As a young musician in the late ’60’s, Ron Cornelius knew that San Francisco was the place to be. He recorded in the famous Francis Ford Copolla owned building at the corner of Columbus and Kearny and considered it a home away from home. When his new record label decided to send him to a new location, he was shocked. Soon, though, he was part of changing trends in Nashville and making musical history.
Changing Trends in Nashville
Ron Cornelius felt at home in San Francisco. When Clive Davis came calling with a recording contract from Epic Records, he was thrilled! What young musician wouldn’t be? But when part of the deal included recording music in Nashville, well, that raised his eyebrows a bit.
Ron and his band’s presence in Nashville raised eyebrows there, too. Apart from Bob Dylan, they were the first “long hairs” to arrive on Nashville’s music scene.
“People in the town looked upon us as freaks any time we left our hotel.” ~ Ron Cornelius, The Guitar Behind Dylan and Cohen
The owner of the Nashville landmark Pancake Pantry was, at the time, nicknamed Bigot Bob. Eager to try the pancakes they heard so much about, Ron and his friends made a point to stop. “We only tried to eat there on one occasion,” Ron shares in his book. “Before we could even take a seat, he yelled from the kitchen area, ‘OK, little ladies, just turn it around and get it right on out of here. We ain’t got a thing here for you.'”
A Band Called West
In spite of the sometimes crazy tension, Ron’s band, West, managed to record a couple of albums while in Nashville. One of their singles, a cover of Bob Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, was a hit. Ron imagined the band would keep going; success was well within reach. His band mates disagreed.
Ron was shocked to hear the others wanted to go their own ways to focus on individual projects. “How could they work so hard for so long just to walk away?” Ron wondered. He remembered what he’d been told when he first arrived in Nashville. For him, he just knew, this wasn’t the end.
God Bless the Broken Road
Without knowing it, West had helped the cause of changing trends in Nashville. More “long hairs” were arriving every year and the community, impressed by their musical talents, had begun to accept them. During his time with West in Nashville, Ron had made many connections. Those connections quickly began to pay off.
He was invited to sit in with many of Nashville’s finest as a session musician. Free from the constraints of the band, Ron eagerly accepted.
His “broken road” to musical success wasn’t so broken after all. Soon he’d do more than cover Dylan, he’d play with Dylan. God bless that broken road!
A musician’s life is full of lessons. Today, Nashville is a much different place than it was the day Ron Cornelius first arrived. Ron still makes his home in Nashville and even owns his own music production company there where, of course, “long hairs” are always welcome.