On Monday, fans of of the 68-year-old radio show The Midnite Jamboree were disappointed to learn that the radio program broadcast Saturday nights at midnight on WSM had been suspended due to financial concerns, and was in jeopardy of going away. The owner of the Midnite Jamboree and the Ernest Tubb Record Shops in Nashville named David McCormick could no longer support the show’s production. Among other expenses, the rent that had to be paid for the Texas Troubadour Theatre where the Jamboree is held was cited as one of the reasons the costs were too prohibitive to continue the show.
The property on Music Valley Drive near the Grand Ole Opry where the Texas Troubadour Theatre and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop #2 are located is owned by the Rudy family. T. Clark Miller, who has managed the property for the last 10 years and is also the President of the Music Valley Merchants Association reached out to Saving Country Music to clarify that they do not want to Midnite Jamboree to move, and have offered the show free rent for the last year to help keep the radio show going.
“The landlord’s fully support The Midnite Jamboree happening and staying in that area,” says T. Clark Miller. “We’ve done all we can to help Mr. McCormick out, and have gone as far as free rent for the Midnite Jamboree for the past year. A year ago, Mr. McCormick came to us and told us he couldn’t manage the theater and pay the rent for that space anymore. So I said that I would take over management, and we kept the current shows that are in there. We told David he could do the Midnite Jamboree there for no charge, because we believed that event needed to stay because of its history, and its impact on the area. From the landlord’s perspective, we’ve done everything we could to keep the Midnite Jamboree, and to make it cost effective. We even pay the utilities. We can’t do anything more than give it away, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Though some reports have the Midnite Jamboree attempting to relocate to Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville where the jamboree was staged originally at the original Ernest Tubb Record Shop, T. Clark Miller explains the theater is not going anywhere.
“Every week we have the ‘Tribute to the King’ Elvis show, we have the ‘Cowboy Church’ every Sunday morning with Harry Yates and Joanne Cash Yates which is Johnny Cash’s sister, and we have other events that happen there from time to time. It rents to events on a per case basis. We’ve had a very good past year for rentals and shows.”
There were also reports that the Ernest Tubb Record Shop #2 adjacent to the Texas Troubadour Theatre had shut down, but according to the landlord, they have received no notice of such action, and the location currently remains open. The free rent extended to David McCormick was for use of the Texas Troubadour Theatre, and did not include the record shop. “The shop is open now,” said Peggy, who answered the phone when Saving Country Music called Tuesday afternoon, and again on Wednesday. “I’m not sure what David [McCormick’s] plans are. You will have to talk to him.”
Saving Country Music has attempted to reach owner David McCormick, and has been told by numerous sources that he is “ungetaholdable.” Subsequently David McCormick did reach out to Saving Country Music via email with a simple “NO COMMENT.”
“I do think it’s tough for him. I do think that record sales have slid,” says T. Clark Miller. “That’s kind of obvious. I do think that classic country is tougher to market these days. That theater was built beside the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, from what I understand from the previous owners, to house the Midnite Jamboree. They had an opportunity to have it out there, and it would be near the Opry again. The green Ernest Tubb bus that’s in the record shop? That strip mall and that building were built around that bus being there when it was built in 1995. The building is literally built around it. They framed it in, and finished the interior of the building. The Texas Troubadour trademark as far as I know is owned by David McCormick. But that theater is not going anywhere, and does good revenue without the Midnite Jamboree happening there.”
The specific issue that appears to have taken the Midnite Jamboree off the air is not the rent at the Texas Troubadour Theatre, but the fees owed to radio station WSM-AM to broadcast the show every Saturday night. According to numerous sources, those fees are delinquent, and the radio station pulled any new broadcasts until they are paid. Saving Country Music has made multiple attempts to contact WSM, and calls have not been returned.
An organization called the Midnite Jamboree Association has been set up to help support The Midnite Jamboree, and is seeking donations to help restore the radio show. Saving Country Music reached out the Association’s founder, Ken Mosher.
“The Midnite Jamboree was all supported by David [McCormick] out of the record shop, but records aren’t selling like they used to and he was paying out of his own savings,” says Mosher. There are costs beyond the rental of the space, including paying artists scale and the WSM broadcasting fees. “We’re a little over a month old is all. The dues will go to keeping the Jamboree and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop open.”
As for moving the Midnite Jamboree, Ken Mosher says, “There of course is that possibility. We’re going to have to get together and look at our options, but the option of moving is one. Downsizing the record shops is another option. That part is really up in the air right now. But we will definitely be putting the Midnight Jamboree back on the air. We are also going to be involved in diversifying the record shop.”
The Midnite Jamboree was started in 1947 by Ernest Tubb as an unofficial afterparty to the Grand Ole Opry’s Saturday night shows. It has always been a free show, supported by the record sales made when patrons flocked to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop to take part in the presentation.