Country Water

This week’s edition of Art & Whimsy is a few days late, due to our conference/work/vacation time in Nashville. Judy attended the American Association of Christian Counselors conference at Opryland and I went around town leaving portfolios with some of Nashville’s many book publishers. We also spent time together eating wonderful Southern cooking and listening to some great music.

While Judy was confabbing, I went out to the new Gruhn Guitars location on 8th St. Gruhn Guitars is an institution, serving famous guitarists around the world. I gazed at a spot-on recreation of Blackie, Clapton’s road worn Fender Stratocaster. You can pick it up at Gruhn’s for $20,000.00.

Some years ago I walked into the old Gruhn Guitars on Broadway and casually picked up a Martin D-28 sitting near the front counter. I timidly put it right back on the stand when I saw the $35,000.00 price tag. Gruhn’s is that kind of place.

This town is so full of incredible musicians.

Nashville cats, sang John Sebastian, “play clean as country water”. He wasn’t exaggerating.  The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is hosting an exhibit called Dylan, Cash, and Nashville Cats. Bob Dylan recorded several albums in Nashville and a couple duets with Johnny Cash. It’s an impressive exhibit that focuses largely on studio musicians.


There is also a wall displaying the art of Jon Langford, who did the exhibit poster shown above. I think he handled the earthy look of these two musical icons rather well. Not anything whimsical about it, I suppose, and outside my usual treatment of Art & Whimsy, but hopefully my illustration at the top fits the theme. I simply thought Langford captured the vibe and wanted to show you all (or, y’all) his work.

County Corn

I drew this country trio the other day. I was in the Nashville groove and wanted to do a fun self-promo piece that harkened back to the days of Saturday county music shows like Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Del Reeves Country Carnival, Hee-Haw, and others.

When country rock came about in the late sixties and early seventies, I got caught up in these shows and thought they were a hoot. I admit I watched them more for kicks than for the music, but I grew to admire the serious musicians beneath the rhinestones and cornpone humor.

Country Kitsch

Like any major tourist destination, Nashville is heavy on kitschy souvenirs and gee-gaws. It’s always tempting to buy that t-shirt, cap, or key chain that announces that I’ve been there. Nothing for sale of course is actually from “there”, it is from very far away, on the other side of the world, made by people who have little chance of ever seeing the place they stamp on the shot glass.

Souvenirs sell because there is something special about taking home a shirt that tells others where you’ve been. Maybe it’s a pride thing: “I went here, and you didn’t”. Or maybe it’s shared experience. Others who went where you went can admire your wise vacation choice. You bought the t-shirt, and now they know that you go where they go, and there is a common bond.


Country Pride

I bought a cap from Gruhn Guitars. I liked the color. But that was of minimal consideration. I liked more that it said something about me as a guitarist. It suggests not only that I play guitar, but that I’m hip enough to have been to this impressive guitar emporium. Not wealthy enough to actually buy a guitar from there, but doing well enough to buy a hat.

I also know a good friend of mine, a Tennessee native who is an outstanding guitarist, is on a first name basis with the Gruhn folks. So he’ll see the hat and admire me all the more for wearing it. That’s not really true, of course. He likes me just fine without the hat, but I know he’ll thinks it’s cool, which means he’ll think I’m cool. Since I know he’s cool, because everyone who plays guitar as good as this guy is cool, we’ll have a bond of coolness based on my hat. See how it all works out?

Maybe that’s what the souvenirs are about; sharing common bonds. There’s some honesty to it. I do play guitar (not professionally), so it isn’t like I bought a green beret, or a NASCAR hat, each of which would be a complete misrepresentation of myself. I was tempted by some cowboy boots, but that ramps the souvenir cost up considerably, and I don’t usually wear cowboy boots and would probably feel silly in them once I arrived back in St. Louis.

I did have a pair of cowboy boots when I was in that early seventies country rock phase, and they did look cool, but they also hurt my feet. I’m at the age wear foot comfort will not be sacrificed for cool.

Well, only a little bit of art and whimsy in this post, but I hope you enjoy the illustration I did, and thanks for letting me camp out on country for a moment. I’ll get back on schedule this coming week. If anyone has some country, music, souvenir, footwear, or traveling memories, please share in the comments below. Thanks for reading.