Taylor Swift’s Influence Runs Deep in Nashville

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 13, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Taylor Swift owns this town. Hundreds of girls dress like her and sashay down the sidewalks imitating the reigning country music princess. Princess, not queen, of course; not while Loretta Lynn draws breath.
At the Country Music Hall of Fame, many of Taylor’s shimmering concert dresses are on display. Girls and their mothers pressed close to the glass to inspect them. She must be a little thing, judging from the sizes of the dresses.
My country music pedigree had stopped with the death of Tammy Wynette. But with July 4 falling in midweek, Elizabeth and I skipped out to Nashville for two nights to see the town for the first time.
Five minutes after arriving, we went to the Country Music Hall of Fame, not because it was first on our list but because it was air-conditioned in 105-degree weather. Elizabeth took my photo beside the plaques of my girls — Loretta, Tammy, Dolly and Patsy. I took hers with Elvis and Johnny.
Because it was so hot outside, I drank in the museum’s information, staying until closing time. We saw the rhinestones and glitter on all the old star’s costumes. Fifty years ago, male singers dressed as dudes — Porter Wagoner — and women were often frumpy — Loretta Lynn. These days, the country starlets look like glamor girls while men tend to wear old cowboy hats and jeans — Trace Adkins — looking like any guy in a bar.
We saw Dolly Parton’s penciled original page of “Jolene,” the best song ever recorded. The museum also has several of Merle Haggard’s songs, scribbled on the original paper.
We read how the old Tennessee “hillbilly” music long ago went cowboy. Cowboys are sexy and have broader appeal. I was amazed how much influence tiny Oklahoma has had on country music — with the Dust Bowl migration to California and today with stars Toby Keith and Carrie Underwood.
Pretty Taylor Swift, meanwhile, has introduced country to the teeny-bop generation.
Some other impressions of Nashville:
• There may be more cowboy hats and boots stores here than in Dallas. The boots and hats were glitzed with rhinestones and baubles — not exactly work clothes.
• We didn’t see a trace of the 2010 flood that devastated downtown Nashville. The town is spotless.
• Visit the Grand Ole Opry once before you die. The name “Darius Rucker” meant nothing to me, but women and girls rushed the edge of the stage as if he were a rock star, which he used to be before “going country.” Far from country, Ringo Starr came to Nashville as we were leaving. We also heard the exciting bluegrass band Old Crow Medicine Show. Little Jimmy Dickins, 91, all 4-feet, 11-inches of him, also performed, dressed in his usual dandy rhinestone regalia.
• Nashville honky-tonks are exciting. We drifted in and out of bars up and down the strip, catching performances of wannabe stars. Some were excellent; some were okay. At hole-in-the-wall Tootsies Orchid Lounge, the first rung on the ladder for a number of today’s stars, a tattooed girl played fiddle with amazing skill. We were sardines packed in the can. It took five minutes for me to …