The stars came out in a big way, as did a number of companies and the American people when GAC presented Music City Keep On Playin’ — A Benefit For Flood Relief.
Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and Dierks Bentley were among the artists who delivered nearly 20 songs during Sunday’s three-hour live special from Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The event raised more than $1.7 million as of midnight CT and counting.
Music City Keep On Playin’ was the first national fundraiser organized to aid victims of a devastating flood that engulfed much of Nashville two weeks ago. In a scant 48 hours, the city took in over 13 inches of rain, more than the Middle Tennessee ground could absorb. The Cumberland River swelled over its banks, damaging some of the city’s landmarks, including the Grand Ole Opry House, LP Field, Bridgestone Arena and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Rushing tides carried cars along dangerous streams, one portable school building was washed down the interstate, and more than 1,000 water rescues were performed. Many residents, including Opry member Jeannie Seely, lost their homes. A few lost their lives. But the city came together, with many of its citizens visiting other neighborhoods to help complete strangers sort through what was left of their belongings.
It was “so beautiful to see how the city has just rallied together,” Lady A’s Hillary Scott said from the Ryman stage. “I know we will get back to the city that we once were. I know we will.”
Brad and his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley — who co-hosted the special with “Desperate Housewives” actor and Nashville resident James Denton — kicked the night off with a $100,000 donation. Brad likewise chipped in a trio of songs — “Welcome To The Future,” “American Saturday Night” and a cover of Roger Miller’s “River In The Rain” — over the course of the evening, which also saw appearances by country stars Martina McBride, Kellie Pickler, Rodney Atkins and Randy Montana.
The show also folded in performances from artists that exemplified some of Music City’s stylistic range: pop singer Sheryl Crow, big-voiced gospel singer CeCe Winans, contemporary Christian artist Jaci Velasquez, Americana act Will Hoge and acoustic-blues performer Keb’ Mo’, one of Nashville’s newest residents.
Many of the songs took on new meaning during the evening. The opening line of Lady A’s “Need You Now,” with its reference to “picture-perfect memories scattered all around the floor,” easily reminded the listener of the many residents who lost all their family photos — every record of their personal history. Martina McBride’s “Anyway” — with its recognition that “one storm could come and blow it all away” — was inordinately apropos.
When they weren’t on stage, many of the stars took donations at the phone bank, where they were joined by the likes of Lorrie Morgan, Nicole Kidman, Billy Dean, Joey+Rory, Lee Roy Parnell, Dailey & Vincent, Julie Roberts, Marty Raybon, Whitney Duncan, Holly Williams, Bomshel, Katie Armiger, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and countless others.
The Ryman proved a symbolic home for the special. When the Grand Ole Opry House took in more than four feet of water, the stage was destroyed. But one part of the venue — a circle of wood that was transported from the Ryman when the Opry House was built in the early 1970s — survived the deluge and, once dried out, will return to its spot on a refurbished Opry House stage. The circle carries a huge amount of history. On that little piece of turf, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline made historic appearances in its original Ryman location. At the Opry House, it’s provided footing for such Opry stars as Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson.
With the Opry House under renovation, the radio show itself is rotating through other interim venues, including War Memorial Auditorium, Two Rivers Baptist Church and the Ryman.
“The Opry didn’t miss a beat,” GAC host Nan Kelley observed, “but we have so much more to go.”
Music City Keep On Playin’ — A Benefit For Flood Relief is still taking donations online at www.gactv.com/help or you can text GAC to 501501 on your mobile phone to donate $10.
If you missed the concert, look for it On Demand through your cable or satellite service through Saturday 5/22 (where available, check your listings).