A conversation, Closing Time Melodies, with the band, Buddy Damen and the Last Call, here in Chicago, 9/21/18.
I only heard about Buddy Damen because of the Wayland Cross fire. It happened in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1968, when Wayland Cross burned down the old Palace Theater in the center of town. The Palace was a popular stop for musicians heading west, and it was also the town’s first movie theater. When Wayland Cross burned it down, the theater’s collection of film prints went up in smoke, including prints of Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Magnificent Ambersons, and a single print of a concert played a few years before by a songwriter named Buddy Damen. The manager at the Palace had got a 35mm film camera with the hope of making concert films that could be replayed on the movie screen at the theater, but after the fire he stopped filming concerts, heartbroken over the loss of his growing archive.
The old timer who told me about the fire was especially broken up about losing the footage of Buddy Damen in concert, claiming it was the only filmed recording of Buddy Damen anywhere. His albums are so impossible to find that the concert film was, for a few years, the only real proof that Buddy Damen existed, and now it’s gone. What does remain, though, is the memory of what folks around those parts call the “best durn show ever seen”, as Buddy Damen’s one-night-only stop at the Palace lives on in local lore.
No one knows why Wayland Cross burned down the Palace Theater, but that lost concert footage has become Americana music legend, just like Buddy Damen himself.
-Kizzie First, Folk Historian and Documentary Filmmaker
My annual trip to Nashville includes a stop at Gruhn Guitars. George Gruhn founded Gruhn guitars way back in 1970. This place is more than just a guitar shop. It is full of classic instruments that each have a fascinating history.
Musicians from all genres of music buy, sell and have their prized possessions repaired at Gruhn Guitars. Artists such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Cash, George Harrison and Vince Gill come to Gruhn. Collections from Earl Scruggs, Eric Clapton and Vince Gill have been sold here. We were able to inspect the remaining guitars from the Vince GIll collection.
My family and I were lucky to take a tour of his private collection and talk with George about his life and his love of guitars and animals. George is originally from the Chicago area. He told us about his snakes and exotic cats that are his passion aside from guitars.
His private collection was amazing and priceless. The wall in his collections were lined with rare and unusual string instruments. There were several prototype guitars that never made it into production and many production instruments with six figure valuations.
George picked out a couple of guitars for me to play. I didn’t buy a guitar on this day but I do have my eye on that pre-war Martin acoustic guitar that was selling for $30,000.
Another great day in Nashville. Many thanks to George Gruhn and his staff at Gruhn Guitars. Pay Gruhn Guitars a visit at http://guitars.com
~ Mark “Duke” Nikolich
Every year I make a trip to Nashville. To me it’s more than just a vacation, it is how I refresh my soul, my love for music and re-connect with my family.
Like other years we made our visit to the Grand Ole Opry. If you haven’t had the opportunity I can guarantee you that if you spend an evening at the Opry, you will feel the spirit. Performances by many generations of musicians, a few good laughs and heart warming stories are shared.
Tonight we had the honor of watching a band called Wild Blue Country. The band is made up of members of the Air Force. In the audience was a group of vets from the Vietnam era holding their annual reunion.
Connie Smith, Bill Anderson and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers hosted this nights Opry. Mike Snider provided some comic relief and some down home pickin’. Wade Hayes sang a song about his dog Jack that had everyone in the house tearing up.
Whispering Bill Anderson sang an old country song called Deck of Cards. A truly inspirational song about a soldier who was without his bible. You won’t hear songs like this on today’s country radio.
Shelly Fairchild, Adam Craig and William Michael Morgan provided a taste of modern country music. All talented and entertaining. The future of country music is in good hands.
The mix of old and new music in a historic venue brings the generations together for the common love of music. I can’t wait to get back to playing with Buddy Damen and the Last Call. My soul has been re-charged!
~Mark “Duke” Nikolich