Forty-five years ago this summer, Rodney Crowell moved to Nashville for the first time. While his initial tenure in MusicCity lasted just two years, it laid the groundwork for a lifetime of memorable experiences populated with many fellow tunesmiths who would become close friends. Crowell’s black-and-white video for the just-released “Nashville 1972″ features vintage photographs from that era, as the sweet ballad name-checks the familiar (Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Harlan Howard), the underappreciated (Richard Dobson) and an assortment of other vividly sketched characters.
Throughout the clip, Crowell walks the streets of today’s bustling downtown, where myriad construction cranes tower over historic landmarks including the Ryman Auditorium and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. As he busks on lower Broadway, recalling the “old-school Nashville” of songwriters Tom T. Hall and Bob McDill, he recalls his 22-year-old self, meeting and playing a song for Willie Nelson at a party. “There was hippies and reefer and God knows what-all, I was drinkin’ pretty hard,” he sings.
“I was going to Nashville when I was two years old. It wasn’t conscious but the seed was planted,” Crowell told fellow songwriter Marshall Chapman in They Came to Nashville, her illuminating 2010 book on songwriters. It would be another two decades before the Houston-born Crowell would officially arrive in Music City, in August 1972, in a baby blue 1965 Chevy Impala, with fellow musician Donivan Cowart at the wheel. Crowell worked as a restaurant dishwasher and busboy, and played local clubs, mingling with fellow songwriters, including Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.
While he left for Toronto in 1974, where he met Emmylou Harris, joined her Hot Band and then moved to Los Angeles, Crowell eventually returned to Nashville in 1981. He has since recorded more than a dozen albums, including a pair of duet LPs with Harris. “Nashville 1972″ is featured on the upcoming Close Ties, his New West Records follow-up to 2014’s Tarpaper Sky. Close Ties will be released March 31st and is available for pre-order.