This weekend thousands of runners, walkers, joggers, wheelchair participants, volunteers and spectators will hit the streets of Nashville to be a part of the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon. A band performs at every mile as the runners go by and volunteers and spectators get a free concert. From our perch on Stage 1, at the first mile mark, my band and I have watched this entertaining and dedicated mass of humanity go by since the very first Country Music Marathon eleven years ago.
We get there at the crack of dawn and the sound crew gets there long before that to set up for our 6:45 a.m. start time. The volunteer stage crew plies us with coffee so we can rock when the time comes.
During sound check, I always welcome the sleeping guests at the upscale Loew’s Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel, located near our stage, with, “Good morning and Welcome to Music City USA, where we start every morning bright and early with a song!” Then I warm up on my electric guitar with “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” imagining what some hotel guests unaware of the marathon must be thinking, their sweet dreams so rudely interrupted.
But now to what we see from the stage:
Professional runners from around the world; dedicated amateurs; some who get up to see how far they can go because it’s Saturday; some still up from the Friday night before thinking, “This seemed like a good idea at Tootsie’s about 3:00 a.m. – now, I’m not so sure;” and those with a purpose, like my fellow Downtown Presbyterian Church members, doing the “Half for the Hungry,” part of the church’s outreach mission.
We’ve seen grown men and women in hula skirts, Batman outfits, Superman suits, and a group of Nashville business and professional women dubbed “The Prom Queens,” who strutted down the streets wearing their tiaras and pink tutus having a blast. T-shirts proclaiming everything from John 3:16 to college and professional sports teams and every branch of the military have been typical marathon wardrobe, along with some bearing the runners’ names so the bands will give a shout-out as they go by.
For our part, we stand and deliver everything that defines our “Hillbilly Blues Caribbean Rock & Roll,” to help keep spirits up on the street. From Sea Cruise and Jambalaya to Johnny B. Goode and our own Mackinac Blues and Camellia Grill, we provide an upbeat music menu to get the marathon started.
I challenge myself to acknowledge anyone I know from the stage, but sometimes they just get by me too fast. People have asked, “Why didn’t you say something when I ran by?” Well, I might have been distracted by some of the other 30,000 people running with you, or afraid I’d lose the next song line by yelling, “Hey,…,” in the middle of a song (which invariably happens anyway).
So to all of the Country Music Marathoners “motorvatin’ over the hill,” this Saturday, watch for us. We’ll be the ones standing in one place watching you go by and saluting you with our music.
Stage one is located on the corner of West End Ave. and 21st Ave.