God Bless the Boys Who Make the Noise

Published 9:49 am Monday, February 7, 2022

Looking backwards is not a bad thing to do sometimes. Yesterday my recollections were triggered by a conversation with a woman who had been born in Nashville, Tennessee. Donna Sue and I met her in one of the department stores in Panama City Beach.

I spent a dozen wonderful years in Nashville before it was transformed into the bustling, metropolitan city that it is today. The Nashville into which I drove my 1968 Volkswagen Bug in 1974 was a big country town and the world’s center of Country Music. That’s Country Music, mind you; not Country and Western Music.

A song would be recorded in 1982 by Lacy J. Dalton by the name of “Sixteenth Avenue.” It was written years before by songwriter Thom Schuyler and referenced that famous avenue in Nashville that was the center of the Nashville music industry. It included old, dilapidated apartment buildings and boarding houses on one end. On the other end were the recording studios and publishing houses.

The studios were new and shiny, but just about anyone could hang a shingle out front on some old house, claiming to be a publisher, magnets to farm boys like me. In the song, “Sixteen Avenue,” Schuyler wrote “From the corners of the country, from the cities and the farms, with years and years of living tucked up underneath their arms.” That was me as I drove down 16th Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee, looking for a place to stay.

It didn’t take long to see a front porch with a half dozen boys with guitars. The faded sign on the house gave the name Mom’s Boarding House. I parked my VW in front and approached the boys who were, of course, men. I was 25 years old at the time and they looked to be about the same.

Mom’s Boarding House consisted of two houses, one on 16th Avenue and the other right around the corner. There was no such person as Mom and the place was run by an ex-Navy man, who served as the proprietor and the chief cook and bottle washer.

“Any rooms available?” I asked. They affirmed that there were. “What’s the cost?”

They were very friendly boys and answered, “Twenty-two dollars a week if you want to share a room. Twenty-eight if you want your own room. Plus, you get two meals a day. Breakfast at 6:00 and supper at 5:00.”

That sounded pretty good and I paid and was shown a room away from the main house. It was upstairs and consisted of linoleum on the floor, an old bed, and a chest of drawers. No bathroom. That was at the end of the hall and was shared with others. A tub was in the bathroom if you so desired to take a bath. I made myself at home and, then, went to the front porch with my guitar to share songs with the boys.

While there, supper time came. That’s when I found out the ex-Navy fellow was the cook. The entrée was a soybean patty with warm brown water, also known as gravy. It was served on a plastic, Merrimac plate and the side dish was instant mashed potatoes. In addition, the dessert was canned chocolate pudding. Oh, and I almost forgot the piece of light bread. I ate all of mine.

After dinner, we talked a little, but I was anxious to get to bed. I walked upstairs and got my guitar out and sat on the bed. I was in Nashville, Tennessee, and tomorrow, I would pound the pavement, confident that I would sell a song. From Thom Schuyler’s song, “God bless the boys who make the noise on 16th Avenue.”