Nixon at the Opry

Of all the many thousands of performers to appear on the Grand Ole Opry, the most intriguing and obtuse must surely have been President Richard Nixon. On 16th March 1974, as the radio show moved from its iconic home at the Ryman Auditorim into the purpose-built Grand Ole Opry House, Nixon was invited to open the new building and did so with his customary awkward good humour. The President, an accomplished pianist and lover of classical music, was encouraged to perform and he duly sat at the keyboard and offered a rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". The live audience applauded enthusiastically. They and the listeners at home were mainly comprised of middle-Americans, who loved t

Jack Stapp, at the top of the Tree

Perhaps the most overlooked part of the "Heartbreak Hotel" saga is the crucial issue of publishing rights. In 1950s popular music, the publisher often received the lion's share of the revenue, moreso than the writer and much moreso than the singer. As such, the allocation of publishing rights was a hugely important decision. Composers usually wanted their songs to go to successful and dynamic publishers who would publicise their songs and increase their earnings. Co-songwriter Mae Boren Axton always insisted she gave the rights to "Heartbreak Hotel" to her friend Buddy Killen on a momentary whim. Buddy was the sole employee of Tree Publishing, one of the least successful publishing companie

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