BY BILL ARMOUR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SEGUE 61
Those who know me best say I am an INFORMED CONSUMER of music, w/what is described as an unusual (unhealthy?) amount of information about & passion for a creative craft I was never a participant in. It’s what likely armed me uniquely to help push Segue 61 to its starting line.
I’ve experienced more than one thousand major live shows by virtually every artist who ever mattered to me, sat at the inductees’ table at the Songwriters Hall of Fame event, watched icons perform from side-stage at The Ryman, Bonnaroo and Merlefest, and been on the road w/Bruce. I’ve kept almost all the passes and tickets, including an un-torn one for an Allman Brothers show the week after Duane died.
The music I own, according to metrics in the cyber-library it lives in, indicates I could start at AA & have enough woven-notes to listen non-stop to original music for more than three years, just beyond ZZ Top and Zappa. If I don’t sleep.
I’m not alone, I’m sure, in my level of love of music and those who create it. I have been blessed with myriad once-only events, where sound washed over me like a wave or my closeness to The Moment was Gump-like. It’s been an exceptional life-journey which I view with an appropriate awe and wonder.
But one of my most indelible experiences involved no notes or lyrics, but rather the silent advice a statue whispered to me on Music Row. It was at a challenging time in the build-out of Segue 61 when I decided to walk up Nashville’s storied 17th Avenue to sit for a spell on the piano bench beside Owen Bradley, in the park that bears his name.
At the time, I had an office-space in the house in which Chet Atkins once ruled the country music kingdom that he, Mr. Bradley and (later) Bob Johnston had cultivated. Clay Bradley, Owen’s grandson and an essential contributor to the construct of Segue 61, was starting his new agency from Chet’s old “boardroom” and saved me a corner to work in. Every morning….every morning I drove west down Edgehill toward 1013 17th Avenue South, I felt certain responsibility to respect that moment in time, particularly for someone never destined for a presence of any sort on Music Row.
My sense of history has always been both insatiable and indelible. Clay’s grandfather, a big-band leader with his brother Harold in post-World War 2 in Middle Tennessee, had a singularly creative vision that became the Nashville Sound, eventually transforming hillbilly music into a globally cherished art form. Every morning when I entered Chet’s old house, there was a gravitas for me, especially given the project at hand helping forge such a unique concept like Segue 61. A process that….required vision.
Clay Bradley was already decorated in his ever-more visible roles at Acuff-Rose, Sony and BMI w/career-changing support for stars like Kenny Chesney, George Strait and Miranda Lambert. But his urge to find something unique & trend-altering drove him to leave his executive roles for uncharted professional water. That leap of faith….required vision.
Developing new genre-bending artists like Katy Pruett and Muddy Magnolias filled only part of Clay’s need. Segue 61’s mission to better arm elite aspirants to the music business with information delivered by those like himself, who make daily deals and demos and differences for artists also matched Bradley’s DNA decisively. He promised me his support, his connectivity to a somewhat-closed industry and his unfaltering friendship. And also that required vision…..
I’ve never told Clay what I told his grandfather that Sunday afternoon, when all was quiet on Music Row and I walked out the front door of Chet’s place, down 17th to the entry-point of one of most significant 30 blocks in American Music.
You can sit right beside Owen on his piano bench, as his left arm offers a welcoming gesture to every driver who enters Music Row circle. He’s wearing his familiar hat & details are so precise w/the likeness of he and his Baldwin piano, that even the correct sheet music for Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” and “Crazy” rest in front of him, ready to play. Together, he and Patsy changed music in this country. All music.
As I slid up beside him that day, I told him how proud he would be of his grandson, who was now offering his own guidance for both new artists that didn’t fit a predictable mold but also for an education program we both hoped would change lives with its non-academic candor and connectivity. I told him when I’d gotten most discouraged w/the atypical path it was requiring, Clay had offered consistent energy and optimism.
Through the silence that followed, I’m sure I heard Owen Bradley insist that all involved–including his beloved grandson & myself–“had the required vision” to get the job done. To follow the path to Segue 61’s starting point, however daunting. To not lose sight of our the project’s worthy goal.
When I walked south down 16th Avenue in the setting sun, past the Quonset Hut location where the Bradleys and Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn first made musical history, I felt a wind behind the sail of Segue 61 that was not there before. It’s never easy to bring forth change or creative concept that goes against the flow.
Segue 61 is a unique program whose core group (including Clay Bradley) and 100+ current music industry professionals aspires to change the model in which students engage a difficult job landscape, arming them w/enhanced relationship equity as well interpersonal & informational elements not available elsewhere. And a required vision….for their own path forward.
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