two tickets to her show on October 11th in my hand.
So many times I have imagined what it would have been like to have sat in the pews at the Ryman fifty years ago and watched an Opry show. To see Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard, all the legends in their hey days, performing on that stage, and walking out the back alley doors. The Ryman has huge double doors on every side that they say used to be wide open during every show (because there was no a/c) and people used to just fill the place, standing room only for three hours, lined up and down the aisles and packed in the doors, cheering and enjoying music and sweating all together. That Saturday was about as close as I will get. There were so many people standing outside, and a hundred more packed around Loretta’s bus parked behind the building. I’ve never seen so many people waiting outside a venue, and more than a few people said they didn’t even have tickets, just were hoping to get a glance of the legend.
Doors opened, we had a fantastic view even though we were towards the back and had obstructed view seats(which wasn’t really all that obstructed). To open the show, Loretta’s grand-daughter Emmy Russell played a few songs, and she was awesome. I had seen her perform twice before, but she was about five years old, and sang twinkle twinkle little star. She has definitely grown up. She did great covers of “If I Die Young” and “Free Fallin'” and a few original songs. Then Loretta’s band took the stage; they reunited as many of the original Coal Miner’s as they could fo4r this show, and it was incredible. She came out, and there really are no words for the rest of the show, you’d just have to be there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and I was completely caught up in the whole experience for two hours until the show ended. I’ve seen Loretta in concert dozens of times, but this was really special. It was one of those out of body experiences everyone talks about, but I’ve never understood.
And this little angel slept through almost the whole thing! Yay for noise-cancelling headphones. The show was over before I knew it but we had an amazing night and I am so grateful that I got to be there, it really was a once in a lifetime kinda thing. (For all of those who have asked, here is the link to Rhett’s headphones)
There have been quite a few "greatest moments of my life" in my life. Maybe I’m too free with that title. Marrying my husband is on the list, of course. Since having Sawyer I’ve had a million more of those "greatest moments ever." Like the time I was wearing blue linen in Target and his diaper leaked all down my dress. Just kidding, that goes on another life list. But he makes for a lot of wonderful moments.
But one day, I got the chance with my very best friend to go backstage at a Loretta Lynn concert. For those who know me, or have followed this blog much, know I am a die hard fan. To the point I should probably be embarrassed, but instead, I embrace it. I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better role model for your daughter to grow up looking to. So this was a big deal for me. I’ll share the experience for all those other die hard fans out there, because it is definitely on my list of greatest moments!
Athens, Georgia. May 2010.
Meet Bart. Guitarist Extraordinaire.Whistles better than Andy Griffith himself.
And getting married. Sorry ladies. I am proud to call Bart a friend and he so kindly invited me to come see him before one of Loretta’s shows. Oh, I forgot to mention, he is also the front man to Loretta’s band, the Coal Miner’s.
I’ve known Bart since I was about thirteen and was just a young fan saving all my money to go to Loretta Lynn shows. If you are a true music fan, there is no feeling like sitting in the audience of one of your favorite band or singers shows. It moves you, transforms you to another place, even if you are in the very back row, a real musician can make you feel like you are right there in the front row. I thrived off of that feeling. If you know that feeling, you know why, you know exactly what I mean. If you’re not one of those crazy music people like us, then… this entire post is going to make me look like a crazy person haha
But Bart invited me to come see him before the show, and I took along my best friend Lyndsey.
Meet Lyndsey. My very best friend and one half of the amazing Winsome Jones.
And she’s been one of my partner’s in crime since birth. Here’s us as kids.
So me and Lynds made the drive to Athens, Georgia. Don’t need to explain two best friends traveling two hours to a concert. You can probably imagine the goofiness of it, but in case you can’t, here’s a video we took on the way-
We were having fun. For sure. So we arrived to the venue, picked up our tickets, and visited with Bart. We had a great time catching up, and got the chance to watch sound check. When you are in a band and on the road, sound check probably seems like a monotonous thing you do in every city, but for outsiders, it is exciting to watch. I loved seeing everyone acting casual and joking around while they got everything set up. Ernest Ray, Loretta’s son, and Peggy, one of Loretta’s daughters, each performed songs for sound check as did Bart. You should hear the jokes that came out of Ernest Ray’s mouth while they were warming up…my goodness. He came and sat with us on the front row for a few minutes while Bart was practicing. I think they should sell tickets to sound checks. I’d pay to see them, am I the only one? I was so impressed watching them. Peggy came out and passed around some notes on paper and was reading the words to a song she’d just learned, and the boys were able to play it good enough for the radio right off the start and she sounded amazing! (Patsy was not there, for those wondering). That’s real talent right there. I’ve seen other major country music stars in concert who perform the same songs every week and they don’t sound that good. Here’s another video to give you a taste, trust me you aren’t missing anything by not hearing what we’re saying, too much having fun going on to make any sense.
After sound check, we headed backstage for dinner with the band. Can’t remember what we ate, it’s been years now, but it was good, I’m sure. Getting to know the band was a blast, I’m sure that’s one group that has fun on the road. I believe some of the members have changed since then but here’s who we met: Eric (drums), Sheldon (background vocals), Mike (background vocals), Lee (background vocals), Craig (Piano), Charlie (Steel), Bobby (Electric Guitar), Bart (Acoustic Guitar), and a guy on bass. Gosh, I feel bad I forgot his name, so sorry folks, and so sorry sweet bass player man. We really got to know Mike, Sheldon, and Lee. They were so laid back, hilarious, and nice enough to laugh at any lame jokes I may have made. They showed us some really bad/funny concert reviews that people had done of them. Quite entertaining, that is for sure. It’s amazing what people put out there.
Before we knew it, showtime. We watched the opening act from backstage, and about half way through was the moment of all moments that made this the night to remember. I’m just standing on the side of the stage looking at pictures on my camera, and I look up and who is standing two feet in front of me but the lady, the legend herself, Miss Loretta Lynn. She smiled at everyone, said hello to everyone like they were good friends, even the two complete strangers standing there staring at her (us), and then watched the opening act with everyone and joked around with the band. I just stood there taking it all in. Here I was, standing two feet from my idol. My hearts was beating at a million beats per second. I didn’t need to meet her, didn’t need to shake her hand, I couldn’t have asked for more than to go to a show of hers, better yet, stand this close and look her in the eye. Bart headed out on the stage to start up their portion of the show, I lingered a few moments longer just to take in the moment completely, and then we had to run to our seats, which, lucky for us again, happened to be close enough to the stage that I could have kissed Loretta’s foot if I’d wanted to. That is why all of the pictures are taken up everyone’s noses; sorry about that, but I wasn’t about to give my seat up!
If you haven’t seen a Loretta Lynn show, you are missing out. She is a living legend, and I have never seen a modern band or singer entertain an audience the way she does. No summary I can give of the show will do it justice, so you just gotta get out there and see a show. If you weren’t a fan before, you will leave as one. (Here’s her website in case you want the tour schedule- click here.)
In case you don’t ever get the chance to go, here’s a quick synopsis of the way a Loretta Lynn show runs- Bart and the band open the show with some great classic country singing by Bart Hansen himself. Following Bart, if Ernest Ray is on tour, he will come out and do a few numbers for the audience followed by Peggy and Patsy, Loretta’s twin daughters who go by the name "The Lynns." Now for those who haven’t heard their music, they are fantastic. You talk about two beautiful sisters who can sing, and make it look easy while doing it. If you haven’t heard them- check out their song "All I Got to Say." It’s my favorite. At this show, it was just Peggy and she sang "All I Got to Say," "Woman to Woman" and Lady Antebellum’s "It’s Like I Love this Pain."
The band then plays a few notes of "Coal Miner’s Daughter" and then they bring out the legend herself- Loretta Lynn. I don’t think I have ever seen an audience not stand for at least the first three or four or more songs at a Loretta Lynn concert, and rightfully so. She has earned the title of being a legend and it’s an honor just to get to see her perform. She packs a punch with her show and plays songs that span her entire career from "Honky Tonk Girl" to the songs from Van Lear Rose. The best part is the line-up is never set. The opening song and closing songs may not change much, but after the first song, Loretta, being still as humble as ever, always earnestly thanks the crowd for coming and then says "Holler out what you wanna hear. If we know it, we’ll play it." And that’s precisely what they do. The audience yells and hollers songs from the last fifty years and "I love you’s" and "marry me" and all kinds of things. I’ve heard someone yelling out an obscure song from a record forty years ago and she’ll do her best to sing it. Hey, maybe not every word is correct or they just do one verse, but how many artist can do that? How many would even try? And her band goes along seamlessly, following each direction she gives, coming up for duets from her Ernest Tubb and Conway Twitty days and the background singers do a few numbers in the middle of the show as well. A Loretta Lynn concert is always a family affair, and there always seems to be a few more Lynn children on the road with their Memaw and often times they’ll come out at some time during the show and do a song or two. Loretta’s had a few children and grandchildren hit the Nashville scene; you may have seen her grand-daughter Tayla on CMT and GAC in the band Stealing Angels. One of my favorites was when a elementary-school-aged grand-son came out and played and sang a song he had written for a girl in his class- funny, talented, and precious. You never know who you’ll see with Loretta on the road, and if you go to a show at the ranch, you’ll see even more. Loretta takes request from the audience and plays all of her hits, and includes a beautiful gospel medley with the background singers.
For me, the highlight and lowlight of all Loretta Lynn shows is when "Coal Miner’s Daughter" starts playing. Oh how I love to hear those first few bars and yet I don’t want to, because I know it is the end of the show. Loretta always ends with a gracious set of bows as the song ends and waves and kisses to the crowd lots. She loves them, and we love her. She fits the bill dressed as the Queen of County Music each time in her custom gowns, which are always amazingly detailed, but what you wouldn’t know unless you’d been as close as we were that night (I mean I could have eaten dinner off of the stage had I wanted to), is that her shoes are equally as amazing. I mean fully dyed and beaded and blinged out. The work of Tim Cobb, her designer, could take up an entire blog post on itself, he’s got loads of amazing work.
After the show, we all hung out in the backstage, just laughing and killin time. We all just sat around telling stories and laughing at ourselves. Once it got too late, we had to say our good-byes and hit the road!
There are a few more videos from the show on my YouTube channel- see here. I am by no means a professional videographer. Quite the opposite, actually, I was paying attention to the show, not the camera, but we had so much fun and the show was so good that I’m sharing anyways and hopefully you’ll get that from the videos! Needless to say, that day made my list of greatest days ever. Thank you to all those who made it possible. Thank you all those who read this 10 page essay of me obsessing over Loretta Lynn. Thank you to Loretta Lynn for being amazing. If you haven’t been to a show- go!
It has taken me a long, long time to get started on the first post of my new blog. I have lots of thoughts in my head, but what is important enough to be my first post? Finally, I’m just jumping in, head first, and I’m not a head first jumper. I like to dip my toe in, make sure it’s warm enough, and then jump in. But, here I go. My name’s Stacey, and this is my blog. Welcome.
I hope you find over how ever long you stay and how ever often you visit, a place to relax and a good friend. So come on it, sit awhile. Here on my blog I’ll be posting pieces of my life, pictures of my cute baby, pictures from my photo shoots (I’m a part-time, amateur photographer), my current crafting and d.i.y projects, who knows what else, and of course, there’ll be the occasional post about Loretta Lynn, cause that’s what got me started on this whole writing thing in the first place (see here), and, let’s be honest- she’s amazing. Why not write about Loretta Lynn? So come on it, kick back, and stay awhile. Thanks for visiting!