US Census data reveals that, for the 12-month period ending July 1, 2016, Nashville was growing at a rate of 100 people a day. It’s a nearly unbelievable statistic until you meet a few people, hang a little bit, and realize that the town is, indeed, made of transplants, that very few people are actually from here. We call them unicorns, the ones who are — the homegrown, Middle Tennessee born-and-breds who didn’t just show up one day with with starry eyes, a tattered backpack, and an acoustic guitar. The others, like me, neither native nor naive, remain nameless.
I had no intentions of moving here, no singer-songwriter fantasies or visions of stardom. Kansas City was my home, and my love for my city and commitment to its growth ran/runs deep. I’d left only once for an extended period — to study sport management at Georgia Southern University — and had been back but a few years when I met my husband, the person who’d eventually draw me back down south.
We were both working on the Vine then. I was in the marketing department at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and he had founded a band, called Vibe, that played happy hour in the American Jazz Museum’s Blue Room. Back then, my future husband and I spent our days and many nights there, in the heart of Kansas City’s Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, in the same place that a pre-pubescent Michael Jackson sang about when he said he was “going to Kansas City.”
From nine am to six pm, before I made it to Happy Hour but after I’d given a couple tours or written a few press releases, I had the pleasure of escorting John “Buck” O’Neil, the museum’s chairman, around town. Buck was a former Negro League player with a magnetic personality who, in 1962, became the first black coach in the Majors, courtesy of the Chicago Cubs. He was 92 when we met — me, the wet-behind-the-ears twentysomething; him, the spry, nonagenarian with amazing mental clarity and a tendency to choose stairs over the elevator.
Buck relished in the telling of stories, and as a lifetime baseball fan, I soaked in his tales of barnstorming with the Satchel Paige All-Stars and playing in the Negro World Series like the parched earth welcomes new rain. Still, it was his stories about the old 18th and Vine…