May 17th, 2010
12:52 PM ET

Telethon helps Nashville 'keep on playin' after flood

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At times, Sunday's three-hour telethon, "Music City: Keep on Playin'," felt like a community theater production of "Our Town." There were audio glitches. Missed cues. Moments when the hosts stared blankly into the camera lens while nothing happened. Yet that was part of the telecast's charm, because in many ways, it WAS a community production - where citizens participated in a homegrown effort to raise money for victims of the Nashville flood.

The show emanated from the city's historic Ryman Auditorium, with the Grand Ole Opry set as a backdrop, and aired live on GAC. The hosts were actors James Denton and Kimberly Williams-Paisley - he, a former Nashville resident, and she, a current one. Kim's husband, Brad Paisley, kicked things off on a hopeful note with his recent hit, "Welcome to the Future." At the end of the song, Paisley looked up toward the balcony and said, "My wife's up there...we're going to donate $100,000. Is that okay?" Kim looked surprised and quipped, "Wow. Well, I didn't need that new purse."

But there were poignant moments, too. Lady Antebellum delivered sparse, moving renditions of "Need You Now" and "I Run to You" - two songs that put them on the map as rising stars. Keith Urban chose to cover the Beatles' "Help!," telling the audience he and wife Nicole Kidman sustained "quite a bit of damage to their home in Franklin," and joked that his equipment was last seen floating down the river to Smyrna, Georgia.

Later, Urban and Kidman sat in at the phone bank, joining such other celebs as Sheryl Crow, Kellie Pickler, James Otto and singer Julie Roberts - who wore a borrowed dress and an ankle cast from an injury that occurred when she, her mother, her sister and four dogs were rescued by boat from their flooded home. Brad Paisley's father, Doug, also volunteered his time taking pledges via phone.

Other stand-out performances: Martina McBride's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Dierks Bentley's "You Hold Me Together" and Paisley's "River and Rain." Instead of ending the telecast with a big finale, GAC chose to close with a name not many are familiar with - Will Hoge. The sentiment of his song, "Washed by the Water" summed the evening up perfectly.

By the end of the live broadcast, more than one million dollars had been raised for the flood victims of Middle Tennessee by the residents of Middle Tennessee. It was "Our Town," Nashville-style.

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. kimberly

    Instead of being outraged by CNN being critical of the telethon broadcast, which at best was amateur hour (which anything on GAC is amateur, while more music oriented than CMT, it is not the most up to date; I am not even able to get it in HD on either major satellite service or digital cable).

    Can we be outraged by the complete and utter LACK of coverage about the Middle TN flood? Granted, there has been some but not what there should be given the damage and devastation! And a lot of what you hear is about poor Kenny Chesney's home or Keith Urban's equipment! These are not struggling people... they are multi-millionaires with INSURANCE. (And if they don't have adequate insurance for their assets then one has to wonder if they even deserve the right to have said assests.) The average person in Middle TN was forgotten in this coverage and it has become all about the celebs that even without insurance could fix up the damage and probably never feel a dent in their pocketbook!

    And let's also be outraged by Kimberly Williams-Paisley's lack of tact! I have always liked and respected her but I am definitely rethinking that after her bad humor and lack of respect for those who lost everything they have ever worked for and don't have millions of dollars in the bank!

    May 19, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. kaci

    I think some of you are missing the point of the first paragraph from the article. The writer wasn't trying to insult anyone involved or country music. The writer was stating that yeah there were glitches but that important part was people coming together for a good and just cause and that was very evident from the telecast.

    However, I do have to agree with Kelly R about Kimberly Williams-Paisley's ill fated attempt at humor. It wasn't appropriate for the time or setting given how many are struggling across the country to make ends meet, let alone those effected by the nearly forgotten flood in Middle TN. While I applaud them for donating $100,000 of their money, we are also talking about a family that rakes in MILLIONS of dollars in revenue each year from Brad's touring, cd sales and merchandise, not to mention his endorsements so really... just $100,000 and she makes a quip about not needing a new purse afterall? Hmm, yeah I believe that is in very poor taste no matter how you look at it.

    I have to end on a positive note about the way the telecast ended. I applaud GAC for having the nerve to end an event of this scope with someone who is not a household name for many. I am a huge fan of WIll Hoge's and have been for sometime (if you have no seen him play live, check out to find the date closest to you then RUN, don't walk to the show; you won't be sorry). It was a risk to put a face on national television that wasn't a household name but it was very appropriate since Will is born in raised in the Nashville area, still calls it home, in fact. Also, the song was incredibly meaningful for the moment and the event. It was a beautiful moment!

    May 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lori hayes

    I am so happy to see that once again some "reporter" has decided to diss country music and its people. You have no idea what the people in Nashville have been through since the first of May....these wonderful people who staffed this show - which was live, and as stated by "Hillary" glitches are a part of a live could tell that each and every person involved was willingly giving of their time, and in some cases - there dollars as well. Shame on your CNN for being so unfeeling about such a program that helped a lot of people!!!!

    May 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. A.S.

    I attended the concert & was blown away! It was full of talented & giving people. Kimberly Williams-Paisley, not only were you a beautiful host but I could feel how much you cared for your neighbors. I thought it was so touching when you almost cried during one of the testimonial videos. Thank you & your husband for all you do! 🙂

    May 17, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hillary

    Thanks CNN for highlighting mistakes at a time like this. "Glitches" are part of a live broadcast. The concert was an amazing success and raised funds for a great cause. It was in no way just a "community production". People from across the nation came together to support this beautiful city.

    May 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. KT

    I was one of the few lucky ones to attend the event in person. Wow what a show! It's amazing to see how generous everyone was to donate their time and talents to this event. I'm not originally from Tennessee, but I am proud to call it my home.

    Thank you everyone that performed, volunteered, donated, and served your friends and neighbors after this horrible flood. You are awesome!

    ps – I'm pretty sure Keith Urban's joke about his guitars floating down the river towards Smyrna was in reference to Smyrna, Tennessee a suburb of Nashville...

    May 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John in FL

    Really Kelly R? She donates $100,00 of her own money, and you take a paragraph and a half to complain about a dumb joke? There are those who step up and those who shout from the sidelines. Which one are you?

    May 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tara

    I live and hour from Nashville and would like to thank all our country music stars for holding this and other local news telethons. Because believe me no one with the national news outlets have been there and to the surrounding communties to see the devistation that these floods left. Anderson Cooper was there for a few days. Where the national telethons that Katrina and Haiti victims received? There is not the death toll both of those disaters had with these floods. But it will take years for these communities to restructure what they have lost. I am glad I live in the VOLUNTEER STATE because had it not been for one another nothing would have been done to help those people. THE DAMAGE IS ASTOUNDING. Most of these people didn't have flood insurance and some major businesses were affected as well. Thanks again Country Music taking care of your roots means alot..

    May 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. debra

    Re Tim & Faith: fair seemed odd since they are usually so active with helping those in need....

    I am hoping they release the telethon as a CD.

    May 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lorendasue

    Tim and Faith – and others – are part of a concert to be in Nashville in June at the Bridgestone Arena. Tickets sold out quickly.

    May 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kelly R

    Great performances but a shadow was cast with Kimberly Willians-Paisley's remark "I didn't need that new purse." in response to hubby Brad Paisley's generous decision to donate $100,000.

    Kimberly- please apologize. The attempt (hopefully) at humor was ill-timed and really struck a chord with many. Most people in this country will never in their lifetime have $100,000 laying around to buy anything, let alone a new purse. This was in poor taste and cast a shadow on the evening, with the narcissistic comment. The fact is, while you're joking about not being able to buy a purse, thousands of others are struggling to buy this week's groceries or to figure out where they are going to live.

    Might want to get your publicist on this immediately to cover up for your faux pas.

    May 17, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. James Otto Sweet Heart

    My most favorite part of the gathering last night was seeing my most favorite singer on the phone, I love James Otto SO much!!! (big smile)

    God bless you and him always!!!

    Holly in East Tennessee

    May 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. debra

    This was an excellent telethon. What I don't get is where was Tim & Faith? Toby? Trace? Also why wasn't this on a national network...

    May 17, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |

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