Beyond Words

By Marshall Chapman

Out on the Town

Recently Chris and I had two events to attend in one evening. So out on the town we went.

First stop: a birthday party on the outskirts of Germantown. e invitation read “Peter Nappi” (with an address), which had us thinking Peter Nappi was our host. We soon learned Peter Nappi is a studio/boutique where high quality leather boots and bags are handcrafted in the tradition of an Italian immigrant named Peter Nappi who came to America over a hundred years ago. We also learned the old brick building that houses this establishment had once been a meat-packing plant. The impressive structure sits atop a blu above the Cumberland River with the Nashville skyline looming so close it seems you could reach out and touch it. I’m thinking, “I’ve lived here forty years. How’d I miss this?”

The party was a birthday celebration for an entertainment lawyer friend. There was a stage set up (with good sound) for any musical guests, a number of whom (like me) were her clients, to perform, should they so desire. Chris and I immediately settled into two comfortable old leather chairs, where we listened to a female singers-songwriter, followed by an eclectic four-sister act. As another group of female musicians entered the building, Chris and I suddenly realized we’d best get moving if we wanted to make our next event. But then, as we said our goodbyes, the birthday girl herself—resplendent in a floor-length, slit-to-the-hip red gown—asked me to sing. “I will if you’ll go onstage with me,” I replied. So she did. I’d never sung to someone sitting right there beside me, beaming with happiness. It was sweet.

Next stop—a tribute blues jam for Clifford Curry at yet another place I’d never been—Carol Ann’s Home Cooking Café on Murfreesboro Road. As Chris and I walked across the parking lot, I began singing along to the music blaring from within: When something is wrong with my bay-ay-bee/something is wrong with me! An elderly patron enjoying a smoke—a picture of sartorial splendor in three-piece pinstriped suit and bowler hat—smiled as we passed by.

So in we went. The man singing “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby” looked like Leon Russell on steroids. The band members turned out to be friends of perennial soul-band leader Jimmy Church. Buzz Cason, who produced some of Cliford Curry’s early hits (like “She Shot a Hole in My Soul”) presented Curry with an award, then belted out a fine rendition of Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.” I was sitting there quenching my thirst with a couple of Yuengling darks when Jimmy Church himself asked me up to sing. I’m thinking. Hell, if I can sing in a former meat-packing plant, why not here? So I got up. On a borrowed electric guitar, I played “I Love Everybody” (with Church accompanying me on bass). The band never missed a beat, and Clifford Curry never stopped smiling. These two scenes could not have been more diametrically opposed . . . yet feel so familiar.

Only in Nashville.

“Beyond Words” – Marshall’s October column from Nashville Arts Magazine