That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it? But the truth is that, as much as you strive for immortality, as much as you try to leave your mark for posterity’s sake, there will come a time when your name will just be a name with no meaning.
True – and sad. Doubly sad if you’re forgotten while you’re still around. In the new novel “Nashville Chrome” by Rick Bass, you’ll read a story of remembrances and regrets in three-part harmony.
In the evening of her years, Maxine Brown is hungry for what she once had.
Though life was hard growing up in tiny Poplar Creek, Ark., Maxine remembers a good childhood. Someone was always plucking on a guitar in those days, and music was entertainment as well as a way to stay safe: blessed with ears that could detect individual tones, Maxine and her siblings, Jim Ed and Bonnie, walked down the dirt path to their father’s saw mill each day, listening for the sound that told them a saw blade was in need of sharpening.
And the children sang.
Through the years, neighbors told Maxine, Jim Ed, and Bonnie that their voices were better than anything the Opry offered. Barely daring to dream of fame, Maxine tricked Jim Ed into singing in a local talent contest in 1952; two months later, he brought his sisters into his newly-established, regular show. They got a manager. Soon, they were performing from Arkansas to Texas to Oregon to Ohio.
Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and Patsy Cline all came to hear the three-voices-in-one of Jim Ed, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown. Elvis Presley, just a Southern boy then, sat at their table in the woods by Poplar Creek and fell in love with Bonnie. Maxine remembers how The Beatles were their champions overseas. The Browns topped the charts.
But that was then.
Radio stations stopped hyping their records some forty years ago, and Maxine started drinking heavily. Bonnie spurned Elvis (long before he became somebody she barely knew) and married a doctor. Jim Ed fell in love with another singer.
The Browns were over.
But deep in her heart, Maxine thinks there’s still hope, and a chance for a comeback. She warms her voice and waits for the phone to ring…
Never heard of The Browns? I didn’t think I had, either, but I grew up with their music – a surprising fact I discovered by looking online and listening to clips of their amazing performances. But did everything in this novelization really happen?
In his acknowledgements, author Rick Bass admits that “Nashville Chrome” is “an attempt to portray the emotional truths of [The Browns’] journey and its challenges” but is “a work of the imagination” based loosely on three real-life country music singers. Without divulging more, he steers readers to other sources for the facts.
Still, true or otherwise, this lushly beautiful novel will serve to (somewhat) set the record straight and return this country music family to the forefront. And for that, “Nashville Chrome” is unforgettable.