By Norman Warwick

The full track listing, below, of the film and accompanying soundtrack of Thing Called Love (left) not only included some of my favourite songwriters but also introduced me to some excellent artists unknown to me at the time.

photo 2 Clay Walker,(right) who delivers Dreaming With My Eyes Open, I learned was born Ernest Clayton Walker, which doesn´t have the ring of an artist who hasreleased a total of 11 albums, including a greatest hits compilation and an album of Christmas music. His first four studio albums have achieved platinum certification in the United States and his greatest hits collection and fifth studio album were each certified gold.

Daron Norwood, (left) who plays You´d Be Home By Now, is an American country singer, Born September 30, 1965 in Lubbock, Texas, USA who died at the early age of fifty on July 22, 2015 in Hereford, Texas, USA

photo 4 Trisha Yearwood (right) was an artist I was already aware of asbeing asinger, author and actress, who has since become a member of organisations such as Artists Of Then, Now & Forever and Country Music’s Quest For A Cure. She delivers I Can´t Understand, as the third track on the album.

I was also aware of K.T. Oslin, (left) who tells us I Don´t Remember Your Name. She was an artist who had a fine song writing and performing career of some longevity but who we sadly lost a couple of years ago at the age of 78

I had loved what little I had heard of Matraca Berg (right) at the time and she went on to fully deserve her induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. Here she brings us Diamonds And Tears.

The album also introduced me to Deborah Allen from Memphios Tennessee, with two songs; Ready And Waiting And Blame It On Your Heart.

Rodney Crowell (right) was, perhaps, the most famous name on the album. A former member of The Emmylou Harris Hotband he later married Roseanne Cash, although they divorced in 1992 and has been married to Cluadia Church since 1998. His song Stars On The Water is, to me a perfect song, with a wonderful intor and rhythm section and evocative lyrics and a catchy chors. I know my old buddy Gary Hall doesn´t agree, but this is country heaven. Crowell also deliovers two songs to the album with Until Now and Standing On A Rock.

Dennis Robbins was a new name to me, and to be honest I have heard or learned much more about him since. That´ll be my bad, probably and his song here, Looking For A Thing Called Love reminds me I should have been much more diligent in following the sidetracks & detours of his career to date.

Kevin Welch (right) invests high production values and a great country voice into his albums, and they are all there under W on my play lists. There is perhaps just a hint of his California birthplace in his music. Here he walks down Streets Of Love

Randy Travis, (left) who performs Partners In Wine on this album, went on to enjoy as high a zenith in his lengthy career as any other artists on this wonderful Thing Called Love soundtrack. He also added actor to his job description of songwriter.

So, this album released in 1993 contained 12 songs (though only totalling less than forty five minutes) and was aligned with the film of the same title released more or less simultaneously.

It has remained of particular interest to me although I never made it from the UK to The Bluebird Café in Nashville, either in my capacity as song-writer and band-member of Lendanear or as a journalist. However, a fellow journo, Kim Prince, at Country Matters, herself a fine lyricist and writer of the wonderfully eerie Black Kisses, penned a couple of in-depth articles for the magazine after a holiday spent  touring music venues of the USA. Also my aforementioned mate Gary Hall recorded his debut solo album, for RoundTower, over in Nashville after he and The Stormkeepers had taken separate trails. Whilst in the States Gary played at The Bluebird Café in the company of the likes of Hugh Moffatt and Cathryn Craig and he and his songs more than held their own.

I was reminded of all this whilst scrolling my fb messages this morning:

Unfortunately, due to dangerous road conditions, we will remain closed tonight, Friday, January 7th. Both Alive at The Bluebird shows are cancelled (6:00pm In The Row with Becky Hobbs, Benita Hill and Shawn Camp / 9:00pm In The Row with Jeff Black, Leigh Nash and Kim Richey) – we hope to reschedule them later this year. All ticket holders will be refunded (please allow 5-7 business days). Stay safe and warm out there!

That´s pretty tough considering it was only in June last year that the venue was able to re-open after a sixteen month closure due to covid. Still, they can console themselves by watching Bluebird, a dvd documentary revealing the origins of and the subsequent careers of countless artists who have played at the venue.

Amy Kurland (left) is the founder of The Bluebird Cafe. Kurland opened the doors to the cafe in 1982 to create an intimate listening room for Nashville’s burgeoning songwriter scene. Over the past 30+ years, the 90-seat venue has been credited for giving rise to many iconic artists including Garth Brooks, Kathy Mattea and Taylor Swift.

Kurland opened The Bluebird Cafe just five years after graduating from The George Washington University with a B.A. in American literature and American studies. Over the course of her 25 years as proprietor, she guided the cafe to an influential role not only in the local songwriter scene but in broader pop culture. During this time, The Bluebird Cafe was honored by the Academy of Country Music and played a key role in the film The Thing Called Love. Kurland was honored with the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award at the 43rd Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Dinner in 2013 for her contributions to helping artists master the art and craft of songwriting.

In 2008, Kurland passed the storied brand forward to the Nashville Songwriters Association International, an organization that shares the purpose and vision that she originally instilled in The Bluebird Cafe.

The location, in a typical suburban shopping center, had already been home over the years to a game room, a bar, a pizza parlor, a sewing machine store, a pharmacy, and Manookian Brothers Oriental Rugs. Kurland originally intended it to be a gourmet restaurant where patrons would have the opportunity to occasionally listen to live music, not a full-fledged nightclub as it would become. As somewhat of an afterthought, Kurland added a stage. The occasional live music became a regular occurrence.

By March 1983, future country star Kathy Mattea had landed a record deal; she had only been playing The Bluebird Café regularly for a few months. After that, the venue became known among local musicians as a prime place to play. Other regular songwriters from The Bluebird also began to land record deals.

On July 1, 1984, the first Writer’s Night (an evening in which up-and-coming songwriters have the opportunity to play some of their original material with a special guest who has had some songwriting success) was held, and Don Schlitz was the first special guest. Schlitz had already won a Grammy for writing the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler,” some years earlier. In 1985, Sunday Writer’s Nights were officially added to The Bluebird’s weekly schedule. These are held weekly at 8:00 p.m. and must be auditioned for to play.

The Bluebird Cafe, Nashville

On March 29, 1985, the first “In The Round” show was held with Thom Schuyler (16th Avenue and Old Yellow Car), J. Fred Knobloch (Used to Blue and Meanwhile), Don Schlitz (he would collect his second Grammy a few years later for Forever and Ever, Amen), and Paul Overstreet (future co-writer of Forever and Ever, Amen as well as other hit songs). The “In The Round” format, which means that writers sit in the center of The Bluebird playing, taking turns, and telling stories, was suggested by Knobloch and Schlitz.

The show and its format were so popular that shows continued to be held “In The Round” and most of the shows at The Bluebird Café (and other clubs in Nashville and elsewhere) are still to this day held in that format. At least once a month Knobloch, Schlitz and Schuyler still play together “In The Round” at The Bluebird Café with harmonica player Jelly Roll Johnson.

Writers had to (and still have to) audition to play its small stage, which was used when shows were not “In The Round.” On June 6, 1987, Garth Brooks, then a young, struggling country singer from Oklahoma, auditioned and was booked one month later for a Writer’s Night. Shortly thereafter, he was booked for a showcase. It was during that showcase, in which Brooks was filling in for another songwriter who missed the gig, that Lynn Shults, the A&R representative at Capitol Records, saw his show. Brooks was signed to Capitol the next day.

Brooks began to frequent The Bluebird’s Writer’s Nights looking for songs to record. Bluebird regulars Kent Blazy (“Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” and “If Tomorrow Never Comes“), Tony Arata (“The Dance“) and Pat Alger (“Unanswered Prayers“) supplied Brooks with some of his biggest hits.

Also in 1987, dinner shows and Open Mic Nights were added to The Bluebird’s schedule. Presently, The Bluebird has two shows a night, with dinner available at both shows. During the week show times are generally at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on the weekends, though there are exceptions. Monday nights are Open Mic Nights. They begin at 6:00 p.m. and run until approximately 9:00 pm. Anyone can play these Open Mic Nights as long as he or she plays original material and abides by The Bluebird’s other policies.[2]

“Women In The Round” night was first held in November 1988. The line-up consisted of Ashley Cleveland, Tricia Walker (she would go on to have multiple cuts by Faith HillPatty LovelessTaylor Swift and more), Pam Tillis and Karen Staley (she would also go on to have many cuts, including multiple Faith Hill hits).

During the 1990s, The Bluebird toured such venues as The Bottom Line in New York City. Such shows are still held outside of Nashville. Bluebird regulars can be seen every summer at Robert Redford‘s Sundance Resort in Utah.

In 1992, a movie script began circulating about a group of young songwriters living in Nashville who worked at and frequented The Bluebird Café. The Bluebird was so central to the plot of the film that Kurland was flown out to Los Angeles as the technical advisor on the film. That film was the Peter Bogdanovich-directed The Thing Called Love, starring River PhoenixSamantha MathisDermot Mulroney and Sandra Bullock. Some scenes were shot on location in Nashville. The Thing Called Love was Phoenix’s last complete film.

Around 2000, a Turner South (cable network, now defunct) program aired, called Live from the Bluebird Café. It featured songwriters performing many well-known original works and spent five years on the air before the Fox buyout of Turner South, when it was canceled.

The Bluebird Café Scrapbook was published in 2002. It is a history of the club, its famous writers, events, and employees, as told by the writers, employees and other witnesses. In 2002 The Bluebird Café received an Academy of Country Music Award for Night Club of the Year.

At 14 years old, young singer-songwriter Taylor Swift was discovered at The Bluebird Café by music executive Scott Borchetta.

The Bluebird Café was acquired by the Nashville Songwriters Association International organization on January 1, 2008, purchasing it from Kurland, who remained as an advisor.

“Bluebird,” a documentary about the club, was released in November 2019.

The Bluebird Café is noted for an unusual etiquette policy: patrons are required to remain silent while artists are performing, only applauding or talking in between songs. Those who violate the rule, inadvertently or not, will always receive a stern “Shhhhh,” usually from other audience members. This is a feature, akin in respects to that of a typical mid-20th century jazz nightspot, distinguishing the establishment from most other musical venues; Kurland got the idea for it while attending similar clubs as a college student in Washington, D.C., where it was also enforced.

The Bluebird Café has also been featured on television in nearly every episode of ABC’s hit drama Nashville.[5]

“Bluebird Cafe” is a track from John Waite‘s 1997 album When You Were Mine.

The Bluebird Cafe is also referenced in “Somewhere North of Nashville” from Bruce Springsteen‘s 2019 album Western Stars.

The Bluebird Cafe is referenced in the Foo Fighters song “Congregation” from the Sonic Highways album. On May 7, 2014, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl performed a surprise hour-long solo set at The Bluebird Cafe to a crowd of approximately 100 people, in support of the release.

The film Thing Called Love, like the album, centred around The Bluebird Café, and told the story of a group of newcomers to the country music scene, played by River Phoenix, Samantha maths, Dermot Mulroney and Sandra Bullock seek love and stardom in the in the setting of the famous Bluebird Café In Nashville.

Miranda Presley is an aspiring singer/songwriter from New York City who loves country music and decides to take her chances in Nashville, where she hopes to become a star. After arriving in Music City after a long bus ride, Miranda makes her way to the Bluebird Cafe, a local watering hole with a reputation as a showcase for new talent. The bar’s owner, Lucy, takes a shine to the plucky newcomer and gives her a job as a waitress. Before long, Miranda has gotten to know a number of other Nashville transplants who are looking to land a gig or sell a song, including sweet and open-hearted Kyle Davidson, moody but talented James Wright, and spunky Linda Lue Linden. As the four friends struggle to find their place in the competitive Nashville music scene, both Kyle and James display a romantic interest in Miranda, but she is drawn to James in spite of his moody temperament. Miranda pursues James, and they end up getting married, but they soon realize marriage takes work. James leaves Miranda behind to make his album, what he always wanted to do, but realizes he left his heart with her. He comes back to the Bluebird Cafe but discovers that Miranda has left town. Miranda returns and sings a new song, before tentatively reuniting with James. Kyle joins them as Linda Lue leaves for New York, and the remaining three discuss writing a song together.

Thing Called Love is a 1993 American comedy-drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Samantha Mathis  (right) as Miranda Presley, a young musician who tries to make it big in NashvilleRiver PhoenixDermot Mulroney and Sandra Bullock also star. While the film involves a love triangle and various complications in Miranda’s route to success, it provides a sweetened glimpse at the lives of aspiring songwriters in Nashville. Its tagline is: “Stand by your dream”.

The film was Phoenix’s final complete screen performance before his death. Bogdanovich called the movie “a little picture with a slightly meandering French quality.”

The Bluebird Café is a 90-seat music club in Nashville, Tennessee that opened in 1982. The club features acoustic music performed by its composers. Some performers are established singer-songwriters, and others perform songs written by other artists. The Bluebird receives over 70,000 visitors annually. The restaurant has been featured as a location on ABC’s drama Nashville.

The cast (below) held particular interest to those of us in the UK who followed the songwriters who came to be a associated with the emergence of the Americana genre.

River Phoenix (left)  as James Wright

Samantha Mathis as Miranda Presley

Dermot Mulroney as Kyle Davidson

Sandra Bullock as Linda Lue Linden

K. T. Oslin as Lucy

Anthony Clark as Billy

Webb Wilder as Ned

Deborah Allen as herself

Jo-El Sonnier as himself

Pam Tillis as herself

Vern Monnett as himself

Kevin Welch as himself

Trisha Yearwood as herself

Carol Grace Anderson as Diner Waitress

Garth Shaw as Diner Patron

Jimmie Dale Gilmore as himself

Katy Moffatt as herself

The film was to have been directed by Brian Gibson but in September 1992 he left the project to make What’s Love Got to Do with It? and was replaced by Peter Bogdanovich.

Bogdanovich says Phoenix Phoenix (right) approached Paramount to appear in the film. ´He was brilliant to work with´, said the director. “There were maybe two days during the 60-day shoot that I felt he wasn’t as together as he was on other days. But one day, it was freezing cold and the other day, he took some kind of cold medicine that didn’t agree with him. That was what I was told. But all the rest of the time, he was great… He was concerned with more than his own role. He was concerned with the overall picture, with the other actors and characters… He would have made a very good director´.

The film focuses on the songwriters rather than the performers. ´It’s a different kind of crowd´, said Bogdanovich. ´More cerebral, less about the glitz´.

The film features cameos from Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis and Kevin Welch. River Phoenix wrote two songs including Lone Star State Of Mine; Dermot Mulroney wrote one, and Sandra Bullock wrote lyrics for the song she performed.

Bogdanovich admitted  the film had some similarities to Fame and Flashdance movies that became ´kind of a genre of its own… We tried to play by the rules of that. {But} we also tried to play against that — we tried to make it different from that kind of movie. We tried to walk a sometimes difficult tightrope´.

Peter Bogdanovich, the Oscar-nominated writer-director of The Last Picture Show whose career, which also included hits like What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, put him on a path toward living up to the example of those like Orson Welles and John Ford he so lionized, sadly died recently.. He was 82.

Bogdanovich passed away shortly after midnight Thursday at his home in Los Angeles, his daughter Antonia Bogdanovich told The Hollywood Reporter.

´Our dearest Peter passed away today from complications of Parkinson’s disease´, the family added in a statement. ´The Bogdanovich/Stratten family wishes to thank everyone for their love and support in this most difficult time´.

Bogdanovich, whose ever-present horn-rimmed glasses and bandanna around his neck imbued him with a professorial air as he recounted the Hollywood lore he relished, catapulted to A-list status with his second film, The Last Picture Show(1971). The black-and-white drama set in a Texas town earned eight Academy Awards nominations — including directing and adapted screenplay (shared with Larry McMurtry) for him — and supporting acting awards for Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson.

´“Bogdanovich, 31, has achieved a tactile sense of time and place´, Stefan Kanfer raved in Time magazine shortly after the movie opened. ´More, he has performed that most difficult of all cinematic feats: he has made ennui fascinating. Together, that is enough to herald him as possibly the most exciting new director in America today´.

´It spoke to a lot of people´,  Bogdanovich himself would say later in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. ´People have told me that it reminds them of their hometown, so I think it has a certain universality to it. Young love, and sex and all that, is pretty universal´.

Bogdanovich also came away from the project with a new love, golden-girl actress Cybill Shepherd, the model who had made her feature debut in the film after he spotted her on the cover of Glamour magazine. That led to the breakup of his marriage to Oscar-nominated production designer and frequent collaborator Polly Platt, with whom he had daughters Antonia and Sashy.

He went on to make two more films with Shepherd: the decorous Henry James adaptation Daisy Miller(1974) and the musical At Long Last Love(1975), which also starred Burt Reynolds gamely singing and dancing to Cole Porter tunes. But both flopped as many in Hollywood — who just a few years earlier had praised him for re-energizing the industry — turned against him. For a lengthy period bestrode the film industry with artistry and integrity. It is a shame the industry proved so fickle. He deserved better.

The Thing Called Love gave UK fans a rare glimpse of a species of American songwriters in their natural habitat, with extras and talking heads in the film including the wonderful Jimmie Dale Gilmore (of Flatlanders fame) and Katy Moffatt, sister of the aforementioned Hugh Moffatt, and soon to be the subject of major feature on these page called The Meeting At Junction 19.

Peter Bogdanovitch

Peter Bogdanovitch may have made greater and more successful films than Thing Called Love, but the film and the soundtrack of that title formed a cornerstone on which stood so many of my song-writing heroes, introducing them to the UK for the first time. I have so many memories of people and places of that period of my life, and I can find them all quite easily, in a file tagged Thing Called Love. For that I will always be grateful to film producer and director Peter Bogdanovitch.

Primary sources for this article include The Hollywood Reporter and various on line sites about The Thing Called Love (both film and cd), Amy Kurland, The Bluebird Café and Peter Bogdanovitch.

In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.

photo NPW This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio 4.

As a published author and poet he was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (where he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

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