Cookin' At The Bluebird

(Reflections by Thom Schuyler)

I recollect that the Greeks and the Romans first conceived and perfected the notion of a performance "In the Round." Several thousand years later, in 1985 to be exact, my friends Fred "Apollo" Knobloch and Don "Augustus" Schlitz came to the sober conclusion that this style of presentation needed to be resurrected in Nashville, the Athens of the South. The following Friday night at 9:30 P.M. I found myself sitting in a chair in the middle of the floor of the Bluebird Cafe with a microphone in front of me, facing south, looking directly at Paul Overstreet who was staring directly back at me while Don sat to my right and Fred to my left. We were about to embark on a strange, dramatic and very funny musical journey. That journey continues.

The idea of several songwriters sitting around in a circle singing their songs and telling the stories of how and why those songs came to be is, to me at least, a hideous one. The setting is ripe with opportunity for indulgence, false sentiment, wimpy anecdotes, humiliation, vulgar pathos, drunken displays of sour grapes and really bad music performed by songwriters who really wanted to be artists but couldn't sing or play all that well. I have witnessed and participated in enough of these "and then I wrote" parades to testify to the fact that my assessment has some merit. However, I have had the great pleasure and good fortune to sit in that circle, almost exclusively, with Fred and Don. Their talent, humor, reliability, resilience, spontaneity and sense of respect for those wonderful people who continue (15 years later) to come and see us do this bit of unshow business has made the whole experience a watershed in my life.

So, the rebirth of the circular audience has now found its way around the world, again. Amy Kurland has sent ITR missionaries to festivals, conferences, gatherings and Wal-Mart openings from Quebec to Japan. They've been created for Presidents, religious leaders, huge corporations, elementary schools and Cub Scout fund-raisers. The VH-1 "Unplugged" series is traced directly to this little, 120 seat club in Green Hills. The format is utilized all over Los Angeles and London. New York City's infamous "Words and Music" series at the Uptown Y even borrows from it. We recreated our living rooms, drank for free and charged people five bucks to watch us have a great time. It's all Greek to me.

Suggested Recipe: Greek Salad