Monday, March 17, 2014

He's Still In A V.U. "State Of Mind"

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones at Billy Joel's concert at the Bridgestone Area last Friday night (March 14) here in Nashville. After four decades in show business he still puts on one heck of a performance and he still has a voice as strong as ever.

But as for Joel himself, he was still remembering his last visit to Nashville in March, 2013. And, of course it has a Vanderbilt connection. It happened while he was answering questions from the audience during an appearance at Lankford Auditorium. Then came a question from a student named Michael Pollack and the rest was just magic.....

Joel told his Nashville audience at Bridgestone this time he wasn't taking any audience questions or allowing anyone to join him on-stage. Hey, who wants to be one-upped twice in Music City, right?

But heck I remember the first I ever saw Billy Joel in concert here in Nashville (he also remembers playing the Exit-In a few times back in the day). What I recall was when he was the "warm up" act for Olivia Newton John back in the mid-1970s down at Municipal Auditorium. My, how things have changed! Who evers remembers the warm-up act? But if you've ever seen Billy Joel, you'll never forget it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Hurry Back Lives!

At the corner of Elliston Place and Louise Avenue, it was a Nashville landmark (and a haven for Vanderbilt students while we were on campus during the 1960s and 70s). And it's soon coming back (at least the name) as a part of new bar to be located at the same location.

THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL (March 11) has the scoop.....

This new development strikes a deep, personal chord for me. I worked at the old Hurry Back Market back in the day (thanks to Clark Thomas for the beautiful photo above). I was there every Saturday night for a couple of years while I was in high school (I attended the old Father Ryan just up the street on Elliston Place). I sacked all the beer, ice and groceries I could handle and we even sold the early edition of the SUNDAY TENNESSEAN. It showed up around 7 p.m. on Saturday nights. That was as high tech as we got in those days: the Sunday morning news on Saturday night!

I am also happy to hear they plan to re-install some walk-in freezers. It was my job a couple of times each shift to go back there to make sure the customers (mostly VU students) weren't stuffing their coats and pants pockets with beer, then walk out of the store and "forget" to pay.

Mr. John Rotier of Rotier's Restaurant was one of the Hurry Back owners and he gave me the job (he was a good friend of my Dad's). I am sure he would be pleased to see his old market so well remembered and that the new bar will pay "homage" to the Hurry Back in how the new owners will remodel the old building (which has been all manner of restaurants and even an ice cream parlor in the years since the original Hurry Back closed).

But one thing is for sure. Mr. Rotier was a Budweiser, Falstaff, PBR kind of guy. He wouldn't even recognize the names of the beers this new Hurry Back will sell. But that's how the world has changed (along with Nashville's ever emerging and nationally-acclaimed foodie scene). 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Tradition Continues

Behind a very strong pitching staff, The VandyBoys (otherwise known as the Vanderbilt baseball team) have recorded a strong start to their 2014 season with a 15-2 record so far (as of March 9) and a Number 3 national ranking (USA TODAY). The defending  Southeastern Conference champions have swept all four of their weekend series (against Long Beach State, Stanford, University of Illinois-Chicago and Wofford).

In fact, the Vanderbilt weekend pitchers (usually the aces on any college staff) have allowed just two runs or less in all 12 of their Friday-Sunday games.

But as strong as those pitching performances have been, they still aren't quite a good as a stretch of games for a Commodore staff back when we were on campus in the spring of 1971. Take a look at this recent History Corner article by Bill Traughber posted on the web site. It's nothing short of amazing .....

Building a nationally recognized baseball program under the leadership of the legendary Coach Larry "Smokey" Schmittou, the 1971 Commodores squad was building towards the school's first SEC baseball championship our senior year in 1973, followed by our second conference flag in 1974.

What's perhaps ironic about the "no-hit" accomplishments of the 1971 squad was that the team's best pitcher of that era, Jeff Peeples (who still owns several school records 40 years after he threw his last pitch for the Black & Gold), was not one of the hurlers who pitched a perfecto while in school.

As for this year's Commodore team, the biggest test so far comes this weekend (March 14-16) as the nationally-ranked (8th) LSU Tigers come to Hawkins Field to begin the SEC portion of the regular season. The VandyBoys swept the Tigers in Baton Rouge last season on the way to setting a SEC-record for wins. You can be sure the Boys from the Bayou will be looking for some revenge. Vandy will look to continue a tradition of excellence that current Coach Tim Corbin continues to nuture, Go Dores!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Vanderbilt Research Discovers What's Better Than Mother's Chicken Soup

Let's face it.

Throughout our lives, including while we were together at Vanderbilt over 40 years ago, there were times when we needed that mother's touch (maybe her special chicken soup) to get us over the rough spots in life when we were sick or down. Or maybe we just needed some help to further our growth and development.

Now research from Vanderbilt's Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital has found that kind of maternal support can make all the difference for premature babies beginning in their earliest days of life. And before it's chicken soup, it can be just a mother's voice that can make it happen.

Click the link below to read and see more about this fascinating research.....

On another cold winter's day this is a story that can warm your heart and make you proud you graduated from a University with such a fabulous, world class medical center.

Mom's calling! Soup's on!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


One of the great legacies of Vanderbilt University and its students (and something which began just a few years before we arrived on campus) is the annual IMPACT Symposium. Always attracting a world-class caliber of speakers, usually public  figures coming straight out of the daily news headlines, IMPACT represents the "campus as an open forum" idea first championed by Chancellor Alexander Heard when he arrived at Vanderbilt in the early 1960s. But the key distinction for IMPACT is that, it is, and always has been, a student-run organization and event.

This year IMPACT is 50 years old. Here's a look back at its distinguished history, which is still being written as the 2014 IMPACT Symposium was held this month (March) with another distinguished roster of well-known speakers.....

Particularly in its early years back in the 1960s, IMPACT was no stranger to controversy for its choice of speakers. Here's a more detailed look back at two years in particular (1967 & 1968) when the speaker series made news and stayed in the headlines both before and after any speeches were given.....

The controversy over IMPACT speakers continued when we were at Vanderbilt. Our freshman year in the Spring of 1970, Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington was most unhappy that controversial Chicago 7 lawyer, William Kunstler (above) was set to speak (along with conservative columnist James Kilpatrick). But, as always, despite pressures, the students and Chancellor Heard stood their ground and maintained Vanderbilt as an open forum.

Ironically, while I covered the Kunstler IMPACT speech while working for WRVU, I have more vivid memories of another visit and speech he made at Underwood Auditorium in the spring of 1975. By this time I was working for WLAC-TV, Channel 5. We had our new electronic video cameras that night and it helped give us a scoop.

The latest craze at the time was "pieing" people, i.e., coming up out of nowhere and hitting a speaker in the face or head with a pie (preferably with cream or custard of some sort on the top). Sure enough, that's what happened. Because we had video tape, we were able to "roll" throughout Kunstler's address and captured the entire incident. Because the other TV stations were using more expensive (and limited) film they did not get the pieing except for its aftermath.

Despite the mess, Kunstler took the prank in good spirits, tasting what was left on the top of his head, pronouncing it tasted good, then leaving it there while he finished his address. Not exactly an IMPACT moment, but one of my first scoops as a TV reporter,and one the station later used in a promotional video to tout the advantages of this new style of "electronic news gathering " (or ENG).

Monday, February 24, 2014

When Vanderbilt Sports Went To The Dogs

Everyone knows that Vanderbilt's mascot is Mr. Commodore (see above), even though the present student wearing that costume at home athletic contests looks a bit different (younger) these days.

Believe it or not, there was a time a few years right before we entered the University in the Fall of 1969 and continuing for part of our freshman year, Vanderbilt's official mascot (at least recognized by one major student group) were a couple of basset hounds. It began back in 1964 and involved a on-field confrontation between one of the dogs (owned by a student) and a UT mascot (a Tennessee Walking Horse).

But 44 years ago this month (February, 1970) the bassset hounds were suddenly gone and a story in THE HUSTLER blamed their exit for the slump of the Vanderbilt basketball team which was on its way to posting a losing record for the first time after years of winning at least 20 games each season and being nationally ranked.

Here's the story from  which explains it all...

It took all four years we were in school for the VU basketball program to get back to the 20-win level which we did our senior season (20-6). The very next year (1973-74) Vanderbilt won the SEC and went to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history. Who knew it would take that long to get over "going to the dogs!!??"

Monday, February 17, 2014

Much More Than A Football Facility

You may have heard Vanderbilt has built an new indoor practice facility for its football program.

It's true but the new (and now expanded) Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center is much much more than that.

Take a look at this VUCast video released earlier in February. It's quite impressive to say the least and it's not just for athletes, but all students and even alumni.....

And as to how all this compares to when we were in school 40-plus years ago?

Well, memories fade a bit over time, but there was absolutely nothing even remotely close to any of this in our day. Throwing frisbees on Alumni Lawn? Sneaking into old Wesley Gym (other than games, Memorial Gym was usually off limits to students)? Weight machines? Indoor squash or racquetball? Swimming in old Memorial? Well, maybe sometimes.

Of course a few of us (who worked at  WRVU) played a game similar to handball using the front of Neely Auditorium. But one or two too many broken windows (tennis balls can be hard) made Plant Ops and Vanderbilt Police take a dim view of such activities.

They probably wouldn't have liked Moon Ball either, played with a tennis ball and cafeteria trays from Rand, then utlizing the ability to run down a batted ball before it stopped rolling (on the Honor Code) in the dark, at night....sober.

Yeah right, what were we thinking?


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