Stand by your music

"Sometimes it's hard to be a woman," she sings with a resigned sigh in her pronounced twang, "Givin' all your love to just one man."

The crowd is mesmerized by the melancholy strains of Tammy Wynette's signature hit, performed tonight by Nashville drag queen Kitty Kincaid. On the third Friday of each month, the James Gang Company pays tribute to the queens of country with their celebratory showcase, "Man, I Feel Like a Woman!" Revered country music icons Dolly Parton and Wynonna are also represented onstage by some of Music City's most vivacious performers.

By tending the flame of traditional country, the James Gang Company has attracted a faithful flock of patrons who have a special interest in  the genre's history. The entertainment at this historic venue, though, goes far beyond hillbilly music and bouffant hair. The James Gang Company hosts theatrical events, comedic performances, and arts and crafts festivals, among other offerings.

John Grimes, owner of the James Gang Company, also offers catering services tailored to satisfy the tastes of any potential client. An on-site cafe offers the opportunity for patrons to plan luncheons, birthday parties, rehearsal dinners and fundraisers. The cafe serves burgers, french fries, hot dogs and other American fare during regular hours.

Grimes expresses a sense of pride in the fact that nothing has disturbed this patch of Whites Creek.

"I'm a history-loving kind of guy," he says. "I love vintage clothes and vintage music. I just feel in love with this building. What I love about it is the intimacy here. It's not just us, but this whole area has a lot of history to it. The Fontanel Mansion is close by, and there's a lot of arts, music and entertainment around here."

The venue, which seats approximately 60 people. is on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Whites Creek Historic District. Located on Highway US 431 near Old Hickory Boulevard, it's now listed as an historical site on the Tennessee Registry.

Since opening in June of 2010, James Gang has drawn some of Nashville's top-drawer talent. Little Big Town's acoustic performance at the historic venue aired on Great American Country (GAC) this fall as part of the quartet's television special promoting their newest album, The Reason Why. A cadre of Music City's most popular songwriters---Rivers Rutherford, Kent Blazy and Chuck Cannon, among them---regularly make the ten-minute trek from downtown Nashville to share their hit songs. And Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Linda Davis and her daughter, Lady Antebellum's Hilary Scott are also past guests of the venue.

Grimes, a stylist at Music Row's The Loft Salon, uses his connections within the music industry to fill out the entertainment slate.

"The bulk of my clientele are artists and songwriters," he says. "We try to bring first-class songwriters here. (Country music) is why I moved to Nashville. Every city I've ever lived in has had a country bar, and it was shocking to me that (our community) didn't have that outlet for country music lovers."

Patrons can call for a reservation to ensure their space is confirmed for each performance. Grimes says his personal mission to provide entertainment for all demographics, including the GLBT community.

"For the gay community, we offer a safe place for wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners and anniversaries," he says. "We know the gay community has their routines, so we try to schedule events early in the evening so you can still go out afterwards."  

Though Grimes is satisfied with attendance numbers so far, he hints at plans for expanding their repertoire to draw a larger, more diverse group of patrons. To conjure up inspiration for future plans, he looks to the past.

"I have about 50 ideas in my head," he says. "Like with our 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!' show, it's really all about the art of impersonation, back when the drag queens were characters and really theatrical. I miss the days of The Connection, so I want to take it back to the old school."

The James Gang Company will host the James Gang Festival & Shootout Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The event features food, arts and crafts from over 50 vendors. Their monthly edition of "Man, I Feel Like a Woman!," a tribute to the legends of country, is Friday, Oct. 21 at 9 p.m.


This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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