Finding the Magic in Nashville
There’s always something magical happening somewhere in Nashville in regard to music. For me the delight is to be the person holding the hat and watching more than one magical rabbit appear. On March 1, 2012 a whole warren of rabbits appeared on stage at Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville, TN.
Master tall tale teller Billy Eli of Austin, Texas came through the mid-south doing shows in Bowling Green, KY at the Spillway, The Hotel Indigo in Nashville, and the Acoustic Coffee House in Johnson City, TN along with a show that Douglas Corners had agreed to put together featuring Billy Eli, Ned Hill (Ned Van Go), Dave Isaacs (DI3), and Gary Weilage. Coming along for the ride was yet another regional legend, Karle ‘Krawl’ Moulden. He and Billy Eli had formed an instant bond during Billy’s show at The Spillway when Karle’s band Plain Jane had been the opening act. Karle came along to the Douglas Corner Cafe show to accompany Billy that night and on the rest of the run through Tennessee. Many moons ago Karle Moulden and Ned Hill played that eventful show at Picasso’s in Bowling Green, KY that launched Ned’s career.
It had been decided by all four artist that the most favorable way to present the show was to have it be ‘in the round’ style as Dave was tied up with previous obligations until 9pm or so. The first few rounds went off uneventful but well. A stool on stage sat empty, patiently awaiting the arrival of Dave and yet it seemed it beckoned to be filled. It called out to Johnny Foodstamp who had come to watch friend, Ned Hill.
Johnny caught me in the foyer of the club and asked if he could fill Dave’s chair until his arrival. I, the holder of the hat, said sure why not. I held up a note to Ned as to the new addition and Ned agreeably motioned Johnny on stage. I yelled out to Billy, “Hold on to your hat Billy, they don’t have these in Texas.” Johnny proceeded to pull his banjo ukulele out and tune it up.
As predicted, Billy’s face reflected an incredulous look at the odd instrument and Johnny’s 1920’s fashion sense. Sitting in the audience was my 13 year-old daughter, who upon seeing Johnny pretty much matched Billy’s look of total disbelief. Johnny Foodstamp is a fearless and passionate performer whose enthusiasm for his instrument of choice is totally infectious. The scoffs that resounded through the venue that night when he started and the applause he received after his first song were as night and day. Joining the applause was Billy’s Texas-size grin and the 13 year-old’s scramble to get her iPhone ready to catch Johnny’s next song.
His next round came and he looked at each of the other equally unique musicians on stage and thanked them for allowing
him to join them on stage. Then in a stroke of genius, Johnny asked them to jump in on his next tune. Gary Weilage sat on the other side of Billy Eli looking totally bewildered, but yet within 4 or 5 bars into the tune he was playing right along as was Karle Moulden. Billy kept time on Clementine—his guitar—and Ned knowing the words to the tune piped in on the chorus. The response of joy from the audience was just as magical as that which had just taken place on stage. Here was well-seasoned Texas honky-tonk rebel rouser Billy Eli, jazz / blues guitar master Gary Weilage, southern rock almost head banger, Karle Moulden, and blue collar Roots Rock, chart-topper Ned Hill, with this guy playing a ragtime tune, that being Johnny Foodstamp.
Elizabeth Bissette was in the audience as well that night and she said, “I don’t know how or why it’s working, but it is. You’ve put four totally different from each other musicians up there and thrown in a wild card…and it’s working!”
The fun and magic were not over when Dave Isaacs arrived. Dressed in a button down shirt, slacks and loafers not boots, blue jeans and a baseball cap, Dave took his stool on the stage. Now all comfortable with each other, the four musicians on stage looked at the newcomer with a skeptic’s eyes.
Dave Isaacs has an absolutely outstanding voice. He has a moderate range of which he has complete control. He can with seeming little effort push his voice to full volume and drop it to a whisper in a half note. His emotions of rage or romantic love are fully expressed within those notes–the deliverance resembling a lover’s kiss on the neck or the gunshot of a killer. Matching that skill are his fingers on his guitar.
Dave was sandwiched between Billy and Ned. I watched both men turn and watch Dave play within mere moments of Dave’s first ‘turn’. I smirked when I saw the smile creep on to Billy’s face and Ned keeping time on his guitar and with his feet. On Ned’s next ‘turn’ he was hollering “Come on Dave!” By the end of the night it ceased to matter whose ‘turn’ it was other than what musician picked the tune and sang lead. It was if a band had formed up there or five lost band
mates had been found for a reunion show. It did not matter what the song was, be it a cover or an original. It did not matter what genre the selection came from either, all the tunes were grasped and devoured with equal love and devotion for their craft.
Further testimony of the magic was the laughter and hoopla coming from Mary Leland Wehner’s table. I do believe her voice was the loudest –singing out over all the rest of us—for Ned’s rendition of “Never Kissed a Girl”. Mervin Louque , the venue owner, was
an absolute sweetheart on the sound and was all indulgent of the night’s events.
I do not make much money from my endeavors. That’s never been my motivating factor. Nights like that are. I have no doubt that Billy Eli went back to Austin to do his part of SXSW and spoke of his evening at Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville. Knowing Billy, upon his return to the Mid-South he’ll have written a great song about it and be more than tickled to share it.
by Franne Jennings
Originally posted to http://www.scout66.com/