Once upon a time, a guy in Chicago opened a little club, and decided to give country music a shot.
That was in 1997, and as of Wednesday night (Aug. 21), that guy was named the ACM promoter of the year and that club was named nightclub of the year.
Ed Warm is now the chairman of the Academy of Country Music. But back when he opened his now-legendary Joe’s Bar on Weed Street on Chicago’s near north side, he likely didn’t see this kind of happy ending coming. On his way into the ACM Honors ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium, he admitted that that little club has gone on to become something of a launching pad for country stars. “We are kind of a rite of passage,” Warm told CMT.com.
“I can remember the first time Miranda (Lambert) played Joe’s. Way before she even had a bus,” he said. Warm estimates that the first time he booked her, it was sometime after her stint on Nashville Star in 2003 but before the release of her debut album Kerosene in 2005. “Her and her dad drove up here in a big ol’ Chevy. I remember just sitting around talking about where I was from, where she was from and just all about the music.”
In a diary Lambert kept for CMT.com back in 2005, she described Joe’s Bar perfectly. “That place is one of my favorite little places to play. It’s a total honky-tonk smack in the middle of Chicago. The people are warm, the beer is cold and they LOVE their country music. There are a million little places like this one that I played in Texas,” Lambert wrote, “but it’s rare you find a place like this out on the road. I’m gonna play that place for a long time.”
In addition to picking up his own two trophies during the show, Warm said that what makes the ACM Honors so special is that it shines a light on all the vastly talented people in Nashville who aren’t usually household names. “I love that this show honors the behind-the-scenes people. That’s what Nashville is all about,” he said, “and that’s what country music is all about.”
When it was time for Warm to take the Ryman stage to accept his awards, he was effusive in his praise for the entire country music family. “I really think that the biggest award is just to get to work in this industry with all of you incredible artists and everybody around you,” he said. “We don’t take that for granted. We are so lucky, and so honored to get to work with all of you.”