’n’ Roll, famed featuring Berry’s combative (and warm) rehearsal
sessions with Richards.
For the Record
Nashville, Tenn.-born “raconteur and meetings industry activist”
Michael Owen has created musical memories for groups for decades.
Growing up on rhythm and blues, Owen followed Chuck
Berry, Aretha Franklin and other performers on historic (1926),
still-broadcasting WLAC radio. Following the break-up of his late
1960s R&B group, he joined a New England-based agency, first
booking Lou Reed in 1977. Later, it was star entertainment for
Disney’s original cruise package, the Big Red Boat. Then, seeing
opportunity in business events and event management, he went to
the client side, establishing Nashville-based EventGenuity in 1998.
Owen, whose energy extends to board and leadership roles with
organizations including MPI and PCMA, and regular industry
speaking and hosting engagements, is active across the nation,
from Orlando to Chicago to Hollywood, Calif.
These days, he is rarely star-struck.
“I used to call Chuck Berry at home for bookings,” he said. “He’d
answer, ‘Berryville!’ What gets me most excited, though, are historic
venues. Standing on stages like the Fillmore in San Francisco and
contemplating who played there, man, the sense of wonder is near
spiritual. And we have some real treasures in Nashville.”
Opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the 2,362-seat
national historic landmark Ryman Auditorium, 125 this year, is the
“Mother Church of Country Music.” Fifth broadcast home of the Grand
Ole Opry (the 1925 radio show that “made country music famous”)
from 1943 to 1974, and introducing bluegrass in 1945, the Ryman’s walls
reverberate with countless legendary voices that have included Patsy
Cline, Dolly Parton and “Coal Miner’s Daughter” Loretta Lynn.
In 1974, the show moved to its current home and popular group
venue, the Grand Ole Opry House.
Country Music Hall of Fame and
Museum highlights include Historic
RCA Studio B and the Hatch Show
Print letterpress print shop. The
former produced some 35,000 songs
between 1957 to 1977, including 200-
plus Elvis hits alone, while the former
has produced handmade music posters since 1879.
Other heirlooms include the
ON THE SCENE:
Bluebird Cafe (1982), and across
Feelin’ No Pain
in Luckenbach, Texas
On assignment this March in San Antonio (where event-capable gems include the 1913 Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, 1926 Aztec Theatre and national landmark 1929 Majestic
Theatre), I also visited Hill Country group destinations north of the city.
Amid the rapturous landscapes, discoveries included classic music
venues, such as the 1942 Brauntex Theatre and 1878 Gruene Hall,
the oldest dance hall in Texas, both in New Braunfels.
Then it was off to time warp Luckenbach Texas.
Established in 1849 as a trading post for German settlers and
Comanche Indians, the hamlet added a combined post office, saloon
and general store in 1886 and a dance hall in 1887. After local folk
hero Hondo Crouch and friends purchased the whole place in 1970,
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings put it on the world’s musical map
with their 1977 song Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).
“Laid-back with a vengeance,” Luckenbach continues to attract
countless fans with live Texas music seven days a week, from head-
liner concerts to
noon, I met with a
circle of musicians
playing in the tiny
couple Jay and Tam-
my Roy, who have
America with their
music since 1978.
“That’s when we first
came to Luckenbach,” Jay informed, “called
by Willie’s and Waylon’s song.”
Due for lunch with Fredericksburg CVB
President and CEO Ernie Loeffler, I had to
“Come back later,” they said. “The
music will still be playing.”
As Loeffler explained, the bureau
routinely schedules Luckenbach for off-site
“Meeting planners seeking a true Texas
music venue can buy out the entire ‘town,’
“When hosting the national Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference last
year, we put copies of Luckenbach, Texas on each seat of the attendees’
bus,” Loeffler said. “The singing was a rousing start to the outing.”
Back at Luckenbach, the party was on. In the packed dance hall,
its wooden floor “as smooth as ice” as Loeffler had shared, a band
was rocking Sweet Home Alabama. Amid the festival atmosphere of
cowboys, bikers, families and other revelers, I spent the afternoon with
Ray and Tammy inside their mobile home, sharing stories of the road,
favorite musicians and songs, and as Willie and Waylon sang, “feelin’
A N FOX THEATRE, ST. LOUIS