Merle Kilgore saw right through me

I’m a rock and roll guy. I was not raised on country music, and prior to Nashville, I wasn’t around it much. Then I decided to attend college at Belmont University, in Nashville.

Like many of my classmates, I had a stupid, arrogant, anti-country music attitude because I thought the music was “dumb,” or insert whatever stereotypical prejudices you can think of relating to the South, country music fans, whatever.

Sidenote: Nashville is far more than just country music, but that’s not the point.

In early 2003, I was arrogantly sitting at my desk as an intern at a PR firm called PLA Media, which is on 16th Ave., right in the heart of Nashville’s Music Row, an area founded upon the successes of country music. I answered the phone and had no earthly idea who the guy on the other end was. Merle Kilgore was calling to talk to my boss at the time, Pam Lewis.

Merle, being about as quick-witted as they come, picked up on the fact that I did not know who he was, and he decided to confirm it. We had a brief, super-awkward conversation where he filled me in on his credentials.

As long as I live, I will never forget the feeling I had after that conversation. In that moment I decided that even though I didn’t, and still don’t, love country music, I am going to respect the hell out of it. I am going to learn about it and quit making fun of an extremely important genre of music, both in Nashville and beyond.

By the way, Merle Kilgore co-wrote “Ring of Fire” with June Carter Cash, was the long-time manager of Hank Williams Jr., was named honorary state senator for Tennessee in 1987 and in 1998, Van Morrison recorded a version of the Kilgore-written “More and More” with a guy named Bob Dylan.

Mr. Kilgore passed away two years later, in 2005. I was fortunate to be at his funeral at the Ryman Auditorium, where Kid Rock sang “I Saw The Light.”

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