Country greats gather, make music, memories
Video shoot is a legends' reunion
It was as if the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum came to life Wednesday as some of the greatest names in country music gathered to tape a video featuring 70 legends singing, talking and swapping stories.
Today is the last day of the three-day shoot for Country's Family Reunion, a nine-DVD set that will be released in the spring. The Larry Black-produced show is ninth in a series.
In this taping, stars such as Roy Clark, Charley Pride, Leroy Van Dyke, Jan Howard, Ray Stevens, Crystal Gayle, David Frizzell and Charlie Louvin sat in comfortable mismatched chairs as they took turns doing what they still do best: entertaining.
"It's a coming home; it is a homecoming, a family reunion for me," said singer Larry Gatlin. Added singer Lynn Anderson, "It's like a class reunion; it's like going back to your old high school."
It was a time of recalling wonderful memories and creating new ones for the group, which also includes Jim Ed Brown, Little Jimmy Dickens, Stonewall Jackson, Janie Fricke, Jean Shepard, Helen Cornelius, Jeannie Seely and Moe Bandy.
Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson, the show's host, said, "When we first started doing this in 1997, we thought we were making entertainment. Looking back on it now, out of the first 35 people who did the show, 16 of them — almost half — are no longer with us: Chet Atkins, Boxcar Willie, Bill Carlisle, Grandpa Jones, Skeeter Davis, Billy Walker.
"We realize now we're not just making entertainment; we're making country music history. What we're doing today in that room is something that five years from now, 10 years from now, maybe 50 years from now will be an insight for people to look and see what country music was like during the era of people in that room."
Some tears flowed
Singer Ed Bruce said the event was a lifetime highlight. "I've had a tear in my eye several times. When you get in a situation like this, you think, 'Well, this has got to be the toughest audience in the world.' It's not. There's so much empathy in there, and mutual love and appreciation. Everyone in there is on your side when you get up."
Singer Shelly West was surrounded by many friends of her late mother, Dottie West. "When I was singing her song 'Country Sunshine,' I could tell they were thinking of her and looking at me. It was an overpowering feeling. I sounded like her in my head even. I was crying when Jeannie Seely sang 'Don't Touch Me' because her and Mom were best friends and I've heard her sing that song all my life."
And the stars are still talking about Don Helms playing "Cold, Cold Heart" on the steel guitar he used when playing with Hank Williams Sr. "When it was over, Vince Gill couldn't speak," Bill Anderson said. "There were tears running down his eyes. He said, 'That's why I'm here.' "
Gill asked Helms to join him on a song. Helms said, "I don't know the song." Gill said, "I don't care."
The group joined together to sing "Happy Birthday" on video for Lynn Anderson's father. "It's like one of the MasterCard advertisements: priceless," she said.