The full extent of the damage from the biblical rains to Nashville, the country music mecca known as “Music City,” is only now becoming clear. The death toll has reached 31 victims. In addition to the terrible human toll and an estimated $1.5 billion in physical damage, the global-warming-fueled flood struck at America’s musical and cultural heritage. Many news reports have shown the remarkable devastation to the Grand Ole Opry House, as this video with country star Brad Paisley shows:
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The Grand Ole Opry House has been stripped to its concrete foundation as workers try to repair damage from flooding about two weeks ago. The stage, including a historic 6-foot circle of floorboards from the old Ryman Auditorium stage, has been removed along with pews that served as seats on the house floor.
Country star Kenny Chesney’s home will likely be condemned due to the flooding.
As “symbolically devastating as the recent flooding in Nashville was to the home of the historic Grand Ole Opry House,” Randy Lewis writes in the Los Angeles Times, the toll on “another building little known outside the city’s music community may well have a broader, more lasting impact.” Soundcheck Nashville stored instruments and equipment for 1000 musicians, including country stars such as Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Vince Gill, and the Musicians’ Hall of Fame. The building spent six days under nine feet of water. Lost instruments include:
— Nearly all of Keith Urban’s guitars
— A Fender Stratocaster that belonged to Jimi Hendrix
— A Gibson Les Paul played by the Who’s Peter Townshend
— One of Johnny Cash’s guitars
— Two of Lightning Chance’s basses — one used on Hank Williams Sr.’s very last recording session — the bass that’s heard on “Your Cheatin’ Heart”
“A lot of instruments here were used on many hit records out of Nashville and many other cities too,” Studio musician Chris Leuzinger said. “Those instruments are not replaceable.”
The loss of these instruments and the musical heritage tied to them has not killed the music of Nashville, however, much as the devastation of Hurricane Katrina failed to still the jazz that pulses in New Orleans.
“I’d have to say one of the most heartening thing about what’s happened is the way musicians who weren’t at Soundcheck have been reaching out to other musicians,” John Hobbs, keyboardist in Vince Gill’s band said. “I’ve had half a dozen calls from other keyboard players in town, letting me know I’m welcome to use any of their gear that’s needed.”
Tickets are sold out for Nashville Rising, a benefit concert on June 22 featuring performances from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, along with Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Brooks & Dunn, Miranda Lambert, Miley Cyrus, and many more.