Photo credit: Jason Evans Photography / Lovin Lyrics Music Promotions
The week of the CMA Music Festival is always a busy week for the city of Nashville as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame. This year's inductees included The Oak Ridge Boys, the late Jim Ed Brown and The Browns and guitarist Grady Martin. Jim Ed Brown was scheduled to appear at this year's festival, however a relapse of lung cancer would claim the life of this revered and much loved larger than life artist and instead, the Hall of Fame would mourn his passing and celebrate his life and esteemed career.
On Friday, June 12, I had the pleasure to be able to photograph and view the many different exhibits and events the Hall of Fame had offer during this amazing week of country music. This country music history would be viewed by thousands of fans coming from every corner of the world during the week. Much to my surprise, I unexpectly began the day by being a part of a private Luke Bryan fan club party, which was held in the CMA Theater, an 800 seat capacity venue for live performances and special events. As the lights dimmed, the stage lights came on and Luke's band took their places to cheers from the crowd as Luke peeked his head out toward the crowd as a teaser before he taking his place on stage. The set list for this special private fan club party which was also being filmed, included: "I See You", a new song entitled "Fast", "Play It Again", "Kick the Dust Up", and "I Don't Want This Night To End". The fans were ecstatic to see their favorite artist in such an up close and intimate setting in which only the Country Music Hall of Fame can provide.
The Hall of Fame also expanded their activities onto the Fan Fair X Exhibit Hall's CMA Closeup stage, located in Music City Center. On this stage, The Oak Ridge Boys participated in an hour long interview with emcee Keith Bilbrey. The Oaks spoke of the new trends in country music in which artists are drinking on stage and would mention that they got their fame on the music and not by drinking and swearing onstage. The Oak Ridge Boys are some of the classiest guys in the business and it comes out in their interviews, performances and meet and greets. They are open about their faith and can belt out a gospel tune like no other. William Lee Golden spoke of himself and his family and went into great depth on the musical endeavors of his children. Richard Sterban, who is best known for his rafter rattling bass vocals talked with Bilbrey about his experiences with the group through the years. Joe Bonsall discussed many things, including his love for his cats and his newly penned book entitled "On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys: 40 Years of Untold Stories & Adventure" and Duane Allen spoke of his fondest memories as a member of the legendary group and also brought focus to the legacy of Jim Ed Brown while being joined in by the rest of the Oak Ridge Boys on their memories of the great Country Music Hall of Famer. Jim Ed Brown sadly lost his long fight with cancer and passed away the day before the interview.
When touring the hall of fame, fans will encounter various exhibits that run at different times of the year. Some of the exhibits that I encountered while touring the hall of fame included Luke Bryan's "Dirt Road Diary" exhibit, Kenny Rogers' "Through The Years" exhibit, "Dylan, Cash and The Nashville Cats: A New Music City" exhibit, Alan Jackson's "25 Years of Keepin' It Country" exhibit, "Sing Me Back Home: Folk Roots to the Present" exhibit, Ronnie Milsap's "A Legend in My Time" exhibit and many displays of country music historical artifacts. Other items of interest on display included an automobile which was owned by Webb Pierce, the Hee Haw television show's cornfield set with Hee Haw memorabilia and outfits, many star owned and personally played instruments and worn outfits and even the black Trans Am driven by Burt Reynolds in "Smokey and the Bandit".
To view what exhibits you would be able to experience on your tour of the Hall of Fame, please visit http://countrymusichalloffame.org/Exhibits/exhibits-list-page .
If you are an avid country music/history fan, you will want to reserve a minimum of 3-4 hours to enjoy everything the Hall of Fame has to offer. One can easily spend an entire day to take in all of the sights, sounds and history of the business. The Hall of Fame is country music history from the beginning and it will continue to provide a look into the future of the business through out the years to come.
Contributor / Photographer: Jason Evans
Follow Jason on Twitter at @J_EvansPhotos