Jeremy Mackinder, bassist for Deadstring Brothers (formerly of Whitey Morgan & the '78s), had a night off in Nashville and wrote this love letter/forewarning to Nashville. We just had to post it so you all can enjoy Jeremy's knack for writing, standing up for what he believes in, making new friends, and thankfully, not going to jail.
Last Night in Nashville
So, at random, we had a Friday night off, in Nashville no less.
I had never done Broadway on a weekend night. Not only was it a weekend night, but it was the night before the new monolithic convention center opened. The party was on, though I don’t think the tourists really knew what was happening.
Nashville has become my second home. I rarely if ever explore lower Broadway, and almost didn’t, the wind just kinda took me there and I will admit an affinity for the bright lights, big city style of living. I wanna be where the party is, it’s in my nature.
I was shocked. I’ve never been denied entrance to Robert’s Western World before. There was a huge line to get in—to see a rock n roll band no less. So I went next door to Layla’s, but it certainly wasn’t the Layla’s I was used to. I used to love going there 'cause it felt like a dirty honky tonk. PBRs were a dollar, well drinks were cheap, I always knew the bartenders, and they didn’t have fake breasts. It was my kinda place. Now there’s a new balcony, a new bar, and a lot of bar staff with new body parts. Not my kinda place. The upgrades are a direct result of the new convention center. The town is growing out of control, and it's insane.
As I walk into Layla’s, I see a guy wearing an old school Whitey Morgan and the 78’s t-shirt. My natural instinct is to walk away and smile; I just don’t wanna answer questions despite how proud I am of those records. But, this fella was cool, and so was his wife. They start buying shots and drinks, and we’re having a grand ol' time watching a fella pretend that he's in the same class as Jerry Lee Lewis. He isn’t.
After a good amount of drinking with my new friends, it comes out that she thinks I’m Bobby Bare Jr—which is a good sign that she needs glasses and that I need a haircut. Makes me love Bloodshot Records even more. Her husband explains who I am, and that I’m now in Deadstring Brothers, and she instantly starts singing “Can’t Make it Through the Night,” and I’m laughing myself silly.
The three of us start wandering Broadway, sticking our heads into every supposed honky tonk looking for country music and simply declaring “fail” every time. It was a sad state of affairs. We eventually gave up and made our way down to Cannery Row (see what I did there?) and caught the end of the show at Mercy Lounge.
They put me up at their beautiful hotel room downtown; we had a few more drinks, a few more laughs, and passed out. I got up this morning and wandered down Broadway again. I found a cheap breakfast place, which almost restored my faith in the town, and took a stroll. There were people busking already and on the loud speakers at every corner there was the music of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and of course our most recent loss, the great George Jones.
Those fellas and their peers were the foundation of this city; they built it and made it what it is. Somebody still gets that or otherwise they would’ve been playing Kenny Chesney or Kid Rock on those speakers. And the folks busking get it; they were playing Buck Owens and Conway Twitty, stuff people actually wanna hear.
Here’s what I don’t get, and I ask this question of the tourists: if the tradition of Nashville and its musical heritage is why you come here, why do you tolerate a Bon Jovi cover band playing in the honky tonks—and why in the world would you dance to it? You came looking for something, and part of that something is the party that is Broadway, but go to New Orleans(which should have jazz, but it doesn’t) or Beale St in Memphis(which is also horrifying) or 6th in Austin(don’t even get me started)—or fuck it, go to Disneyland. We’re losing something here folks. We’re losing tradition, and fuck, we’re losing ‘Merica. The one thing we ever did musically that no one else knows how to do properly is country music, and it’s slipping through our fingers and disappearing through the cracks.
"Stand up for something!" I guess is my assessment. So, Rob and Nan, have you ever bailed a musician out of jail for something he believes in? 'Cause I’m gonna hit Broadway again tonight…and it might get loud. Before all is lost, and as the convention center opens, I'll go in search of tradition, and when I don’t find it, I’ll likely be very vocal about it.
(Editor's note: Jeremy followed up with an email to say "I was smart and stayed in on Saturday...I can't afford jail." We all appreciate it, Jeremy, since you're working hard touring behind the Deadstring Brothers' fantastic new album Cannery Row.)