Vince Gill is a country music icon. He is an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry. He has sung with hundreds upon hundreds of singers from the legendary George Jones, to Barbara Streisand. He not only has had a hugely popular solo career filled with awards and accolades, but now the Nashville local plays in a band, The Time Jumpers, every Monday night! Take all this and top it with a beyond healthy dose of humility and kindness and you can begin to see why I am a huge fan of Vince Gill!
With that said, last Thursday, June 5th, my favorite event of the year rolled around…the annual Vince Gill Fan Club party. As a fan of over 20 years this once a year opportunity is one I always look forward to. Like the past few years it was held in the Ford Theatre at the Country Music Hall of Fame. If you have never been in this theatre, you should make a point to see it at some point. It holds about 250 people and offers the perfect intimate setting…there isn’t a bad seat in the house. As fans started to line up outside the theater, the man of the hour, Vince, strolled by very unassumingly carrying his guitar and saying hello to us as he made his way inside! This added to the excitement in line that was filled with lots of chatter as fellow fans that have become friends over the years caught up and swapped stories.
As the doors opened we were all treated to hot dogs, chips and soda and received a souvenir “VG” inscribed backpack and then found our seats. There is something about taking a seat in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Theatre that always gives me goose bumps. I love that place, I really do. After everyone ate, Vince came from the back and made his way to his stool in the center of the room. His casual dress matched his casual and down to earth attitude as people immediately started firing questions at him. One of the first things brought up was the fact that Vince is going to be a grandpa! His oldest daughter, Jenny, is pregnant with a baby boy due in August. Vince couldn’t help but smile when talking about the exciting news. Someone asked if he cried when he found out and he said something to the affect, “Of course I cried, if you know me, you know I cried.”
The conversation took off from there. Vince usually comes to the fan club party without a set agenda and this year seemed no different…that is what makes this event so special. Everyone there is a super fan, we have all seen him perform in concert countless times, but to get the opportunity to shoot the breeze with someone whose career you have followed for decades is priceless. Vince did bring a guitar and occasionally someone would request a song and he would kindly oblige. He sang “What You Give Away,” and “Whenever You Come Around” among a few others. His voice, as always was perfection and you could hear a pin drop in the room as everyone smiled and listened intently.
The topics and questions ranged from Vince’s view on today’s country music, to the Westboro Baptist Church encounter, to new music in the works. While the debate about the lack of country sounding country music is certainly alive and well, I love Vince’s fair and insightful thoughts. It is admirable that he never bashes anyone and always cheers for people’s success whether or not the music is his cup of tea or not. However, if you do love traditional country music you are in luck! He told us him and Paul Franklin will be making another tribute album (The last one, “Bakersfield,” paid homage to Merle Haggard and Buck Owens) this time paying tribute to George Jones and Ray Price. That is going to be one heck of an album that I personally can’t wait to hear!
Of course it wouldn’t be a Vince Gill event without humor and there was certainly plenty of that. Vince had us all cracking up with a few George Jones stories complete with Vince doing a Possum impersonation. He also talked about how much George meant to him and then sang us a new song he wrote about George called “I Feel a Sad One Coming On.” He told us he recently debuted it at the Opry and Nancy (George’s Wife) was there and got to hear it, which meant a lot to him.
Since it was a FAN club party I guess it was fitting that a few of the fans took the stage. A young man from Vince’s home state of Oklahoma raised his hand and told Vince he was a fellow Okie and he was going to get his butt kicked by his friends if he didn’t ask if he could come up and play with him. Vince, being Vince, of course agreed and told him to come on down! The two treated us with what turned out to be a great rendition of “San Antonio Rose” with Vince on guitar and the “kid,” as Vince called him, on fiddle! You could tell by the smile on the young man’s face how much it meant to him to get the chance to play with someone like Vince. It was great to see and sweet of Vince to give him the opportunity. Another guy also asked to play with Vince and again, he said sure. Vince sang and played lead guitar on “These Days” while the other man played the chords on his guitar. He also seemed awestruck that he was on stage with such a legend and had Vince sign his guitar when they were done.
The whole afternoon was filled with memorable moments. I always feel like I walk away inspired after hearing Vince talk. For someone of his caliber the humbleness he possesses is truly moving. He told us he learned long ago that he had a gift and that gift was special, but that didn’t make him special. He lives his life this way. He doesn’t think he is better than anyone and it shows. That is what makes the time he spends with us at the fan club parties so great. He talks to us like we are old friends, he laughs with us, and he is honest and open with us. After hours of questions and music it was time for the party to come to a close. There had been a lady in the audience who had told Vince how much “Go Rest High” means to her. She said she cries every time she hears it. At the end she decided she wanted him to sing it and he of course did it for her. It was a perfect way to end a perfect afternoon.
I am positive I can speak on behalf of all of the fans who were present at the fan club party…we are so grateful. We appreciate him taking time to answer our questions, make us laugh and share his music with us.
After the event Vince stayed and made sure everyone got a picture with him and signed items that people brought! 🙂