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News » Nashville, Cleveland:Two noteworthy cities

Nashville, Cleveland:Two noteworthy cities

Nashville, Cleveland:Two noteworthy cities
On Music Row, you really can't hear a fiddle or mandolin being played, even when the wind is right. But the tunes that came down from the mountains and turned the midsized river town of Nashville, Tenn., into Music City ought to be floating on the air, like sonic manna.

Music Row is a 10-block complex in downtown Nashville. Like much else, it is overshadowed by the AT&T Building, known locally as the "Bat Building" because its twin peaks resemble the mask of the comic book superhero Batman.

The real superpower in town, though, is the country music industry.

The guitar pickers in Nashville are said to "pick more notes than the number of ants on a Tennessee anthill" ("Nashville Cats," by the Lovin' Spoonful). Some of the notes make up the anthem of pro Football.

Consider that Jay-Z doesn't do Browns games. The rap artist and pal of LeBron James attends Cavaliers games instead, home and away. So did Usher, for a time.

But while such stars as the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and Michael Jackson have performed at halftime of the Super Bowl, when it comes time to see if the Monday night television audience is "ready for some Football," it is Hank Williams Jr., son of a country music icon, who asks the question.

Much can be learned about both the Browns and Tennessee Titans, the Browns' opponent today, in Nashville.

There is, for example, Printers Alley, once the home of flourishing printing presses that were fed by the music industry. Now the name is an anachronism, serving instead as the town's entertainment and restaurant center. And now Nashville is a one-newspaper city (The Tennessean), just like Cleveland.

It is worth remembering the snarl of a former publisher of the defunct Banner, who snapped to unhappy newsroom employees, "This is my newspaper, and if I want to float it on a raft down the Cumberland [River], by God, I will!"

Instead, Titans owner Bud Adams floated the Oilers out of Houston, and Art Modell rolled the original Browns out of Cleveland.

There is a haunting sadness to both franchises. A trick play remembered as the "Music City Miracle" catapulted the Titans into Super Bowl XXXIV, where they came up 1 yard short of a game-tying touchdown on the last play against the St. Louis Rams. The Browns have saved such heartbreak, of course, for the game to get to the Super Bowl.

But undying belief in miracles is a starving musician's stock in trade. (That goes double for a team quarterbacked by Ken Dorsey.) Sympathy for struggling songwriters and singers led Tootsie Bess, owner of the famous pale purple-painted bar Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, to be saluted in a song called "The Wettest Shoulders in Town."

Tootsie also carried a jeweled hatpin, given to her by country singer Charley Pride, which she used as a corrective device for unruly patrons. The venerable gentlemen who serve as Browns "security" at home games would be more formidable were they armed with one of Tootsie's skewers.

Roger Miller is believed to have written his hit song "Dang Me" while knocking back a beer or three at Tootsie's. (Chart-topping artists came out of nowhere in those days, much as Titans quarterback Kerry Collins did this year.) Among the verses are, "Just sittin' around drinkin' with the rest of the guys/Six rounds bought, and I bought five" (Dawg Pound behavior, if ever I heard it) and "Dang me, dang me/They oughta take a rope and hang me." (The lament of a man who has bet on the Browns to cover.)

Before the Grand Ole Opry moved to the outskirts of the city, it was held in Ryman Auditorium, located almost next door to Tootsie's. At the end of each year, Opry performers who had hit it big would pay off the IOU's Tootsie collected from down-on-their-luck musicians after giving them loans or drinks.

Browns fans can relate to that. Former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher is the star who was born next door. The Browns are the team that trained him. The IOU's need to be paid off. In the night sky, the Bat Signal is glowing.

To reach Bill Livingston: blivingston@plaind.com, 216-999-4672

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 9, 2008

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David Thornton Name: David Thornton
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