Ryman rises again as Fairfax rocks out

OPRYLAND OFFICIALS have revealed plans to restore and reopen Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, famed longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry, which has been essentially closed since 1974, when the Opry moved to modern headquarters away from downtown.

E.W. “Bud” Wendell, president of Ryman and Opryland owner Gaylord Entertaiment, said he views renovation of the 101-year- old building as a way to kickstart downtown Nashville’s increasing regeneration.

Artists have always considered Ryman a sacred place. “Whenever I’ve heard live music there I’ve been overwhelmed by its great sound and the intimacy with the audience,” says Bill Ivey, head of the Country Music Foundation.

Emmylou Harris released a live album recorded at Ryman this year, but few other music events have taken place there in the last two decades.

Opryland officials haven’t said how much they’ll spend to restore the approximately 2,000-seat hall, but the work is expected to be lavish. Officials have vowed to preserve the feel of the old Ryman interior while still updating it.

While many Nashvillians once called for Ryman’s demolition, Opryland is now “looking very seriously at another downtown project,” according to Wendell.

The phenomenal rise of Branson, Mo. as a live country music Mecca has posed a challenge, observers say, and there are reports that Opryland is negotiating with developers for several 1,500-2,000 seat music theaters similar to the successful ones in Branson.

WHILE MANY of today’s recording “artists” tend to rely on the little man behind the curtain to make their music come alive — see Milli Vanilli for further details — vocal duo Charles & Eddie are fighting the influence of technology.

The Capitol recording pair’s “Duophonic” album has spawned the top-20 hit single “Would I Lie To You.” The duo, who met on a New York subway — an event recounted on single “NYC”–have been supporting the record by performing guitar-backed acoustic sets at retail stores, radio stations and the like, the better to prove that real voices are behind the project.

“We’re putting the heart and soul back into the music, something that the machines have managed to take out,” says Eddie Chacon, who teams with Charles Pettigrew. The two note with pride that they record their songs in complete takes, rather than following the customary studio practice of recording several vocals on different tracks and punching in the best parts of each.

Chacon credits the enthusiasm of Capitol Records president/CEO Hale Milgram as the deciding factor in landing at the label. “The business aspect of the deal wasn’t his main agenda, like some of the other label heads we met,” Chacon says. “It was more about the music and giving us some longevity, not just quick hits.”

LOS ANGELES HAS certainly had its share of unusual venues for pop music, but the most curious to emerge is Fairfax High School.

In the last year, the school’s gym has hosted the Rollins Band and, this past weekend, Mary’s Danish; the auditorium had Teenage Fanclub and expects They Might Be Giants later this month. Each room holds 1,500 people.

Rick Van Sant, a partner at promoter Goldenvoice, said he discovered Fairfax while “looking for an alternative venue, one where people really hadn’t gone. It’s the right size for all of these shows.”

Van Sant says Goldenvoice works closely with the school administration. “We used school police. The kids do the concessions, so some of the groups at the school benefit. We have a student stage crew. We try to run it really smooth so they’ll have us back, and so far, everthing’s gone real well.”

Not that Fairfax is a stranger to musicians. Members of Guns N’ Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, L.A. Guns and Eleven went to school there, as did producer Phil Spector, songwriter Jerry Lieber, and A&M Records founder and trumpeter Herb Alpert.

IT’S BEEN “the year of the old man” for Jed Leiber, whose music is featured in the 20th Century Fox film “Love Potion

9,” set for release this Friday.

The old man, in this case, is father Jerry Leiber, half of the legendary Leiber & Stoller songwriting team and the coauthor of the original hit “Love Potion

9.””The way the credits read, it looks like he gave me the job,” Jed Leiber says, crediting the job instead to his longtime friendship with film writer/director Dale Launer.

Earlier this year, Leiber also touched on his father’s work when he recorded “Hound Dog” with guitarist Jeff Beck for the “Honeymoon in Vegas” soundtrack. The inclusion of the Elvis classic provided a windfall for the Leibers– Jed and Beck collected artist royalties, Jerry scored writer’s royalties.

MOTOWN’S Another Bad Creation and the Boys. Ruffhouse/Columbia’s Kris Kross. Virgin’s Immature. Interscope’s Bad 4 Good. All under the legal drinking age. All successful. All male.

Zoo Records is seeking a new spin with Voices, featuring four girls–Arika Rice (10), Monique Wilson (12), La Toya McMoore (11) and La Petra McMoore (10) –with a distinctively adult sound in their otherwise youthful music. Voices is the brainchild of radio personalities Elvin Bridges and Michelle Le Fleur.

Put together in the summer of ’91 via auditions, the Los Angeles-based quartet was brought to the attention of Zoo when an intern at the label happened to hear Voices’ demo single, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” on a local radio station.

Zoo’s plan to carry Voices into the next decade involves raising the group to the level of role models. Marvin Robinson, VP of Zoo’s R&B division, helped organize ‘Voices For Excellence.’

“It’s dealing with illiteracy and the education factor,” he says.

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