Nashville 1959 – Ryman Auditorium – WSM – Smiles Before The Storm

By Anita Garner

Sister Fern Jones (Mother) with a fan

Mother’s dream had several parts.  Write songs.  Get somebody famous to record them.  Get a recording contract.  A pink Cadillac.  Wear a mink stole to the Deejay Convention in Nashville. Sing at Ryman Auditorium.

All of these had come true by the time this picture was taken at Nashville’s Deejay Convention in 1959. She appeared on Wally Fowler’s All Night Singing, originating from Ryman Auditorium, broadcast on WSM, standing alongside many Southern Gospel greats.  See her in the lineup in photos below. But the next part of the story was a storm of her own making.

When this picture came back from restoration, I was reminded of how much this looks like Fern’s happy ending, but indeed it was not.  It was just the beginning of fights with the head of her record label, legal wrangling, waiting for a single from the album to be heard on radio, and the greatest  deterrent to a long tour, being away from Daddy.  She was nearly paralyzed without him nearby.

I’m in the editing process of my book, now called The Glory Road: A Memoir which will be released early next year from University of Alabama Press. This is the part where old pictures are restored to go into the book while I spend the next two weeks on the final, final pass through the manuscript.  When I send this version back to the Press it moves into copyedit, design, legal permissions (lots of songs quoted) and all the rest.

So the picture above may be worth more than a thousand words to me.  I haven’t counted, but they’re all in the book.  Meanwhile, I’ll be right here on this blog with updates about my own dream, which also comes with a few songs attached.



4 thoughts on “Nashville 1959 – Ryman Auditorium – WSM – Smiles Before The Storm”

  1. People today can’t imagine how powerful radio was 60-70 years ago and before that. The idea that it was Fern’s big goal to write for other singers and to perform on radio is nearly lost to memory but I remember then.

    Thank you for continuing to share these slices of time from your life and our national heritage.

  2. Thank you, my dear radio buddy for reminding all of us what a magic feeling it was to hear our favorite music on the radio. For our family, growing up in front of microphones, you’d think we’d be used to it, but WSM Nashville was the big time in our part of the world. I love seeing the lineup on that particular night, when Mother is the only woman singer featured.

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