Country music fans were surprised this week to learn that one of Nashville’s iconic live music performances, the Midnite Jamboree, has gone dark, albeit temporarily. On March 28th, show organizers posted on its website that it was “canceled until further notice.”
Considered the second-longest running radio show in history (after the nearby Grand Ole Opry), Midnite Jamboree airs on Nashville’s historic WSM Radio at midnight on Saturdays. Once held in downtown Nashville, the multi-act show now is broadcast from the Texas Troubadour Theatre, adjacent to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop near Opryland. Over the years, stars including Marty Stuart, Wanda Jackson and Porter Wagoner have graced the stage (and the airwaves) for the post-Opry radio show, which was founded by Tubb in 1947.
CEO David McCormick says the Jamboree is now scheduled to return May 2nd, just in time for its 68th anniversary the following day. He concedes that the show has never been self-supporting, but declines in record sales have made the disparity more apparent. The program is free to attend but costs approximately $2,000 each week to produce.
An independent group of supporters, including Glenn Douglas Tubb, the nephew of Ernest Tubb, formed the Midnite Jamboree Association last month. The coalition hopes recruit 1,000 members with dues of $75 each to donate to the time-honored radio show.
“For years, the Jamboree has given young performers a chance to perform after the Opry,” says Ken Mosher, a friend of Glenn Douglas Tubb and one of the founders of the Association.
“This is the kind of show that unfolds as the evening progresses,” says singer-songwriter Suzy Bogguss, who has performed on the Jamboree stage many times. “There are not as many opportunities as I think there should be for people to experience that kind of musical melting pot.”
Mosher is enlisting supportive artists including Stuart and Connie Smith (and Bogguss tells Rolling Stone Country she’s on board, too) to perform in as many as three benefit concerts in Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee this summer. But organizers are still considering less expensive, more centrally located venues. That also might help with audience size, as the fact that there are limited activities on a Saturday evening for listeners to do in between the time Opry ends and the midnight start-time for the Jamboree hasn’t helped fill seats.
McCormick plans to shutter the Opryland-area location of the record store chain (a date has not yet been determined), and is open to other locations for the Jamboree, but for now it will stay at the Troubadour. While acknowledging the beauty and acoustics of Troubadour Theatre, Bogguss concedes that moving the show back to downtown Nashville, a hubbub of late-night action, could invigorate it.
No matter the location, supporter Mosher promises one thing: “As long as I am alive, so will be the Jamboree. The Midnite Jamboree Association has been formed to save this historic icon, not to serve as its pallbearers.”