There may have been no greater meat & three dining experience in Nashville, TN, than Hap Townes' Restaurant, renowned for their amazing dessert of stewed raisins (find the recipe in Real American Food by Jane and Michael Stern).
For 65 years, the father & son Hap Townes team served up Southern home cooking to a long line of faithful customers, oftentimes famous country producers and singers, including Faron Young.
I ran into Faron one June at the legendary little stone diner. I was taking a break from Fan Fair festivities, and there was Faron standing in line, looking lean and hungry. Hap Townes even then only had 49 seats, and remained hard to find on a quiet back street in south Nashville.
And there was Faron: the star of the great hillbilly exploitation flick, Nashville Rebel, and whose version of Willie Nelson's "Hello Walls" still holds me in awe and haunts my brain everytime I think of Faron shooting himself because he believed the country music industry had abandoned him (despite the fact that his "It's Four in the Morning" was the first video to air on CMT when it launched!)....
But here you have it: a truly rare document where eternal legends meet, one country celebrity checking in with another--proof positive.
While the nation continues to mourn Michael Jackson, J.D. Salinger, and Sky Saxon, many of us are still mourning the death of one of the greatest country singers of all time, Vern Gosdin. Known as the voice of country music, Gosdin died from a stroke on April 28, 2009. His was a pained and tortured voice singing some of the saddest songs in the world, and when he died, we truly lost one of the voices of the ages.
Forget the current crop of Nashville pop crooners. Gosdin was a man who had the wrinkles of Merle Haggard and, like George Jones, knew what it meant to weep. With his album, Chiseled In Stone, Gosdin created a country music masterpiece. It's virtually impossible to get through the thing without having an emotional breakdown.
Harold Lloyd Jenkins–or Conway Twitty, the name WE knew him by–was one of the America’s most successful country music performers. Until 2000, Twitty held the record for the most Number One singles of any country act, with 45 Number Ones on all the trade charts!
Twitty lived for many years in Hendersonville, Tennessee, just north of Nashville, where he built a country music entertainment complex called Twitty City. It was famous for its lavish Christmas decorations and display of lights, and included the Conway Twitty Mansion and Memorial Garden. Conway and his wonderful tourist attraction were once even featured on the then-popular program “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
Sadly, Twitty City is no more and now called Trinity Music City, USA. Since the great country singer’s death, it has been converted into a Christian music venue owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Perhaps you have seen their TV programs while channel-surfing.
Me, I went to Twitty City once on one of my many sojourns to Nashville (next to Memphis, the holiest of all cities). There the wind whipped through the cultural debris of the once mighty fortress of a country legend, and I stood in memory, waiting for the ghost of Conway.
Things happen. Heroes die and fade. But maybe you can still look at this great tourist brochure and dream of things gone by.