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Tom Jones and Mama at the Ryman

Updated: 3 days ago

The Audience was Electric!
Magic Concert Night

These Days. Mama and glittering dresses and the Ryman and Tom Jones. Me and Sister, plotting. Scheming. Counting pennies and days and years that might not be, things that might not be in the end. Because there is always the end. Just around the corner, just through that final door. Nashville. The Ryman. A name my sister and I say with a kind of holy reverence. Known as The Mother Church, and it still has that undertow of unseen power. Something you feel. My first concert there. Me alone in Nashville writing away on my second novel. To the exclusion of all and everything. Hours and hours a day and hours and hours into the late of night. Living and breathing every word. Then a precious friend said – you. Must. stop. Placated my rebuttals. Tickets, two, Etta James. And off we went into the night. And Etta sang, "At Last" like it was the first time and I fell in love with this place, a piece of American History.

Flash forward when Mama has moved to Nashville with us and we discover that Tom Jones will be on that very stage. And we connive like thieves and gangsters in hushed tones. Mama has to go, right? We have to do this, right? Because we remember her tuning in weekly to the Tom Jones show. And, honestly, my Daddy being very, very, certain of all his charm and green eyes and bad-ass Daddiness was not a jealous man. But the way Mom’s eyes lit up when Tom . . . sang – might have pushed the line. Well, Mama never left Daddy for Tom Jones and years and years after he passed and she moved up with us we knew what we had to do. Mom in her glittering gown. Tiny opera glass binoculars that we purchased to match her dress. We bought the best seats we could afford, planned to do dinner in all our glamour after the show. And we went to see Tom, white of hair now. And he began to sing with a voice just like the one that came from that console television set so many years ago. Shocked we were. He had the pipes, Mama had her glasses, we all swayed to the music. And if there are moments where heaven opens up a little, rains down some extra happiness, this was one of those nights. It's also the night me and Sister truly listened to the words of that snappy little number titled, "Delilah." So, so, snappy. "She was my woman . . . things didn’t end well." But what a great bar sing-along. Sister and I looked at each other at the end of it and went – well, there is that. My favorite personal song of the night? Tom belting to the heavens, Leonard Cohen’s "Tower of Song." (But then Cohen tears my heart wide open and speaks to me in the silent, broken places. Sometimes it’s like that.) Mama smiled and laughed and swayed all night. We cheered a little until we were just about left in whispers. We walked out into the warm, night air, elated. The concert ran late and for reasons I still don’t understand all the restaurants we’d plan to pop into were already closed. So, we ended up at the Waffle House on White Bridge. And the girl behind the counter told Mama how pretty she was and we told her where we’d been and she said, "my goodness! Is he still sexy?" And, we assured her time had not stolen his voice or some other things. The man was blessed with a golden voice and a smile and some charisma. Mostly, he was born to sing for Mama and that night me and sister checked that box. And as they slowly turned out the lights at the Ryman we ate hash browns and drank coffee and recounted the whole thing from the beginning, one more time."

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