For The Benefit of Mr. Womack

This week’s show preview comes from journalist and artist Peter Cooper, who knows the musicians involved better than anyone we know. It was his idea and his connections that pulled together this special benefit show for Tommy Womack. And he’ll be our musical host this Wednesday too. So I’m very glad to take a week off and hand the MCR blog over to my old pal and colleague Peter. – Craig H.

“I worry often,” Tommy Womack once sang. “I live in terror of what life may have in store.”

Tommy—who has long been among Nashville’s most inventive, idiosyncratic and essential roots musicians—was right to worry. In June, he was driving to a gig when, suddenly, he wasn’t driving anymore. Instead, he was being rushed by ambulance to a Kentucky hospital. The verdict: cracked pelvis, cracked vertebrae, cracked sacral bone and cracked bank account.

So, here’s what we’re going to do about it at Music City Roots: On Wednesday, September 28, at 7 p.m. we’re throwing the greatest rock ‘n’ roll party of 2015. And you’re invited, but you’re going to have to pay some dough to get in. Not a lot of dough, but enough so that if enough folks pay it, it’ll help Tommy, his wife Beth and his son Nathan through a difficult time.

But, friends, this will not be a night of somber reflections on the frailty of life. This is a night of celebration, of redemption, of victory. Tommy Womack is carrying on, like a cockroach after the bomb. And even if you’ve never heard Tommy’s amazing, amusing, acerbic music… or read his genius memoir, The Cheese Chronicles… or read his monthly column in The East Nashvillian… or seen his weekly Monday Morning Cup of Coffee video blog… or heard his Friday Happiness Hour on East Nashville Radio… or heard Jimmy Buffett or Todd Snider or Jason and the Scorchers or Government Cheese or Daddy or The Bis-quits play his songs… this show is going to be epic.

How epic? Lots epic. Why epic? Because so many of Nashville’s city-shaping rock ‘n’ rollers love Tommy Womack, and they’re coming out to give to him by playing for us.

Jason and the Scorchers invented country-punk and became Music City’s first important rock band. They’ve toured with Bob Dylan, played the Kennedy Center and won the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement in Performance award. They haven’t played Nashville in years. They’re playing this show and offering a set that will likely include the searing “Self Sabotage,” which Scorchers’ frontman Jason Ringenberg wrote with Tommy.

Rough and tumble guy Webb Wilder and his Beatnecks band arrive on our stage just days after the release of Webb’s brand new album, Mississippi Moderne. In 1986, Webb trumpeted Tennessee’s rock readiness with a sparkling debut album called It Came From Nashville. In the years since then, he has maintained his hybrid vigor and demonstrated his mastery of what he calls both kinds of music: rock and roll.

Also with a brand new album – one called Get Loud! – is Dan Baird, with a band that thrives on the guitar weaving of Baird and Scorchers’ guitarist Warner Hodges, and on songs that are often co-written by one Tommy Womack. Half of Dan’s regular band, Homemade Sin, is already overseas, readying for a major tour, but Dan and Warner stuck around to play one last stateside show, for their fractured friend. Dan came to worldwide attention in the 1980s as the wild-eyed guitarist/singer for the ferocious Georgia Satellites.

At this Tommy-fest edition of Music City Roots, we’ll also hear from one of Tommy Womack’s dearest friends and most frequent collaborators, Will Kimbrough. Joining Will is Nashville’s godfather of pop, Bill Lloyd, who shares Bowling Green roots and an elevated musical sensibility with Tommy. Then there’s long, strong, and tall Marshall Chapman, a singing, songwriting Nashville fixture since the Outlaw era. Marshall’s songs have been recorded by Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, and American Songwriter magazine called her most recent song-set, Blaze of Glory, “One of the year’s finest singer-songwriter albums.” Oh, and also joining will are his bandmates from the roots rock collective, Daddy. That’s all of his bandmates. Including a fellow named Tommy Womack.

I first became aware of Tommy in the 1990s, while visiting Nashville from my home in South Carolina. I was riding in Jason Ringenberg’s truck, listening to the Scorchers’ not-yet-released Clear Impetuous Morning album.

“I wrote this with Tommy Womack,” Jason said.

“Who?” I said.

“You don’t know who Tommy Womack is?” Jason asked.


Then Jason took a hard, fast left turn into the parking lot at Bookstar on West End Ave., said, “Wait here,” and jogged inside. He emerged with a just-purchased copy of Cheese Chronicles, handed it over and said, “Read this. Love it, and buy it for somebody else someday. Everybody needs to know Tommy Womack.”

I’ve bought more than twenty copies of Cheese Chronicles, and given all but one of them away.

We at Music City Roots are pleased to present this one-of-a-kind evening, in support and celebration of an artist who is an important part of our tribe. Tommy Womack graced our stage in June, just two days before his accident, appearing with his Government Cheese bandmates. His music exemplifies the spirit, the honesty, the edge and the humor that are at the core of what we do.

  • Peter Cooper

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