The Midnite Jamboree, a free-admission live concert that is the second-oldest radio show in the U.S. (behind the Grand Ole Opry), may be in trouble. The Ernest Tubb Record Shop's web site has announced that there will be no new shows until March.
This comes on the heels of a recent change in the Midnite Jamboree's broadcasts. Since Ernest Tubb founded the show in 1947, shortly after opening his record store on Broadway near the Ryman Auditorium, the show has aired live immediately following the conclusion of the second Saturday night Opry show. Indeed, some of the great moments in show history involved Marty Robbins playing long after the midnight hour, only to be chided by Ernest once WSM switched over to the store for the live broadcast. However, in October 2010 the Ernest Tubb Record Shop announced a dramatic change: the show would no longer be broadcast live. Furthermore, it would no longer happen at midnight (the time that gave the legendary show its name). Instead, it would be taped at 10 p.m. and aired one week later (not even the same night it was broadcast!) at midnight.
To some degree, the time change is understandable. Admittedly, a lot of the performers who play the Midnite Jamboree are getting older (or are old: I recently saw 83-year-old Charlie Louvin at a taping). A show that lets out at about 2 a.m. (and that's central time, so tack on an hour for people to travel to Nashville from eastern time zone locales to see a show), once the show is finished and the artist finishes autographing and chatting with the fans in the store afterwards, is not the best thing for either the act or the audience (be it older people or the people who have brought children to the show). Additionally, if the crowd is there at 2 in the morning that means that store workers also have to be.
However, this was never an issue until very recently. It follows on the heels of the Opry's Friday night shows being reduced to just one and the Saturday Opry (which has been a two-show night as long as I have been alive) being reduced to just one in the summer (ironically, during the tourist season: in the winter, when fewer people frequent Nashville as a tourist destination, they carry on the two-show tradition).
Add to this time change the never-before-seen cancellation of the Midnite Jamboree for two months and one cannot help but wonder what is going on. Will the Midnite Jamboree survive much longer? It would be tremendously sad to see this long-standing tradition of country music die.
The Midnite Jamboree will resume 10 p.m. tapings in March with "Teddy Bear Song" singer Barbara Fairchild as the host. Here's hoping it's still around next March.