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Raleigh bests Nashville in every way after the International Bluegrass Music Association gathering.

October 2, 2013 

The fellow is doubtless well-schooled and well-mannered, and as we write the occasional whimsical and even fun-poking column hereabouts, we can identify with the predicament of, well, having to come up with something to say. And so, last year, this fellow, a writer for a Nashville, TN, paper, took exception to Raleigh’s hosting of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s convention and the accompanying shows that go with it.

He sniffed that Raleigh was not much of a town, really, certainly no Nashville, music-wise, and that it has few bluegrass connections. He even pooh-poohed the fact that bluegrass legends Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson were North Carolinians, but neither was from the Capital City.

He reckoned the reason that the IBMA was leaving Nashville was money, including specifically the fact that Raleigh hotels were cheaper than Nashville hotels.

He did not speculate as to whether we wore shoes or had all our teeth or call us “quaint,” but we got the message and took offense. Some among us even recalled another bluegrass-related story with, yes, a North Carolina connection: On “The Andy Giffith Show,” mountain man Briscoe Darling (played by Denver Pyle) called on Sheriff Andy Taylor to help with a troublesome neighbor, Ernest T. Bass. Mr. Darling’s family was played by The Dillards, a bluegrass group favored by Andy Griffith.

After the character Darling explained the nagging annoyance of Ernest T., Sheriff Taylor asked, “Have you and your boys tried to do anything?” To which Mr. Darling replied, “Well, we thought about killin’ ‘im…kinda hated to go that far.”

To be sure, we mean no violence against our scribe in Nashville. And as it happens, success provides its own revenge. Thanks to the fact that Raleigh topped Nashville in every category in terms of IBMA attendance and fan support and anecdotal praise from those in the crowd, Raleigh now is even more ambitious to pick from the most choice entertainment and arts places in the world to claim for its own. (The Pyramids on the Hillsborough Street roundabouts?)

While we’re on a roll, Nashville seems as good a place as any to start.

Herewith: We understand there is a song, a bluegrass song, oft played in Tennessee and considered something of an official anthem. It is called “Rocky Top.” On behalf of Mayor Nancy McFarlane, we understand the Raleigh City Council is set to take the song from Tennessee and change it to “Raleigh Top.”

Along those same lines, McFarlane (we didn’t figure her for a clogger and a fiddler, but who knew?) is said to be negotiating with the estate of the late songwriter Pee Wee King, for the rights to the famous “Tennessee Waltz,” hereafter to be known as the “Fayetteville Street Waltz.”

Once Nashville sort of fades from the scene and becomes known mainly as a suburb of Knoxville, people will get used to it.

The greatest challenge will of course be the ultimate one. We understand that former Mayor Charles Meeker, Ivy League-educated attorney and all that, is to lead a city delegation to relocate from Nashville that weekend show billed as “the world famous Grand Ole Opry.”

Meeker, we understand, even made the suggestion to Grant Lewellyn, the North Carolina Symphony’s much-loved maestro, that the symphony consider a “Willie and Beethoven Festival" but the maestro is rumored to be a big fan of Hank Williams Jr.

Raleigh’s leaders also are said to be considering taking possession of Nashville’s duplication of the Parthenon. (Really, there is one.) The Country Music Hall of Fame would be a nice addition, but since the building is rather daring…well, we doubt the Raleigh City Council, not historically cutting edge when it comes to taste in architecture, would approve the Parthenon or the Hall of Fame, because neither follows the Raleigh style of buildings that look like bricks turned on their sides.

We do not expect Nashville to capitulate without compensation, of course. We do have a handsome statue of Sir Walter Raleigh that seems to have moved around a lot. It might look good at a spot along the Cumberland River.

We also have a lot of dogwood plantings around here. And then there is the very impressive statue of North Carolina’s three presidents on our Capitol grounds. There is strong evidence that two of those presidents may actually belong to Tennessee anyway.

As for our scribe, North Carolina will be happy to accept your apology at any time. Perhaps at next year’s World of Bluegrass. Or the one after that, or the one after that.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at jjenkins@newsobserver.com.

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