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VOL. 35 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 16, 2011

Music still provides city’s ‘paycheck’

By Tim Ghianni

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Don Kelley, front man off Lower Broad’s sturdiest country cover band, pulls no punches.

“To hell with the Titans,” he says, noting the football team brings tourists downtown for eight regular-season home games while he and his musical cohorts on Lower Broadway would play eight days a week if they could.

He says it’s the music industry that provides the town’s “damn paycheck. Let’s face it Nashville is Country Music City USA. Without music, forget it.”

Kelley really hasn’t anything against the football team or against the hockey team that spends the winter and spring across the street in the arena.

He’s just proud of the music he makes and what he and the hundreds of others who work regularly for tips along Lower Broad have done to help revitalize the city.

He’s seen a lot of change since he came off the road and began plying his musical trade locally back in 1979.

Much of that time has been spent as the leader of the evening house band at Robert’s Western World, 6:30-10, Wednesday through Saturday.

“We have ridiculously good players. JD Simo on guitar, and he’s doing major sessions all over town…. Joe Fick’s a great slap bass player. He’s an incredible musician and showman.

“Then I’ve got the same drummer, Artie Alinkoff. He’s always been there with me since we started as the Don Kelley Band in 1981.”

Being in the band is a stepping stone for many players who have gone on to stardom and other work.

But Kelley – who has a different band for late Sunday shows – keeps playing, night after night, dishing out a stew of Merle, Marty, Cash and Tubb with robust flair as the audience washes down fried pickles and such with cold beer.

“The key to this is you can’t sit on a stool. I don’t care if you are the best guitar player in the world: You got to stand up and show them what you can do. You have got to smile and enjoy the music.

“Let’s face it, I’m not going to sing it as good as Merle did. I know my place on the food chain.”

And it’s right here. On Lower Broad. And even the Titans are welcome.

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