Friday was again overcast in Nashville. For some reason, I was expecting Tennessee to be bathed in sunshine by early May but we hadn’t yet seen much evidence of that being the case. I had a task I wanted to complete this morning. I had lost the tailpiece cover to my mandolin in Peru. It had fallen off in the hotel room while I was practising and I had neglected to retrieve it before our departure. It makes no difference to the sound but I find it aesthetically displeasing so I wanted to acquire a replacement. I reckoned Nashville was the ideal place to readily find such a thing.
I’ve been aware for quite some time that two of the world’s best instrument shops are located here: Gruhn Guitars and Carter Vintage Guitars. Although both specify guitars in their names, I happen to know that they also have a quite amazing range of mandolins. At the time of writing in May 2019, their combined mandolin inventory is valued in excess of a million dollars. I decided that even if I couldn’t acquire a replacement tailpiece cover, I could enjoy simply ogling mandolins. And that’s exactly what happened at our first stop, Gruhn’s.
Gruhn couldn’t offer me any solution, either by way of parts or repairs. They did recommend a place called Glaser’s which is a specialist instrument repair shop, so we made our way to their address in E. Iris Drive. This looked like a residential neighbourhood but a lot of the houses were actually music studios music publishers. Glaser’s was at No. 434 which looked like an unremarkable detached house with very little sign that there was a business contained therein. We entered cautiously, but there was a counter right in front of us and they asked what we were after. When I said a mandolin tailpiece, the guy behind the counter went off and brought out his box of mandolin parts. The only cover they had was too small to fit so they suggested we try Carter.
Once again, we were back in the car and using Google maps to direct us to 8th Avenue and Carter’s premises.
On arrival there, we were directed to the repair counter all the way in the back. There we encountered a very helpful gentleman called Seth who also tried to fit a cover on the tailpiece but, again, it was too small. He did have a replacement tailpiece which would fit my Taggart mandolin, so I asked when he would be able to put it on. I had no intention of trying to do it myself. He said I could have the mandolin back the next day, so I left it in his care and we headed back out.
The hunt had taken longer than expected and we had an appointment to keep at 2:30pm. I had booked tickets for the Friday night show at the Grand Ole Opry and also included tickets for a backstage tour this afternoon.
The tours are very popular and our group had to be split in two to make it a manageable size to get round the backstage areas. We got to go through the artists’ entrance and see all the dressing rooms, then stand on stage in the circle of oak flooring that they transferred from the Ryman Auditorium when they moved to their current premises.
After the tour, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our concert in the evening. The Opry doors open at 6:00pm and the show starts at 7:00pm. Over the course of the evening, we saw a few people we were not previously familiar with. However, we also saw yet another legend of bluegrass (and octogenarian) – Bobby Osborne.
Bobby performed two songs, one of which was Rocky Top. That song will forever be linked in my mind with the Tokyo bluegrass bar we visited back in January, which is called Rocky Top. Also on the bill were The Whites, who performed Keep On The Sunny Side.
The headliners tonight, however, were a band who had a huge crossover hit in 1979 when the country rock song The Devil Went Down To Georgia hit the pop charts. I was disappointed, therefore, to see the Charlie Daniels Band start their set with not a fiddle in sight. And I was absolutely delighted when, for their last number, a roadie brought out a well used fiddle and placed it in Charlie’s hands.
He said, “We was always taught you should dance with the one that brung you. This is the one that brung us,” and launched into a rip-roaring version of the Devil Went Down To Georgia. Charlie is yet another octogenarian but he can still play a mean fiddle.
And, if you didn’t know already, today’s title is a line from that song.