In class with a legend

Last night I had the honor and privilege of attending Jim Foglesong’s class at Vanderbilt University called “The Business of Music.”

As I watched and listened to his most modest of personal introduction, all I could think was how unbelievably lucky this group of students are to share their next 14 weeks with the man. At 86-years young, his opening line to the class was, “I’m Professor Foglesong. I know you were probably expecting somebody older.”

Foglesong eventually began to delve into his remarkable past, but it’s amazing how many accomplishments are left out in that type of setting. He shared part of a video from the time he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (including interviews about him from Garth Brooks and The Oak Ridge Boys).

I did an interview with this WWII veteran in July 2009. Check it out here.


Garth at Fan Fair

Garth treated each person as if this moment mattered as much to him as to the fan. He had no quota on the number of autographs he gave a person. He signed T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseballs, CDs, cassettes, photos and scraps of paper. He had no strong-armed aides standing there ready to push people along. The thousand or so waiting fans could see that Garth was acting with goodness and fairness, and they responded with goodness and fairness of their own. He had no minions out there working the line, selling Garth Brooks merchandise either. If it was someone’s birthday, then he and the fans sang “Happy Birthday.” If it was a young girl who began to cry, he calmed her down, and let her feel and see that he was nothing but a man. If it was a child in a wheelchair, he had words to whisper into her ear that she carried away like precious secret jewels.

This man standing here was the greatest-selling solo performer in the history not simply of country music but all American music.”

So shares Laurence Leamer in his book Three Chords and the Truth, describing Garth’s surprise appearance at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville, for Fan Fair 1996, where he went on to sign autographs for 23 straight hours.

According to the Country Music Association’s website, the organization that sponsors the annual event, in 2008 Taylor Swift signed 900 autographs between 10 am and 6 pm, noted as the longest consecutive signing since Garth’s apparently-insurmountable 1996 hang with his fans.

By my calculations that is a total of 8 hours. Garth signed for 23 hours.

There’s a reason why Garth Brooks is Garth Brooks. And there’s a reason why Taylor Swift is currently taking the music world by storm.

Fan Fair is no longer Fan Fair. It is now called the CMA Music Festival, with an intention of broadening the musical appeal of the event beyond just country music.

Regardless, country music fans have a special and steadfast devotion to their favorite performers, something rarely seen in other genres of music.

This week in Nashville, some lucky fan will meet their favorite musician that will have little clue just how much the moment means to said fan.

Also this week in Nashville, some lucky country music star will have the privilege of meeting an individual that allows him/her to be where they are in the first place.

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