Folks in Macon, Georgia, take their musical roots seriously. (Think Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, Little Richard.) So on Friday morning when I was booked for an interview on WNEX, The Creek – a new Macon radio station featuring Southern roots music and local issues – I assumed it would be different from the local NPR stations where I normally find myself talking about preservation.
I was right. And (with the possible exception of my time on the Honolulu public radio station), it turned out to be much more fun than my average NPR radio interview!
We were in town to launch our National Treasures campaign for the Ocmulgee National Monument. Lands affiliated with the Ocmulgee National Monument have been home to Native Americans for more than 17,000 years. However, over recent decades the places with ties to the site have been threatened by urban sprawl, the subdivision of forested tracts, and ownership fragmentation. The National Trust and our partners are seeking to re-designate the monument as a historical park, expand the current boundaries, and study ways to protect related areas in the river corridor.
So I showed up at The Creek’s studio (which looked something like a well-loved fraternity house) on Friday morning with a colleague and the president of the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative. We met Brad Evans, one of the owners, who asked a couple of questions to prep before we went on the air and indicated that they would play a tune halfway through the interview. It came out that I was a John Prine fan, and Brad said, “What would you like to hear?” I responded that I thought Paradise was a good cautionary tale for those who don’t take preservation seriously. So we go into the interview, have a great conversation about why this place matters, and then Brad queues up the song by asking if Paradise was a good tune? “Absolutely” I replied, and that familiar voice came across the speakers.
“When I was a child my family would travel, down to western Kentucky where my parents were born…”
While the song was playing, Brad asked what else we might discuss when we came back, and I suggested that we spend a bit of time talking about other National Treasure campaigns. I mentioned that I thought listeners to The Creek might enjoy our work on Nashville’s Studio A and Music Row.
So as John Prine wrapped up singing of Paradise being “five miles away from wherever I am,” we began to talk about the Music Row campaign on the air. I noted that Studio A was not only the place where hundreds of country music classics had been recorded, but that Chris Stapleton’s Grammy award-winning album Traveller was made there after the studio was saved. I suggested that had it been recorded anywhere else, this classic country album would have sounded different. When it comes to recording studios – as with much else in life – place matters.
Brad wrapped up the interview and then told his audience that he had some Chris Stapleton lined up next. I responded, “Man, you are good!” and he replied “I’m a pro – if you don’t believe me, just ask me.” We laughed, and then away went Chris Stapleton with “Nobody to Blame.”
Oh man…if I ever get to do a preservation interview again when I can call on John Prine and Chris Stapleton for help, then you’ll know for certain I’ve died and gone to heaven.
More to come…