As country comedy legend Cousin Minnie Pearl used to say, “Howdee! I’m just so proud to be here!” That’s the way I feel about performing this year at Centerville, Tennessee’s Independence Day Celebration. Miss Minnie’s hometown, Grinders Switch, is a part of Centerville and it has been my pleasure to perform in this Hickman County jewel over the last few years.
From playing at the Hickman County Ag Center as part of my late friend Stan Hedges’ 2008 blues concert series to more recent appearances on the Grinders Switch Radio Hour through the invitation of host Mickey Bunn, I have been getting to know Centerville and Grinders Switch.
In my never-ending quest for cool cuisine, I have dined at Breece’s on the square and consumed world-class catfish at the Fish Camp. Through exhibits at Grinders Switch Center, location of the Hickman County Chamber of Commerce, I learned that other notable Centerville residents include the late Grand Ole Opry star Del Reeves and Beth Slater Whitson, composer of the timeless classic “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
Miss Minnie’s philosophy
It was my pleasure to see Minnie Pearl on stage many times. The first two were at the Ryman Auditorium when it was still the full-time home of the Opry. My high school friend Phil Howell and I came to Nashville from our hometown, Pascagoula, Mississippi, to see the sights. It just occured to me as I typed that we took that trip in July, 1973, forty years ago this month. We attended the Friday and Saturday night Opry shows and Miss Minnie charmed us and the rest of the crowd as we sweated out the July heat in that then-un-air-conditioned building, cooling ourselves with funeral parlor fans. The second time was in Monticello, Mississippi when she performed at the Atwood Bluegrass Festival. As I began coming to Nashville with the intention of moving to Music City, I attended the Opry each time, as well as going to the show after I made the move. Miss Minnie never failed to entertain. I was struck by her stage presence and showmanship and have attempted to adopt the giving spirit she presented to audiences when I perform today.
Miss Minnie was quoted as saying that Opry founder George D. Hay, the “Solemn Old Judge,” gave her this advice when she told him she was nervous about her first appearance on the show: “You go out there and love that audience and they’ll love you right back.” She followed that advice throughout her career.
The people of Centerville have “loved me,” when I have performed there and I’ll “love ‘em right back,” as we celebrate our country’s independence together this year.
It is my hope that you will have a meaningful, safe and happy Fourth of July, as well.
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Copyright 2013 by Les Kerr