The Country Music Hall of Fame celebrated its final summer on Music Row Thursday night, June 15, with the inaugural Nashville Skyline Jamboree, a gala party and dance featuring appearances by Brenda Lee, Little Jimmy Dickens, Charley Pride, Bobby Bare, Stonewall Jackson, BR5-49, Deana Carter, Mavericks frontman Raul Malo and a host of other entertainers.
The Hall of Fame’s outdoor music festival took place on the final night of this year’s 29th annual International Country Music Fan Fair, a four-day lovefest between country artists and their fans. With the Hall of Fame parking lot gussied up like an old-time country fair, the first annual Nashville Skyline Jamboree gave over 1000 Fan Fair visitors and locals the chance to bid farewell to the 33-year-old museum that displays an amazing assortment of instruments, costumes and memorabilia. By the time Fan Fair 2001 rolls around next June, the Country Music Hall of Fame will be open for business in downtown Nashville in its new $37 million home, a facility four times larger than the Music Row location.
“Since it is our last year in this building, it is the last chance Fan Fair visitors will have to come through this location,” Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young said. “They are a very loyal group of people, and we wanted to create something special for them. First we thought to expand the museum hours, from there it just blossomed into a full-scale outdoor festival.”
Showing their loyalty to the institution, a large crowd gathered at the jamboree early despite a downpour of rain. Fortunately, the sky cleared right at showtime.
Admission to the jamboree and the Hall of Fame was free to Fan Fair registrants. The museum stayed open until 11 p.m., six hours later than normal.
BR5-49 served as the house band, putting to the test its encyclopedic knowledge of classic country by backing a wide spectrum of guest performers. Many acts honored members of the Hall of Fame in song. BR5-49 performed Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms”; Raul Malo did Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down”; Susan Ashton performed Haggard’s “Silver Wings”; and Sisters Wade sang Bill Monroe’s “Walls of Time.”
Family members of deceased Hall of Famers paid tribute to their loved ones by offering their own renditions of their relatives’ best-known tunes. Lefty Frizzell’s younger brothers, Alan and David Frizzell, played “Always Late (With Your Kisses)” and “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time.” Hank Williams Sr.’s daughter, Jett Williams, did “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Roger Miller’s son, Dean Miller, performed “King of the Road.”
Early in the show, Hall of Famers Brenda Lee and Little Jimmy Dickens took the opportunity to thank the crowd for supporting the Hall of Fame and to invite them to the new museum when it opens in May. Neither performed.
Country legend Charley Pride — who found out the next morning that he and the late Faron Young will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October– delivered “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “Good Hearted Woman.” Additional classic country came from Bobby Bare, who sang “Marie Laveau,” “Detroit City” and “The Streets of Baltimore,” and Stonewall Jackson, who performed “Don’t Be Angry” and “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water.” Ernie Ashworth offered up his 1963 chart-topper “Talk Back Trembling Lips.”
The daughter of famed country session guitarist Fred Carter Jr., Nashville native Deana Carter performed her signature number, “Strawberry Wine.”
For a finale that is becoming a tradition at Hall of Fame musical gatherings, the evening’s cast wrapped up the gala event by performing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”.
A large hardwood floor in front of the stage was utilized throughout the night by two-steppers, who danced not only during the live music, but also during the intermission. In between sets, renowned country radio/TV personality Ralph Emery introduced well-known country recordings hand-picked especially for dancing by the Hall of Fame’s expert staff. Carnival games, food and drinks and country music impersonators (Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Elvis Presley) added to the festivities. The Nashville Skyline Jamboree was broadcast live on WSM-AM, radio home of the Grand Ole Opry.
BR5-49, through its tour sponsorship with Jack Daniel’s, is an official ambassador for the Country Music Hall of Fame, spreading the news about the museum in every town the band travels through.
“So much of what we do is based on classic country,” said BR5-49′s Chuck Mead. “We feel really close to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the heritage and traditions it is carrying on. We want to make people aware that the museum is not just for dinosaurs; that it’s a lot more hip than they might think it is.”