After more than five decades touring the UK to capacity crowds, veteran rock star Joe Brown, 73, has just bought himself a new home in Nashville. Though he's keeping a foothold in the UK - a smaller property in Oxfordshire - Joe is finally fulfilling a long-held ambition to live in the home of country music. He'll be joining many friends there – including Roger Cook, the prolific songwriter and past collaborator with Joe on various hit songs, who is one of the few Brits to have been inducted to the Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame.

Whether and when Joe Brown will continue to tour in the UK remains to be seen – but, for now, he is taking a break so as “to spend more time with his music” in Nashville which Joe has long seen as a kind of spiritual home.

This news made me reflect on the popularity of Nashville, Tennessee - and of country music. Somehow, despite the best efforts of the younger generation and people like the glamorous Taylor Swift, country music manages to remain both unfashionable - some would say utterly uncool - and massively popular. For example, former Oklahoma oil worker Toby Keith, whose catalogue includes numbers such as ‘I Like Girls That Drink Beer’, made over $65million in 2013 – more than the Rolling Stones, Beyonce or any trend-setting rapper. Yet many of us have scarcely heard of him. Tim McGraw, who is in a rather lower country music earnings league and made a mere $33million last year, commented to the ‘Wall Street Journal’ that his daughters used to accompany him on tour, “but now they are way too cool to want to be associated with country.”

The hit TV show ‘Nashville’ is also uncool - but hugely popular. Its soap opera characters are mainly musicians with big voices, bigger hair and mega personal problems. Their antics have made TV addicts out of multiple millions in over fifty countries. The show has boosted Nashville the city into the top tourism league as fans from many continents arrive to discover the locations where their favourite characters sang, brawled and stole each other's lovers. Nashville attracted thirteen million visitors in 2013 and eighteen million in 2014. 60% say they have come because of the TV show. And this group stays longer and spends more than other tourists. During 2013 Nashville's visitors spent an incredible $5 billion. Which has made Nashville a big favourite with those who run the state of Tennessee!

Unfortunately, the growth of tourism has been so dramatic in Nashville that prices locally have soared upwards. Ironically, as a consequence the producers of the ‘Nashville’ TV show have found production costs have escalated to the point where they are looking at relocating to somewhere cheaper like Texas or Georgia - or even Mexico! Which would of course be crazy!

But even if ‘Nashville’ the show does abandon Nashville the city, or if ‘Nashville’ simply starts to shed viewer numbers as the craze for it fades, as it inevitably must, eventually, then Nashville Tennessee will still have plenty going for it. Its bars are ever-welcoming, serving smooth whiskey and a wild range of southern cocktails and liqueurs; fine food is to be found everywhere plus the whole place resounds with guitars, banjos, fiddles and a few ukuleles - all played with stunning virtuosity. Even the buskers here are note perfect! And Nashville is home to real country stars - people like Toby Keith and Tim McGraw, Tim's wife Faith Hill, Keith Urban and so many more plus, of course, Roger Cook and now Joe Brown!

Also...Taylor Swift lives here. Apparently Taylor Swift is the biggest reason for so many young female visitors from Europe now travelling to Nashville, Tennessee each year. Some of these fans apparently believe that the volatile character of Juliette Barnes in ‘Nashville’ the show is based on Taylor Swift – but of course all such suggestions are steadfastly denied by the show's producers and by Ms Swift's representatives! So, I'll decline from commenting on that.








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