Under the Neon Bluebird: On the left, Don Henry;
hiding under hats L-R: Tom Kimmel, Dana Cooper and Michael Lille
The Bluebird Cafe figured pretty prominently in my early days/years in Nashville. I went there a lot. I don’t go there as much as I used to. Since the venue was a featured location in the TeeVee show Nashville for several seasons, it is near the top of most visitors’ ‘must see/do’ list when they come to Music City – which means reservations are very hard to come by unless you jump on the website within minutes of tickets going on sale.
It’s kinda like Yogi Berra once said of a popular club in New York,
Nobody goes there any more – it’s too crowded.
I don’t monitor the Bluebird schedule like I used to, and if Dana Cooper hadn’t called me and let me know this show was happening, I would have been kicking myself if I heard about it after the fact.
Because all of these guys – especially Michael Lille and Tom Kimmel – played a pivotal role in those early years.
I think I first heard Michael Lille at the Commodore Club on West End in 1994. The first thing I noticed about Michael was his approach to the guitar, it had a very ‘Michael Hedges/New Age’ quality to it – very unlike the shredding metal sound I heard from most plugged-in acoustic guitars (I still hate that sound). Then he performed a song called ‘Life On the Run’. The song describes a trip Michael took to Indonesia, and waking up to the sound of “laughing children at the edge of the sea” – and contrasts that to his (our) lives in Western what–we–call ‘Civilization.’ I’ll put the only recording of the song in a playlist below, here’s the chorus:
They kneel on the ground
And raise their heads up to the sky
And thank the lord for another day begun
The wheel goes around
Far away on the other side
You and I live life on the run
To this day I cite that as the moment I realized that there was more to Nashville than the popular perception (think Hee Haw) that most people outside the 440 beltway have of the city – that there is a deep well of talent that flourishes just beneath the thin crust of mainstream country music business. That was one of the two primary motivations at work when I started to ask the people I was meeting ‘what would you think if I tried to sell some of your CDs on the Internet?’ This was 1995, so a common answer was ‘what’s the Internet?’