(Editor’s note: CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo is on vacation and will resume writing his Nashville Skyline column next week. In the meantime, his column from July 21, 2005, remains one of our favorites.)
This will never happen, but if I got a chance to run Nashville, here’s what I might do:
I would establish a Song Market, like the Farmer’s Market downtown, with stalls of songs with lyrics on display and demos available for listening. Not just for record labels’ A&R staffs and artists and the like to listen but also for the interested public to browse. Talk about an endless writer’s night. Computer kiosks could link to writers’ catalogs for quick and easy browsing. Songs can be kept alive and eternally available instead of being banished to dusty shoeboxes once they’re been passed on by the labels. And artists who feel like it can drop in and sing for the public and for prospective buyers. Too many worthy songs never see the light of day. Allow them at least some possible exposure. Get some daylight and sunshine on this whole procedure.
I would decree a ban on Sippy Cup songs. Well, I don’t believe in censorship, so I won’t ban songs. But I could establish a Sippy Cup Song Protectorate where such songs are stored in lead-lined vaults, with armed guards scanning visitors very carefully to establish a need-to-know status for each person. Sippy Cup songs would be allowed out of the Protectorate only for limited visits to L.A. and Branson and Disney World.
Crumpled straw cowboy hats? Ixnay. Check ’em at the city limits and at the airport limo pickup or face immediate hat confiscation and subsequent public humiliation at a hat bonfire at the nekkid statue roundabout on Music Row.
Ditto for sleeveless T-shirts on males over age 21.
Ditto for too-tight low-riding jeans on women whose avoirdupois is visibly overabundant.
I would establish Radio Free Nashville, a station beaming a mega-million-watt signal worldwide, broadcasting the entire spectrum of country music, from Charlie Poole’s wild pre-Outlaw freewheeling music to Ernest Tubb’s great live recordings of honky-tonk classics to the best of today’s music that doesn’t make it onto country radio.
I would start an open mike kiosk downtown for every wannabe artist who comes to Nashville with just a guitar case, a dream and with talents of widely varying degrees. Still, give them all a chance to be heard. This is supposed to be Music City, after all.
I would issue only a limited number of work visas for so-called artists seeking to emigrate from L.A., especially for those whose previous experience has been limited to soap operas, beauty contests, failed or aging rock bands or reality TV shows. These people would be monitored very closely. Ankle bracelets are a possibility.
I would look into setting up a limit on the number of annual Waylon Jennings musical rip-offs and perhaps license them to potential worthy rip-offers — only after careful screenings to determine the degree of Waylon-worthiness.
Ditto for licensing fake-exuberant shouts of “whoo!” at the beginning of lame songs that clearly do not merit such faux celebration.
Ditto for inappropriate banjo solos or accompaniment in songs that clearly are not deserving or in need of same.
Also for endless, noodling, pointless rock guitar solos that do not fit the songs they’re shoehorned into.
I would establish tax breaks for genuine honky-tonks, under a cultural proviso that they are true historical establishments and deserve to exist to pass on a cultural heritage that otherwise is in danger of disappearing.
I would install pop music filters and governors in all recording studios, to scan and automatically delete all over-the-top pop melodies, lyrics and accompaniment in all songs.
I would speed up the process of getting worthy people into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Here are some candidates that come immediately to mind among the dead: Ray Charles, Jimmy Martin, Johnny Horton, Charlie Rich, Dottie West and Gram Parsons. And here’s some living nominees who should be inducted: Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Ralph Emery, Kenny Rogers, Bobby Bare, Billy Sherrill, Glen Campbell, Hank Cochran, the Statler Brothers, Cowboy Jack Clement, Billy Joe Shaver, the Oak Ridge Boys and Jerry Reed.