Every body got a nickname, even if they don’t want to, including me. I’m John Bobby Ray, but folks call me Nashville. Always have. My momma and daddy did, back when I was about 2 years old, so then I started doin it, and by the time my sister came along, she only ever learned me as that, so I didn’t bother to tell her the truth.
I asked them, one time, why they call me Nashville, and they gave me a silly little answer that they always knew I was gonna be a country singer, with a name like John Bobby Ray how could I be anything else? And I believed them, too, until I was about thirteen or so and learned about the birds and the bees, and put two and two together cause my little sister is named Charlotte, and we took our vacation there about nine months before she was born.
I ain’t never been to Nashville. Not that I can remember, anyway. Mama says she and Daddy went when I was just a little baby, like six months old, and I was crying all the time except when we was in the car. Well, being from a small town in Alabama, there wasn’t much places to go in a car that took very long, so even if I did stop crying for a few minutes, as soon as we got somewhere and the car stopped I’d start up again.
So one day, I guess it was a Sunday she said, her and daddy bundled me into the car, me screamin my lungs out, fists balled up tighter than a virgin’s hole, face redder than a mule deer, and they started driving. Went up route 37, over past Old Man Hitchcock’s place, that was about fifteen minutes and the limit of how far they usually drove with me, bein that Hitchcock invited them over for Sunday dinner most weeks. But I guess they liked how quiet I was bein in the back of the car, and mama says she was so tired of my crying that she’d fallen asleep too, so daddy didn’t stop at the Hitchcocks, and just kept it going.
Up route 37, drove an hour and a half before he saw another car, he says at three hours later we crossed the Tennessee state line, me konked out in the backseat, momma just as snoring as an old bear in the forest. Daddy says he stopped for gas, once, for three minutes, and by that time I’d started to stir a little bit in the backseat, so he quick pulled out that gas hose and stepped on the pedals, only half full on the tank but not wanting to take any chances. We finally did end up in Nashville, then, late that Sunday afternoon, and mama woke up from the best 6 hours of sleep of her life, and daddy was kind of happy too, because now me and mama were happy , we wasn’t yelling at him any more.
So we spent the next couple of days in Nashville. We went to the Grand Ole Opry, and mama says I would stare at all the pictures on the walls like I knew the people. Daddy says I tried boppin along my hands to the beat, but me and mama don’t believe him. No baby knows what about that.
Anyway, we stayed there and [about six words illegible] we got a hotel room for like three nights and each night about ten o’clock my parents would hire somebody to drive me around in the car for eight hours. They’d go into that hotel room and sleep, or make whoopee, just because we don’t want to think about but I do know that after that, every time they looked at me they would end up looking back at each other and saying, together, like it was some kind of witchcraft spell, “Nashville”, and smile real big and get all lovey-Dover again, so I guess seeing me all the time gave them reminders, there of them and that’s why they call me Nashville.
But I’m just not sure yet. They call me John Bobby Ray, and I’m in a country band, and I’m the lead singer and everything but I’m just not sure it’s for me. Instead, I think maybe I want something else. Teacher, maybe, or maybe like a school principal. I bet I’d make a good guy at one of those colleges, you know, where people go and get all that learning? I bet I could tell them, those students, what kind of things they need to study to get a job. Oh, boy, you want to be an architect? Here, you need to take “Building Houses” and “Bridge Design.” So you want to be an English teacher? Here, let’s sign you up for “English 101” and “Teaching High Schoolers 202.” See? Ain’t hard.