by: S. Parks
Like acoustic and electric soldiers lined up at attention, thirty-eight guitars stood quietly while a gust of wind broke the silence and played the strings of a toppling Flying V.
Overlooking Nashville’s lower Broadway, where we’re used to hearing music, the sound of dozens of guitars being demolished then rang through the chilled air. This was not an act of violence or disrespect but a venerated Hard Rock Café tradition.
In the midst of the week long re-opening celebration of the world famous club, the actual dedication ceremony took place with the customary red carpet Hard Rock “Guitar Smash,” hot on the heels of those in Venice and Las Vegas. For purists, collectors and musicians who have scrimped and saved for their first guitar, and custom guitar makers such as myself, don’t fret. The donated guitars were defective and slated for the Gibson trash bin anyway. Each will be replaced with shiny new models and given to several local charities in support of the company’s “Love All, Serve All” creed.
Prior to the act, the smashers stood by their respective guitars and enjoyed a performance by the Hard Rockers, a talented group formed by the Café’s employees who had spent the three months during the venue’s renovations performing and doing other charity work in the area (while still on payroll.) Fans and participants were welcomed by Michael Wozniak, Hard Rock VP, Butch Spyriden, Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau President, and Andy Bowers of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, owners of the venue.
The thirty-eight guitars, one for each year of the Hard Rock’s existence, were then smashed in unison (and on key) by celebrities wearing protective gear.
Bucky Covington, who had recently rocked the club and presented his $25,000 winnings from Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? to the Arthritis Foundation, pulled his blonde locks back into a pony tail and got into position. Pulling off the demolition as easily as he owns the stage during his fan-packed performances, he commented that he was glad they gave him an acoustic to smash rather than an electric.
The Who’s Pete Townsend would have been proud to watch the expertise of guitarist extraordinaire, Kenny Olson, who is heard on those chart-topping Kid Rock cuts and now with 7 Day Binge and the Motorflys. He shouted, “Sally, I didn’t eat my Wheaties today,” just before his guitar exploded on impact.
These fan favorites were joined by Muzik Mafia’s Cowboy Troy and country superstar, Rodney Atkins, headliner of Nashville’s New Year’s Eve Bash, who chose to keep his guitar bits as souvenirs. GAC’s Storme Warren, hosts Kelly Sutton and Shane Tallant of Fox TV’s Tennessee Mornings and Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records and the Valory Music Company had great rock star moments as well. They were joined by Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators with their mascot “Nash”, while several Titans’ cheerleaders shook their pompoms on the sidelines.
As many scrambled to pick up broken headstocks, chips and fragments to use for autographs, TV interviews were taking place amid the guitar litter on the terrace at the entrance to the Café. The festivities then continued inside where all were surrounded by the rock memorabilia that we’ve come to expect and cherish at all of the Hard Rock’s 159 locations worldwide. After a chat with well-known guitar expert George Gruhn of Nashville’s world-famous Gruhn Guitars and a lovely performance by Jessica Rae in the Reverb Room, it was time to sample some of the Hard Rock’s menu highlights.
Plenty of delectable chocolate mousse was on hand at the reception overlooking the venue’s giant trademark revolving guitar and eight story tower built for the New Year’s Eve guitar drop. The UK illuminates the London Wheel and New York may have Dick Clark and its ball of crystals, but in Music City, could it be anything but a multi-colored, illuminated Gibson that would signal the beginning of a new year and decade?
Smashville may be Nashville’s alter hockey name, but this time, it was all about guitars, giving, and a grand re-opening.
(All photos courtesy of S. Parks.)