The Soul of Nashville - MCR 6.30.14
The world knows Nashville because of people like Alan Jackson and Taylor Swift. Nashville knows itself because of people like Michael Gray.
He’s a curator at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum who’s helped us put this week’s special show together. We’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of a truly revelatory and game-changing exhibit called Night Train To Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970. It occupied a huge portion of the museum for well over a year, spawning numerous events, performances and even career revivals. The exhibit’s CD companion anthology won the Grammy Award for best historic compilation. This was all in large part Michael Gray’s brainchild, but you’d only know it from his expertise on the subject and his enthusiasm for it – certainly not his attitude about it.
The story (of the exhibit, not the music) began when Gray landed a job at Phonoluxe record store on Nolensville Road soon after arriving in Nashville at 18 years old. His passion was soul music, and one day he was spinning a record in the store by the great Arthur Alexander, then his new fave. Shop owner Mike Smyth told him that the disc had been recorded in Nashville, which was a revelation. “He started schooling me,” Gray says, “pulling out 45s and 78s that were made in Nashville.”