I clearly remember hearing Nanci Griffith for the first time. It was the summer of 1990. Randy and I lived in Johnson City, TN on the tree streets. Our friend Jonathan (now an author and assistant professor at Bowling Green) was working at the Barter Theatre in nearby Abingdon, VA, and he used to come down for the weekends sometimes. Jonathan and I have a long musical history. It’s one of those Vonnegut “karass” things that Dad2Three blogged about awhile back. We recognized an immediate kinship in one another as freshman at Milligan College, and much of it had to do with our excellent taste in music. (We also saw ourselves as intellectual geniuses of course.) We got tremendous enjoyment in making fun of pop music (and its fans) of the mid-1980s: Duran Duran, Milli Vanilli, Madonna (although I think Jonathan just might have liked a bit of Madonna…), Michael Jackson, etc. We fed ourselves on a more substantial diet of the Talking Heads, U2, and lots of MTV’s “Closet Classics.”
But fast-forward six years after our initial meeting, and Jonathan pops a cassette into the tape player. “Listen to this,” he says. He puts in Nanci’s Storms album, and “I Don’t Wanna Talk About Love” washes over us. We were hooked. We were listening to everything Nanci Griffith we could get our hands on, and soon we were all Nanci fanatics. Our first concert came a year later. Randy and I had moved to Oxford, Ohio, where he was getting his master’s at Miami University. Nanci had just released Late Night Grand Hotel and was touring. Most of our friends were still in Tennessee, and they drove up for the big event: Nanci at Bogarts in Cincinnati. The night could not have been more perfect. Bogarts is really just a regular club, but this night, in honor of Nanci, they had white tablecloths and candles on all the tables. We were right in front of the stage, and she played every song we could have wanted to hear. It was a perfect night. I think that Tracy, Angie, Suzie and I bawled without abandon when she played, “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods.”
We’ve seen Nanci many times since then: in Indianapolis a couple of times, Louisville, Des Moines, and at Knoxville at the Tennessee Theatre. (If you listen very carefully, you can even hear Randy “whooping” on this live recording!) We even bought concert tickets for Bogarts on March 29, 1993—which was my due date with Jesse. We were such Nanci fans that we never imagined that having a baby would prohibit us from going to a concert! (He was born on March 27, so we actually had to give our sacred tickets away.)
All that to say…we have a long history with Nanci Griffith. Answering the question: “who’s your favorite female musician?” is easy for me. Randy has drifted off to other “whiny chick music” (and Nanci is NOT whiny) in years hence, but I’m confident he’d still claim Nanci as his first lady. The tickets are purchased, our kids already have a place secured at our wonderful friends’ home for the evening, and I’m looking forward to a night with Dr. H. and Nanci.