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  • Susan Welsh

Nashville, Whiskey, Cash and Cotton Candy

My first country music performance was at a 4th of July picnic in the 70's. My friend Nicole's family was throwing the party and their cousins from Coatesville showed up with instruments, playing country music for the crowd and all of Glenwood Lane all night. Somewhere in the mix Nicole and I were asked to take the "stage" and sing.

We made our singing debut with "Delta Dawn" and two more stars were born. She went on to sing "It's Raining on Prom Night" in our senior production of Grease, serve as a background poker player/singer for my rendition of Kenny Roger's "The Gambler" in a high school talent show. My performances spanned the US with an East Coast appearance in the chorus of the Bucks County Playhouse's Jesus Christ Superstar in the 80's, another chorus turn as a sturdy Iowa farmwife in Pepperdine University's production of The Music Man and a memorable performance of my signature song, "Bobbie McGee" in a bat cave somewhere in Australia.

My real love of country music, however, was born the moment I heard the words "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. . ." on my parents Folsom Prison Blues album. I read the liner notes over and over again. I fell in love with Cash's voice, his rebel hell and his lyrics. Album after album I memorized the lyrics, doing my own home karaoke into a tape recording microphone my parents owned. The living room was my stage. All I wanted to do was play the guitar, sing and write sweet words about sad things. My father took me to see JC at the Allentown Fair and seeing him up there, in black, with that deep and solemn voice--well, it's one of the sharpest memories I own.

So in a way, Nashville is my spirit town-- "The Athens of the South" I've only visited vicariously, virtually, and through pulsing musical veins that, in the incisive words of Harlan Howard, are just "three chords and the truth."

Someday, I'll get to you Nashville and when I do I'll skip "Fairy Floss" ( the original name for cotton candy invented in 1897 by William Morrison a dentist and fellow confectioner John Wharton. I'll forgo the Goo Goo Cluster, created in Nashville in 1912 and considered the first combination candy bar with its marshmallow nougat, caramel and roasted peanuts all covered in chocolate.

Instead I'll head over to the 119 Third Avenue South and visit the Johnny Cash Museum to browse the artifacts, memorabilia and mementos of this musical giant. I'll get hungry. I always do. Then I might think about eating some traditional Southern food--Sean Brock style, of course. I'm thinking maybe a little country ham and biscuits, some smoked ribs with apple bourbon BBQ and after all that, belly full, one shot of Tennessee Whiskey just because Chris Stapleton makes it sound so damn romantic!

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