Nashville: The Pilgrims of Guitar Town

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Has any American city so evoked a singular image as Nashville? The steel-and-glass towers of Music Row, the down 'n' dirty honky tonks that fill The District, the hallowed red brick walls of Ryman's Auditorium. And yet, as any true Nashvillian knows, all that glitters is not rhinestone. In Nashville: The Pilgrims of Guitar Town, photographer Michel Arnaud and writer Robert Hicks wander beyond the Grand Ole Opry to a place filled with high hopes, hard work, and, more than anything else, guitars. Likening the city ...
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Overview

Has any American city so evoked a singular image as Nashville? The steel-and-glass towers of Music Row, the down 'n' dirty honky tonks that fill The District, the hallowed red brick walls of Ryman's Auditorium. And yet, as any true Nashvillian knows, all that glitters is not rhinestone. In Nashville: The Pilgrims of Guitar Town, photographer Michel Arnaud and writer Robert Hicks wander beyond the Grand Ole Opry to a place filled with high hopes, hard work, and, more than anything else, guitars. Likening the city to "Hollywood in the 1920s," Hicks-the consummate insider-introduced Arnaud-the wide-eyed observer-to residents famous and infamous, from struggling pickers still waiting to be discovered to local legends who bask in the spotlight. One way or another, they've all been seduced by the promise of Music City, USA. Hicks names Nashville "the Mecca of dreamers." His opening essay and selected profiles introduce readers to the congregation that calls the city home. Like pilgrims trekking to a shrine, the subjects of Arnaud's portraits have packed their prayers into a guitar case and pointed their thumbs toward, as the truckers call it, Guitar Town. Established stars Dolly Parton and Alan Jackson, fresh faces Nate Berret and Gretta Gains, surprising arrivals Peter Frampton and Bela Fleck-Michel Arnaud's gallery of musicians runs the gamut from bluegrass legends to alternative rockers. Some have seen their wishes come true, some never will, but this wonderful collection of captivating images proves that the journey itself is its own destination.

Michel Arnaud has chronicled the lives of the rich and famous around the world. For 25 years, his photographic portraits have appeared in such prominent publications as The New York Times, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Town & Country, House & Garden, and Martha Stewart Living. Robert Hicks, a music publisher at Universal Music / Nashville, is known for his work in developing the careers of both country artists and rock acts. An essayist on regional social history and material culture, Hicks is a passionate collector and a driving force in community preservation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556709890
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Pages: 148
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Hicks
Robert Hicks
An avid collector and Civil War buff, Robert Hicks illuminates the era he finds so intriguing in his first novel, The Widow of the South. In our interview, he reflects on his affinity for another southern writer: "I claim little connection with Faulkner, other than the hold that the past had on him and has on me," he explains. "Like him, I remain optimistic about the future, despite the turmoil of the world."

Biography

The Widow of the South is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, whose house was commandeered as a field hospital during the 1864 Battle of Franklin, a Civil War bloodbath in which over 9,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed in one afternoon. Over a thousand of them were eventually reburied on the McGavocks' land, Carnton Plantation, and Carrie McGavock devoted much of her life to tending their graves.

Author Robert Hicks, a music publisher, art collector and preservationist, felt the story of Carrie McGavock needed to be told, but he wasn't sure at first that he should be the one to tell it.

"I tried to foist and pawn the idea on others, collaborations, walk away from it and read Russian novels -- anything to keep me from tackling it," he said in a Barnes & Noble interview. "Then one day I knew I had to do it."

Hicks, a native of South Florida, moved in 1979 to an 18th-century log cabin near Leiper's Fork, Tenn., where he still lives. In 1987, he joined the Board of Directors of Historic Carnton Plantation, where he has done everything from house restoration to hauling out the trash.

As his connection with the historic site grew, so did his curiosity about its former mistress, whom Oscar Wilde once described as "the high priestess of the temple of dead boys."

"Around the time we were seriously beginning a state-of-the-art restoration of Carnton's house and grounds, descendants of the McGavock family, who had moved out of Carnton in 1911 and had lived in the same house in Franklin ever since, opened up their family archives to us," Hicks explained in an essay on his publishers' Web site.

The scrapbooks and papers, he said, "began to suggest some answers, even while I found myself asking more questions." Among the papers were obituaries from newspapers across the country for Carrie McGavock.

"The obituaries clearly linked Carrie to the creation and maintenance of the Cemetery, but no journals or diaries were left to explain her motivation -- so, in the end, I felt that I had to sit down and explain, for myself, why she did what she did."

The resulting novel made it to the number five spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Kirkus Reviews called The Widow of the South "an impressive addition to the library of historical fiction on the Civil War, worthy of a place alongside The Killer Angels, Rifles for Watie and Shiloh."

"You'll swear you were smelling gunpowder and blood, and you may shed real tears," wrote Jeff Guinn of the Dallas Star-Telegram.

Hicks is pleased with the success of his book, but his work as a guardian of Tennessee history isn't done. More recently, Hicks has headed up Franklin's Charge, a coalition dedicated to preserving the remaining open space on and near the Franklin battlefield as a historic site.

"Why do we want to save it?" he asked in a National Geographic interview. "Because in the South's loss at Franklin, all of us won. This is where the Old South died and we were reborn as a nation."

Good To Know

"My first job was in a bookstore during college. I got the job to make enough money to pay for a dinner party for 50 friends of my parents in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary. I didn't want a penny to come out of their pockets, so I got a job."

"My passion for many years has been the preservation of Historic Carnton Plantation. It is the site of most of the novel. Simply put, Carnton, Carrie McGavock, and her cemetery are the inspiration of my writing."

"I live in a magical place: my cabin, 'Labor in Vain,' my community, the green hills of Middle Tennessee, and within my head. The entire world, both within and without, is surrounded by the stories from my father, older relatives, strangers, books, and movies. I was raised surrounded by storytellers. They've made the world I live in forever magical and rich, even within the solitude of my cabin walls."

"I am forever a southerner. By this I mean to say that I remain forever eaten up with religion, passion, history, the past, the land, and stories."

"I'm passionate about travel, but always return to my cabin and to my past. I claim little connection with Faulkner, other than the hold that the past had on him and has on me. Like him, I remain optimistic about the future, despite the turmoil of the world."

"I am a collector by nature. I've collected since I was a kid. It began with fossilized shells from our driveway to rocks and leaves and baseball cards to books, 18th-century maps of Tennessee, Tennesseana in general, southern decorative arts, to outsider art. I am surrounded by collections. A friend says that the next thing I bring home must come with a crowbar -- to get it into my cabin."

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    1. Hometown:
      Franklin, Tennessee
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 30, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      West Palm Beach, Forida

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