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50 Years of Music Row

by Michael Kosser

Pub Date: June 15th, 2006
ISBN: 0-634-09806-3

Insider Kosser uses a medley of first-person recollections to explain how a subculture of Tennessee’s capital turned it into the world’s country-music capital.

The history of Music Row began over half-a-century ago when bandleader Owen Bradley joined forces with guitarist Chet Atkins and cut records in a surplus Quonset hut on Nashville’s Sixteenth Avenue. They had a bunch of hits, and it sounded real good in there, so it was not long before guitars were being passed around among the first generation of stars: Hank Snow, Roy Acuff, Red Foley and Tex Ritter, with backup by the Jordanaires and the Anita Kerr Singers. Sixteenth Avenue became Music Row, where the songwriters, the sidemen and the stars met with the suits, the producers and the A&R guys. Elvis showed up to record “Heartbreak Hotel.” Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton talked of demos and acoustics with the engineers, producers and promoters down at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. It’s all recalled, often with sly country wit, by the folks who devised the fuzz-tone chords, played the tick-tack bass, operated the drum machine or adjusted the mike and, in the process, moved millions of units. Rock-’n’-roll challenged the business, the outlaws were accommodated and the folks on Sixteenth still wait for a kiss of approval from establishment Nashville. A little skimpy on the subject of the power wielded by the Country Music Association and the Opry, the text nonetheless contains the authentic voices of the professionals who created Music City. It was never about the deals, they remind us: It was always about the music, hoss, the music.

An excellent history of the country-music business, told by those who know.