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Category: Soul of a City

As a musician, it’s an inherent trait in me to want to share music with others. I want to help preserve some of the stories of musicians who called or still call Donelson home and by sharing their music, it’s a great way of showcasing a core element of Music City. It’s already been a great learning experience for me as I research songwriters, composers, artists, and those in the music business who helped support the careers of artists. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have in putting it together.

Piedmont Gas Donate to Donelson Gateway Project

Big thanks to Piedmont Natural Gas for supporting The Donelson Gateway Project. This very gracious donation helps a lot with our continued maintenance needs, especially during this dry weather when we need to water with our mobile water truck (shown behind us in the picture). All tax-deductible donations are sincerely appreciated and go directly towards keeping Donelson beautiful.

We are always seeking partners, sponsors and folks willing to help with the physical labor to maintain our sites. This is a non-profit that does a lot with a little and is something we can all be proud to support. The community was wonderful last year in supporting DGP and that went directly to purchasing a mower for all our sites as well as continued expansion and maintenance. We have many needs, so if you’re interested in assisting us, please let me know. Pictured with me are Piedmont’s Stephen Francescon, and Mike Rose, DGP President.

The Donelson Gateway Project Piedmont Donation with Councilman Jeff Syracuse

Donelson Gateway Project, Donelson Non-Profit News

Non-Profit Donelson News – November 2019

Big congrats to Lisa Maddox, who is our new Director of FiftyForward Donelson Station.  Lisa is a fantastic leader at the center and her energy and passion for FiftyForward’s mission can be seen and felt each and every day.  Thank you, Lisa and congrats on this very well deserved promotion!  Lisa is seen here with Mark and Kevin with Donelson Café & Catering during the recent Casino Night fundraiser.

Lisa Maddox Fifty Forward Director

Three chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (one from California and two here in Tennessee) joined together to pay tribute and dedicate a memorial to Major John Buchanan and wife Sally, who were among Nashville’s earliest pioneers.  If not for Sally, the battle that occurred there against Native Americans would likely not have been successful.  I was joined by newly appointed Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement Brenda Haywood from Mayor Cooper’s Office.  We presented proclamations and listened to the extraordinary history at the Buchanan Station Cemetery.

DAR Buchanon Memorial

DAR Buchanon Memorial

Our older Nashville neighbors who no longer drive need assistance getting to doctor visits, the grocery store and hair appointments. You can help them stay connected to the community by becoming a volunteer driver. Senior Ride Nashville needs caring, reliable drivers Monday through Friday. Becoming a driver is easy, and you can schedule the rides most convenient for you. Learn more at

Senior Ride Nashville

I was very happy to join members of the Donelson-Hermitage Rotary Club at their regular meeting at Party Fowl.  They give back and serve this community in very meaningful ways and it was a pleasure to have lunch with them.

Donelson Hermitage Rotary Club

The Donelson Gateway Project recently completed another school beautification project at Pennington Elementary.  After the recent renovation and addition of the school, it left an opportunity to support that effort with entranceway beautification.  Thanks again to the partnership with JVI Secret Gardens along with sponsors and the PTO, this project turned out great.  Visit DGP’s Facebook page here to check out pictures a great promo video put together to advertise the very successful fundraising effort.

The Nashville Singers will return to Donelson for their wonderful Holiday Concert at Lebanon Road Church of Christ on December 7th.  See flyer below for details and visit their website for tickets.  This is a great show and funds are used to support music education scholarships.

Nashville Singers

Donelson Non-Profit News, Fifty Forward Donelson Station

Phil Dillon


When I first met Phil Dillon, I sat in row of bleachers with other parents as I watched him do an amazing job as a dynamic tennis coach to my son and other kids.  I was pretty sure he wasn’t a Nashville native and he sounded like he may even be from up-state New York like me.  Sure enough, upon meeting Phil, not only was he from up-state New York, but from Buffalo where I was born and I also learned he was a very successful producer, engineer, singer, songwriter and musician.  Suffice to say, we hit it off with much in common.

Phil heard Frank Sinatra sing “All The Way” on the radio in 1960 at his grandparent’s house as a kid and was hooked.  He sang in both church and school and by the 5th grade started to play drums, playing along with Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich records.  After playing bass drum and snare in grammar school, Phil started playing guitar and wrote his first song at 11.  After building a long career as a musician in Buffalo, Phil started visiting Nashville and realized that Music City was the place to be to keep his career moving forward.  One of Nashville’s “A Team” keyboard players, Steve Nathan, told Phil, “If you want to hunt tigers, you have to go to where the tigers are.”  Phil had successful friends like Steve, Harry Stinson and Stuart Ziff who were there to help him integrate into the Nashville scene.

Finally moving to Nashville in the fall of 1994, Phil hit the ground running and immediately started working with Stuart Ziff, Billy Henderson, Carson Whitsett, Kim Parent, Tim Loftin, Barry Walsh, Tommy Spurlock, Mike Rojas, Gary Morse, Bob Britt, Maxwell Schauf and many more great Nashville musicians and songwriters.  In 1999, Phil started working with Jimmy Nalls, co-producing records for Rick Moore & The Mr. Lucky Band.  They worked on Jimmy’s critically acclaimed “Ain’t No Stranger” album.  In 2000, Phil was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.

Phil has worked on other great projects over the years, including Michael McGrew’s “I’d Like to Be the Man” (co-produced with Harry Stinson), “The Amazing World of Doc Butt,”, a 16-piece big band endeavor produced by Bob Moore, featuring “Ranger Doug”, Boots Randolph, Bill Pursell, Kenny Malone and many others. 

Phil began playing with T Graham Brown in 2003, spending the next six years playing acoustic guitar and singing background vocals at venues like Bluebird Café, Wildhorse Saloon, The Trapp, on GAC Classic and over thirty appearances on The Grand Ole Opry.  He went on to record and co-produce T Graham Brown’s “The Present” album with T and Mike Caputy.  In 2007, Phil met Jim Tract and recorded and mixed all the projects on Adroit Records.  Most recently, Phil has produced and recorded Bill Edwards’ “Here Lately” album and David Nipper’s self-titled EP.

In addition to his incredible list of musical accomplishments and collaborations, Phil also has built an impressive career as a PTR Certified Tennis Teaching Pro for the last 31-years.  He’s held several positions as Head Pro at Country Clubs and with the YMCA.  Phil currently serves as the Head Professional at Langford Farms Club in Old Hickory.  Phil and his wife Jane have two grown boys, Andrew and Chris, and are a great family Donelson is lucky to have as neighbors.

Check out Phil’s website about his studio and publishing company, Nickel City Music.

  • Someday/Together We’ll Grow Old (Written by James Ralston, Phil Dillon)
  • Mister Please Understand (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • How It Feels (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • Now That We’re Not a Family (Written by Phil Dillon)
  • Hey Brother (Written by Phil Dillon & Bill Edwards)
  • I Sleep With One Eye Open (Written by Phil Dillon & Bill Edwards)
  • Walkaway Joe (Written Vince Melamed & Greg Barnhill)
  • Through The Eyes of a Child (Written by Phil Dillon, Stuart Ziff, Kim Parent)
  • Never Be The Same (Bill Edwards)
  • Drive (David Nipper)

Jeff Syracuse, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Metro Council District 15, Nashville A Team Keyboard Player, Singer & Songwriter

Brennin Hunt



The Eagle’s “Hell Freezes Over” tour was not only a very special reunion of a band no one thought would perform together again; it was also an inspiration for a special musician and actor that we’re proud to call friend and neighbor here in Donelson.  At nine-years old, Brennin watched Don Henley play drums on that tour and began to play and continue to be deeply influenced by the band’s timeless songwriting and talent.  It was a couple years later that Brennin’s grandmother gave him his Dad’s Epiphone guitar and began to play it as well as the family’s old player-piano.  He began to find his own very talented voice in songwriting and arranging, discovering a variety of artists and able to learn their songs by ear.

Before moving to Nashville from his hometown in Oklahoma City, Brennin was heavily involved in performing and leading worship in churches.  In 2004, he began touring the country with Christian artist Jami Smith, playing guitar and singing background vocals.  He was also influenced by artists such as Aranda and Paul Colley, both of whom Brennin had the opportunity to get to know and learn a lot about songwriting.  Brothers Dameon and Gabe Aranda are successful songwriters with song cuts by major artists such as Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks and they had also secured their own major deal with Sony.  Paul Colley produced and recorded Brennin’s first couple of records and taught him about production and recording, skills Brennin still uses today as he records in his own studio.

While attending an International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) conference here in Nashville, Brennin’s cousin Judy met Barbara “Mother” Hubbard, an entertainment promoter, educator and mentor at the Pan American Center at New Mexico State University.  Judy gave Barbara a demo of a song Brennin wrote with Dameon Aranda (recorded by Paul Colley) and the next day Brennin received a call from Barbara asking him if he wanted to open for the Bellamy Brothers in Hot Springs, AR.  Brennin recalls that she wanted to see if he could “carry a tune live” as she put it.  Barbara encouraged Brennin to move to Nashville and also connected him with Gayle Miller at Epic Records in New York, who put him in touch with Rikk Feulner, a manager here in Nashville.  Rikk further encouraged Brennin to move to Nashville and after he and his wife Kelly finally moved here, Rikk taught Brennin a lot about Nashville and the music business.

After renting an apartment in Bellevue for a year, Brennin and Kelly decided to find something close to the airport and downtown and while searching for a home to buy, fell in love with Donelson and the community.

In 2011, Brennin had the great opportunity of being part of the hit TV show The X-Factor.  That experience led him to a publishing deal with Razor and Tie Music Publishing and KyeCatt Music.  With other great influences including The Eagles, Vince Gill, Michael Jackson, Elvis, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder and anything Motown and Staxx, Brennin’s hard work continues to pay off and be highly regarded and recognized.  He recently spent a few days with Vince Gill and wrote with him for Vince’s new album that will be released February 12 and features their song “I Can’t Do This”.

Brennin has a new EP coming in February with plans to tour in support of the project.  He’s also signing with William Morris Endeavor.  Brennin’s story is a great Music City success story and we’ll no doubt be hearing much more from him in the future.  I’m proud to have Kelly, Brennin and their two sons as neighbors here in Donelson.  Enjoy this selection of Brennin’s songs, including a Christmas song he recorded with Ayla Brown (whose husband Keith owns Donelson’s Bowtie Barber Club) and two tracks from his upcoming new EP to be released February 19.

How We Make It (written by Brennin Hunt)

At My Door (written by Brennin Hunt, Chris Dubois and Catt Gravitt)

Quarantine (featuring Brennin) (written by T. Carter)

Christmas Without You (featuring Ayla Brown) (written by Brennin Hunt and Briana Tyson)

Lose My Cool (written by Brennin Hunt)

Light It Up (written by Brennin Hunt)

Brennin Hunt, Fell in love with Donelson & Community, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Songwriter

Roland White & Diane Bouska


Roland White and Diane Bouska have been great Donelson neighbors for many years and they add to the diverse fabric of “Music City” in keeping the tradition of Bluegrass going strong.

Ask most anyone to name some of the most influential musicians in bluegrass, Roland White will certainly be among them.  Roland has been performing for over 60 years and has made major contributions in the music, earning Grammy awards and honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA).

Originally from Maine, Roland’s family moved to southern California in 1955.  Roland came from a large family of musicians.  Roland started performing at a young age in Maine along with his younger brothers, Eric and Clarence.  They founded the group, The Country Boys (later known as The Kentucky Colonels) and earned many accolades while touring across the country in the 1960’s during the folk music boom and their album, “Appalachian Swing”, is considered one of the most important albums in bluegrass.  They even made appearances on The Andy Griffith Show.

Towards the end of the 1960’s, Roland had the great opportunity of being a guitarist for the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe.  Roland considered Monroe a mentor and the influence of his style and feel became a big part of Roland’s music.  After being in Bill Monroe’s band, Roland had another great opportunity of joining another legend in bluegrass, Lester Flatt.  Roland played mandolin in Lester’s band, The Nashville Grass, from 1969 – 1973 and recorded several albums with them.  Roland and his brothers got back together briefly in 1973 with The White Brothers but his brother Clarence died tragically.  Roland later joined the group Country Gazette, playing guitar and mandolin with top bluegrass musicians of the time.  He then went on to achieve great success as part of the Nashville Bluegrass Band in 1989, winning two Grammy Awards and Grammy nominations on all their albums.  Roland and his wife Diane Bouska then went on to form The Roland White Band in 2000 and earned a Grammy nomination for their album “Jelly on My Tofu”.

Diane grew up listening to jazz as her father was a big fan and was friends with some of the leading jazz musicians in Kansas City.  She recalls having famous jazz pianist Jay McShann over at the house playing on their piano.  In college she started playing Scruggs-style banjo and then guitar.  She and Roland have been married over 25-years and have been playing music together since then.  They both teach and lead weeklong workshops as well, traveling several times a year all over the country and internationally.  Diane has written and published instructional method book/CD sets teaching Roland’s mandolin style and his brother Clarence’s guitar style, which they sell retail and distribute to music stores.  Roland also started the Annual Bill Monroe Appreciation Night in 1996 at The Station Inn and it has been going strong ever since.

The Station Inn has a legendary status as a venue in Nashville and is very special to musicians and fans alike.  “There is no venue like The Station Inn in its importance to bluegrass music and bluegrass musicians”, says Diane. “It’s home to the best, and there is a genuine, close-knit community of musicians and friends and family that are connected through The Station Inn.”  Roland and Diane have played a big role in supporting the venue and you can catch them playing there every couple of months.  Be sure to follow them at to find when they will be there next.

  • Last Thing On My Mind – (The New Kentucky Colonels)
  • Same Old Blues Again – (Roland White)
  • Powder Creek – (Roland White)
  • Rose City Waltz – (Roland White)
  • Jelly On My Tofu – (Roland White)
  • Old Fashioned Love – (Roland White)
  • On My Way Back to the Old Home – (written by Bill Monroe, performed by Roland White)
  • Pike County Breakdown – (written by Earl Scruggs, performed by Roland White)

Diane grew up listening to Jazz, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Most influential musician in Bluegrass, Nashville, Roland White & Diana Bouska, The County Boys (The Kentucky Colonels)

Michael Doster


Photo by John Rijsbergen

Michael Doster was among the first to come to my mind when putting the concept of this blog together, admittedly because he played bass in B.B. King’s band for 17-years.  As B.B.’s health started declining and we received news that he entered hospice, I began digging a bit deeper into his music and watched some past performances I hadn’t seen before.  Many of them had Mike playing on stage and are just incredible.  I felt this was a fitting time to feature Mike and share his incredible story of playing with an international musical icon as well as other well-known and critically acclaimed musicians.

Mike’s primary instrument is bass, but he was taught a bit of piano by his mother and aunt and also plays guitar.  He started playing double bass in the Woodmont Elementary School Orchestra in 4th grade and picked up an electric bass while attending junior high at Peabody Demonstration School and West End Middle School.  Mike also played double bass in the Nashville Youth Symphony during high school while attending Hillsboro High School and earned a scholarship to the Blair School of Music as well.

The first paid gig that Mike ever had was at age 15 playing with the Hogan Road Baptist Church Choir.  In 1978, he met B.B. King’s nephew, Walter King, and played with him in the Jazz Ensemble while attending Tennessee State University and in other venues around Nashville, including the Bambu Lounge on Jefferson Street.  In 1982, Mike began playing and assisted with the production of Grammy Award-winning gospel music singer and television show host, Dr. Bobby Jones.  (On a side note, I had the honor of attending this year’s Tennessee Governor’s Arts Awards where Dr. Bobby Jones was honored along with B.B. King and other great artists.  It was a wonderful evening that I will remember always.)

While performing with Dr. Jones, Walter called Mike and asked if he’d be interested in playing with B.B. King.  Mike recalls that he thought Walter was pulling his leg, but Walter was serious and asked if Mike could be in Indianapolis the next night.  Mike was both excited and nervous and got himself together and flew to Indianapolis to meet B.B. King at the Beef and Board Dinner Theater.  Both B.B. and his son Willie had seen Mike play bass on the Bobby Jones Gospel Show.  Willie asked his dad, “What do you think of that new bass player?”  B.B. replied, “Well, if he can play gospel, he ought to be able to play the blues”.  Mike rode with B.B. and the band to Texas and finally two weeks later B.B. let him play at Rockefeller’s in Houston.  Walter told Mike that if he could survive a bus ride with B.B. King’s band that he probably could make it.  The next night in Dallas, B.B. asked him, “Do you want a job?  I’ll give you a job if you want a job.”  Mike thought he was dreaming.  Always the professional, B.B. told Mike that if he ever let him go, he’d give him two-week’s notice and if Mike ever left, he asked Mike to also give him a two-week’s notice.  Mike shook hands with B.B. and played with him for the next 17-years in his band.

B.B. King sometimes played 300+ nights a years and stayed on the road quite a bit.  Mike toured world-wide and performed on the Grammy winning albums, “Live at San Quentin” (MCA 1988), “Blues on the Bayou” (MCA 1998), “Makin’ Love is Good For You” (MCA 2000) and “A Christmas Celebration of Hope” (MCA 2001).  He also performed with B.B. King on the television shows, “B.B. King and Friends” (HBO 1987), “The Cosby Show” (NBC 1990) and “Jazz Central” (BET 1999).  Mike appeared with B.B. in the films “Next of Kin” (Lorimar 1989) and “Heart and Souls” (Universal 1993).  Mike had to leave the band on account of health issues, but B.B. provided health insurance for his band and that saved Mike.  He even kept Mike on retainer while he recovered and also helped him with tuition when he went back to Tennessee State University to finish his degree.  “B.B. King was a humble, generous and loving person,” Mike recalls.

Mike went on to perform on the WLAC-AM 1510 radio show “Legally Speaking”, which was broadcast over 32 states.  He later met Tony Gerber from the Cotton Blossom Band through renowned music artist, Aashid Himmons, founder of the band Afrikan Dreamland.  Tony was doing some spots on the Mando Blues Show with Radio Free Nashville and asked if Mike would like to play with them.  Mike is on their album “Soulshining”.  The Nashville Bridge honored “Soulshining” as one of the best releases of 2014 along with Justin Townes Earle, Ray Price, Ricky Skaggs and Jack White.

Currently, you can catch Mike playing with Gil Gann at the B.B. King Blues Club on 2nd Avenue and Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar in Printer’s Alley.  Mike also plays with the TSU Wesley Foundation Community Big Band with fellow B.B. King Band member and trumpeter Stanley Abernathy (also a Donelson neighbor).

Mike has lived in Donelson for 20 years and chose to call this home because it’s peaceful, family friendly and convenient to just about everywhere.  I hope you enjoy this selection of amazing music from Mike’s incredible career!

  • Every Day I Have the Blues (Live at San Quentin) – (written by Memphis Slim, performed by B.B. King)
  • Joe Cool (from Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!) – (written by Desiree Goyette and Vince Guaraldi, performed by B.B. King)
  • Ain’t Nobody Like My Baby – (written and performed by B.B. King)
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words – (written and performed by B.B. King)
  • What You Bet – (written by Robert Taylor and George Williams, performed by B.B. King)
  • Merry Christmas, Baby – (written by Page Cavanaugh and Jack Smalley, performed by B. B. King)
  • Shake It Up And Go – (written and performed by B.B. King)
  • If That Ain’t It I Quit – (written and performed by B.B. King)
  • In The Here And Now – (written and performed by Tracy Nelson)
  • I Was A Burden – (written and performed by Danny Flowers)
  • Voices in Outer Bass – (written by Tony Gerber, Mason Stevens and Michael Doster, performed by Cotton Blossom Band) 

B.B. asked him “Do you want a job?, Jeff Syracuse, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Metro Council District 15, Mike’s primary instrument is bass, The first paid gig that Mike ever had was at age 15

Leon Rhodes

Leon RhodesOne of the thrills of doing this blog is the time I get to spend researching artists and listening to their music. I revisit some music I hadn’t heard in a long time and I always discover new music too. Donelson is full of wonderful neighbors who are immensely talented, have incredible stories about where their music has taken them and are musical heroes of mine. Leon Rhodes is in a class of his own. His musical talent is truly a gift from God. He never had a lesson and doesn’t read music, but his playing showcases him as one of the true masters of the guitar. His older brother had a guitar while growing up and he would pick it up and play it every chance he got. At ten years old, his dad sold his bed to buy him his first guitar. Although the guitar has always been his main instrument, he can play anything with strings. Leon has also played drums and sang at various clubs in the early days of his career while in Dallas, Texas. He would later also sing on albums with The Texas Troubadours and while part of the staff band at the Grand Ole Opry.

At 16, Leon started working for the staff band at The Big D Jamboree at KRLD-AM in Dallas and played there for about three years. In the early 1950’s, Leon played with greats such as Lefty Frizzell, Sonny James, Charlie Walker, Ray Price and others. He toured with Ray Price and played on Lefty Frizzell’s Mom and Dad’s Waltz, which was a Top 10 hit in 1951. Leon also worked in The Silver Spur and Bob Wills Ranch House (later renamed The Longhorn Ballroom under new ownership), two clubs owned by Jack Ruby (infamous for gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald hours after he was arrested for the murder of President John F Kennedy). I’ve read all sorts of articles and stories about Jack Ruby’s nefarious affairs leading up to his involvement in the JFK assassination, but I never knew too much about him as a club owner. I asked Leon about it and he said that Ruby was a fair and kind man to work for and even lent Leon his car for 6-weeks while his was in the shop.

Leon’s talents went beyond music. He played fast-pitch softball in and around Dallas and played in five world tournaments. When he was working at The Longhorn Ballroom, he was offered the job with Ernest Tubb and was in the band from October 1959 to December 1966. Leon says it was the greatest experience of his life.

Leon has been featured on numerous recordings by many great artists. They include Roy Clark, John Denver, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Mel Tillis, and the list goes on and on…

Leon moved to Donelson in 1964 and had been previously living in Goodlettsville, but wanted to be closer to downtown. As it turned out, the new Grand Ole Opry House was built in 1974 in Donelson and was even closer. Leon was part of the Grand Ole Opry staff band from 1967 to 1999. He appeared on Hee Haw for about 23 years and on April 29, 2010, he was honored by The State of Tennessee House of Representatives (House Joint Resolution #1132), recognizing his career in country music and 50 years on the Grand Ole Opry. In March 2014, Leon was honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame, featured in their program Nashville Cats, held in the museum’s Ford Theater.

Leon and his wife Judi celebrated their 50th anniversary this year and have four children.

  • Mom and Dad’s Waltz (written and performed by Lefty Frizzell)
  • Waltz Across Texas (written by Billy Talmadge Tubb and performed by Ernest Tubb and The Texas Troubadours)
  • Thanks A Lot (written by Dan Sessions and Eddie Miller and performed by Ernest Tubb and The Texas Troubadours)
  • Rhodes-Bud Boogie (written by Clay Allen, Buddy Charleton and Leon Rhodes and performed by The Texas Troubadours)
  • Honey Fingers (written by Clay Allen and Leon Rhodes and performed by The Texas Troubadours)
  • Leon’s Guitar Boogie (written by William Dycus and Leon Rhodes and performed by The Texas Troubadours)
  • Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You) (written and performed by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers)
  • My Window Faces the South (written by Jerry Livingston, Mitchell Parish and Abner Silver and performed by Willie Nelson)
  • Ramblin’ Man (written by Ray Pennington and performed by Waylon Jennings)
  • Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone) (written by Dick Feller and performed by John Denver)
  • Paper Rosie (written by Dallas Harms and performed by Gene Watson)
  • Good Woman Blues (written by Ken McDuffie and performed by Mel Tillis)

Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Leon Rhodes, Nashville, Sings with The Texas Troubadours, Staff Band at the Grand Ole Opry, True Master Of The Guitar

Carol Grace Anderson

Carol-Grace-AndersonCarol Grace Anderson spent her early childhood years living with her family in a tiny, 18-foot trailer near New York City. “Here’s the fun part,” she says. “Our neighbors in the trailer park were mostly circus performers.  Can you imagine coming home from school and watching them practice daring tricks and stunts right before our eyes?”

When Carol was twelve, her family moved to Godeffroy, a small village in upstate New York; population 395.  “It was between Huguenot and Cuddebackville, if that rings a bell,” she said jokingly.  Her Dad, a minister, became the director of a non-profit camp there, Jubilee Ranch, for inner-city youth.  As a young adult, after flunking out of three colleges, Carol decided to buckle down and get serious about becoming a teacher with a stable future.  She earned her BA degree followed by a Masters from NYU, which led to a job teaching in a correctional facility for male felons.

Music was always a part of Carol’s life as both parents were talented musicians.  She sang with her sister Mary Beth and close friend Sharon Ferrara on weekends. They called themselves “Ladysmith” and played gigs all around the New York City area.  They played mostly country music.  She said, “It was common to see Les Paul listening to us from the bar at The Rainbow’s End, or novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. requesting “Jambalaya” at O’Lunney’s Pub in the middle of Manhattan!”

The group soon started performing their own songs with a country flavor.  They got the attention of a New York publisher at Chappell Music who invited them to record a demo.  Henry Hurt, who headed up the Nashville division, signed them immediately as staff writers.

Their dilemma became, “How can we work in Nashville and maintain our other ‘real’ jobs in New York?”  Not easy.  Sharon also had two small kids to consider.  But they all decided to take the plunge and moved to Music City in late 1974.  That move led them to sing backup for Johnny Cash, David Allan Coe, Alex Harvey, Marshall Chapman, and others.  They had songs recorded by Roy Clark, Gary Stewart, Crystal Gayle, Dorothy Moore, Dave & Sugar, Mickey Gilley, Terri Gibbs, and many more.  You can hear them (along with Vicki Hampton) singing on Terri’s mega hit, Somebody’s Knockin’.

Carol and Mary Beth had an offer to join Roy Clark as his backup singers.  They traveled all over the U.S., England, and Russia with him including performances on The Tonight Show, the Grand Ole Opry, and Hee Haw.  After ten years on the road, Carol and Mary Beth branched out into new directions.  Mary Beth enrolled at Watkins College of Art and Carol became a professional speaker.  Not wanting to leave her roots, she included inspiring music in her programs.

When Mary Beth crossed the final finish line after a brave battle with breast cancer, Carol began writing as a way to deal with her deep grief.  Her first book, Get Fired Up Without Burning Out!, was not only helpful to her, but thousands of others were inspired by it.

Carol’s next book, Some Angels Have Four Paws, was about her dog Cowgirl and life lessons we can learn from them.  It became a local best seller and will be reprinted soon in a revised format.

Carol has never regretted her courageous move to Nashville back in the ‘70’s.  Nine years ago, she met Coleman Murphy, the love of her life and an amazing guitarist.  He currently tours with John Anderson and does studio work.  Five years ago they got married and performed their original song, I Found You, during their wedding.  Watch it here.

These days, Carol still enjoys all the ways that Nashville has evolved and, along with public speaking, she’s expanding her creative talents by designing and writing greeting cards for Blue Mountain Arts.

More info:
Enjoy this selection of tunes Carol wrote and/or performed on.
Somebody’s Knockin’ (written by Jerry Wayne Gillespie and Joseph Penny / performed by Terri Gibbs with Carol Grace Anderson on background vocals)
Once or Twice (written by Carol Grace Anderson and Robert Shaw Parsons / performed by Dorothy Moore)
Million Dollar Memories (written by Carol Grace Anderson and David Allan Coe / performed by David Allan Coe)
Three Way Tie (written by Carol Grace Anderson, Mary Beth Anderson, and Lisa Miriam Silver / performed by Linda Davis)
Another Lonely Night With You (written by Carol Grace Anderson and Roy Clark / performed by Roy Clark)
Your Place or Mine (written by Carol Grace Anderson, Mary Beth Anderson, and Rory Michael Bourke / performed by Gary Stewart)
It’s True (written by Carol Grace Anderson, Mary Beth Anderson, and Gary Stewart / performed by Gary Stewart)
Make It Happen (written and performed by Carol Grace Anderson)
You Hold The Key (written and performed by Carol Grace Anderson)

Carol Grace Anderson, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Nashville, Signed with Chappell Music, Traveled all over US. England and Russia with Roy Clark

Porter Wagoner


Porter Wagoner, who was known as “Mr. Grand Ole Opry”, lived in Pennington Bend in a modest brick ranch-style house typical of the kind seen in Donelson. Neighbors in Donelson often saw him in town at the grocery store or at local restaurants. After his death in 2007, The Tennessean’s Gail Kerr (who grew up in Donelson), wrote that “folks refer to Porter as a musical icon, the Thin Man from West Plains, or the Rhinestone Troubadour, but in 37214, he’s just called neighbor.”

Although well known for his many rhinestone suits and blond pompadour while performing on stage, Jeannette Rudy, whose family sold some of their farm in the Pennington Bend area in the 1960’s and 70’s where Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry were built, remembered all the times they had coffee together and the song he wrote for her, simply titled “My Neighbor”.

Porter Wagoner’s career spanned almost 60 years and he was an RCA Victor recording artist between 1951 and 1980, charting 81 records. The Porter Wagoner Show was a big hit for television and one of the first syndicated shows in Nashville, airing from 1960 to 1981. He earned three Grammy’s for his Gospel recordings with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Porter was also a fan of R&B, bringing James Brown to the Grand Ole Opry and produced an album for Grammy-award winning singer Joe Simon.

Some of the albums that Porter recorded in the 1970’s were considered “conceptual albums” in that they were built around a particular theme. Porter’s final album in 2007 called “Wagonmaster” was produced by Marty Stuart (also a Donelson neighbor at one time) and it too was thematic, written around an unrecorded Johnny Cash song called “Committed to Parkview”. The album received rave reviews and was considered a return to raw, classic country music.

I hope you enjoy this small selection of Porter’s recordings I chose. Some of the tunes he wrote were no doubt written right here at his home in Donelson.

Highway Headin’ South (written by Porter Wagoner)
Big Wind (written by George McCormick, Wayne Walker, and Alex Zanetis)
What Ain’t to Be, Just Might Happen (written by Porter Wagoner)
Indian Creek (written by Porter Wagoner)
Singing on the Mountain (written by Porter Wagoner)
Please Don’t Stop Loving Me (written and performed by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton)
Raining Blues at Midnight (written by Porter Wagoner)
Be A Little Quieter (written by Porter Wagoner)

A Great Donelson Neighbor, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Lived in Pennington Bend, Mr. Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Porter Wagoner