NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Gulf Coast Disaster Hits Music, Too

Jimmy Buffett Concert to Boost Area Morale

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

I’ll tell you what. I’m glad that Jimmy Buffett and his friends are doing this free concert in Gulf Shores, Ala., on July 1, if for no other reason than to raise people’s spirits and to remind us all there are common causes we can all rally around together and unite on.

The longer this Gulf Coast oil spill crisis continues, the more concerned I become about the very well-being and the future and the very survival of the region. The Gulf Coast states immediately affected by this oil industry catastrophe — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida — encompass so many of the things I care deeply about in life that I gravely fear for the outcome. I can’t even begin to speculate about the enormous hit to the area’s businesses and its tourism and ecological destruction and the damage to sea life and birds and animals.

There are many things I love about the Gulf region. Let’s start with the music. And then go to the cuisine. Some of the best cooking in the world is in the Gulf Coast, with some of the best locally-harvested seafood in the world. Did you know that Massachusetts fishermen are now worried about their future tuna harvests because their bluefin tuna catches actually spawn in the area of the Gulf of Mexico that is most affected by the BP blot? Did you know that some restaurants in New Orleans now have no oysters and are bringing in seafood from Texas? Grocery stores in Nashville are now pushing shrimp brought in from Thailand.

Everything in this region is intertwined. Businesses rely on tourism. Hotels, restaurants, music clubs, bars, shrimpers and the whole seafood industry all need tourist income. Tourists first of all want beaches. If those beaches are ruined by oil, then they will seek out clean beaches somewhere else — as is already happening.

Generations of people can be impacted. Live music, already threatened by the economy, can become seriously endangered. And I don’t mean just ticketed concerts. I mean live music in clubs and bars. Whole generations of young would-be musicians and singers and songwriters would have no place to hone their craft. That’s not a theory. It’s been observed in action. Roadhouses and bars throughout this entire country yielded the majority of successful artists working today — outside the Idol world, that is. Out in the world of real music. When Nashville’s Opryland was closed to make way for a shopping mall, dozens of budding young musicians lost a valuable training ground.

Then there are the beautiful Gulf beaches, which encompass achingly beautiful vistas. There are miles and miles of these beaches. We go every year to one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world in Florida. The damned BP tar balls are already there, defiling the pure white sand and the turquoise waters. You can only rage.

Then there’s the outdoor life in the Gulf. Fishing, canoeing, sailing, kayaking, hiking. … But do you really want to go fishing right now?

Music is, of course, one of the first things you associate with Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and you cannot imagine the histories of country music, blues, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll without the musical pioneers from those states blazing the trails.

Throughout country music’s long history, the majority of its artists have been Southerners.

Hank Williams remains the towering giant of country, and he grew up in Alabama poverty and worked in the shipyards in Mobile and played the beer joints along the rural red dirt roads before making it to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, La., and then graduating to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

Jimmie Rodgers, the pioneer who converted hillbilly music into to what became country music, was from Mississippi.

Elvis Presley made his name at the Louisiana Hayride. Before making it in music, Kris Kristofferson flew helicopters to the oil rigs in the Gulf. A list of modern-day country artists would be dominated by Southerners.

This disaster is going to ruin many lives, destroy many, many businesses and cause untold ecological harm and kill countless innocent creatures.

Especially now that BP has managed to break and then “be forced to remove” its temporary cap on the well (it happened Tuesday, June 23), returning it to its original huge leak levels. BP said it was caused by a robot submarine accident. But robots don’t yet have free will. So, I suspect this rogue robot was being controlled by a BP employee. Robots don’t have accidents on their own, do they?

And then there’s the matter of the temp clean-up workers that are being hired by BP and about the stories that are starting to come out about some of their behavior and activities.

Well, I’m just glad Jimmy Buffett and his friends are doing this Gulf Coast concert to try to make everyone at least feel a little better and get charged up for the comeback and the struggles yet to come.

One of the best suggestions I’ve heard yet is the notion of establishing a Gulf Coast publics works program to rebuild the region’s infrastructure and to revamp businesses and to put out-of-work qualified people back to work. The damages to New Orleans and surrounding areas from Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ levees have still not been fully repaired. And this Gulf disaster only compounds the impact on individuals and businesses. FDR’s Public Works Administration in the 1930s helped fix the catastrophic damages wrought by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression that totally wrecked America. It put the out-of-work back to work and fixed the roads and the bridges and the land and the waterways.

We’re facing a similar huge disaster now in the Gulf Coast. Bake sales and car washes won’t take care of it. … A huge effort is called for to repair what’s already ruined and to try to protect against any future rape and ruin. And I don’t trust bottom-line international conglomerates like BP to respect and take care of America’s natural treasures.

Let’s all try to do more. … In Nashville, the Gulf Coast is our back yard and we’re eternally linked to it. We need to take care of it.

CMT Presents Jimmy Buffett & Friends Live From The Gulf Coast will air on CMT on July 1 from 8-9:30 p.m. ET/PT and will be streamed on CMT.com.