The Art of the Blues: Destruction, Devastation, Creation...ReTune Nashville...After the Flood. by Maureen Elizabeth

Posted on 8/26/2010 by Maureen Elizabeth

Inspiration comes in many forms. But who could imagine inspiration coming from a photo of a flood damaged guitar quietly sitting out at the curb waiting, not to be played, but to be purged.
Sheri O’Neal could imagine. And she could inspire. And she has taken that inspiration and breathed new life into the rusty echoes of flood damaged instruments. From this inspiration Retune Nashville was created.

The Purpose:

To offer relief to uninsured musicians in the industry through the sale of artwork created from these flood damaged musical instruments.

The Process:

Flood damaged music gear is donated to Retune Nashville and passed along to an artist who creates a 3D piece of artwork to be auctioned off for sale. Proceeds from the sale of the artwork will directly benefit uninsured musicians through MusiCares Nashville Flood Relief and the Nashville Flood Relief Fund.

The Struggle:

The music community was devastated as floodwaters ravaged storage facilities, venues and residences that housed musical instruments, tour rigs and other gear. "Today this community is struggling to overcome the huge loss they are now faced with and many have to borrow already scarce gear just to make ends meet." (ReTune Nashville)

An Artist: Nance Cooley

Nance Cooley is an artist who is experiencing both sides of the event. Nance’s husband, musician Bill Cooley, along with many others, lost his equipment which was stored at Soundcheck Nashville when flood waters devastated the facility. Following the flood, volunteers put all the equipment in triage in a warehouse. “It was so bizarre, they were like bloated corpses lying side by side on the warehouse floor,” Nance said, “some of it was literally irreplaceable, like collector’s items. It was heartbreaking to walk through.” Her husband also lost two handmade Galloup guitars which were very special to him. But as devastating as all of that was, they had friends who had lost their entire homes. “It was horrific,” Nance said,” we kept hearing more and more stories about people we cared about who had lost so much.”

Why did you get involved in ReTune Nashville??

As horrific as the loss of the instruments were for us, we were aware of how fortunate we are. Bryan Galloup, when he heard of my husband's loss, gave him another handmade guitar! I feel for the musicians and have a deep sense of loss, yet at the same time I have a perspective of what other people have also lost and as sad as it is, never really lose sight of that. This, to me, was a way to give back, to help someone else.

What pieces do you have to work with?

Guitars, dulcimers, violins, part of a keyboard, it’s incredibly eclectic. Some have tags, some have a back story, some are unrecognizable. I hope to create a 4 part piece.

So you are hoping to bring these instruments to life?

I am in a unique position. This is my husband’s livelihood. He has played with Kathy Mattea for the past 20 years . I know how you cherish things when someone gives something to you. And to see these cherished items collected into pieces is heartbreaking. Yet they are still beautiful - the softness of the wood contrasting with the hardness of the electric pieces. Of course you can’t be an artist and not want to take them apart. Now I have the opportunity to turn them into something – I have the opportunity to regenerate what was lost into something beautiful.

A Musician: Andy Zimmerman

The flood devastated many members of the musical community. Andy Zimmerman, Mike Williams and Christ Mironescu are members of the band “The Running” whose music is described as “a funky mix of rock reggae and blues.” Read Andy’s journal account of the flood as it swept into his girlfriend’s home…

Friday, April 30th 2010
After work, I went straight to sound check at Exit/In (where my band was playing that night). Following sound check, I went home, showered, ate, and returned for the show. We went on around 11:30pm and played until about 1:30am. As we loaded our gear in the back of my 08’ Ford Escape (that I just bought a month ago), someone was telling me that a bad storm was coming through the next day. Taking that advice, we decided to leave the gear loaded and head out for our show in Knoxville early to get ahead of the rain.

Saturday, May 1st 2010
Awoken by my bass player Christ’s phone call around 10:30am, I could already hear the rain outside. Luckily, we did get ahead of the storm and the drive to Knoxville wasn’t that bad. Arriving around 4:30pm EST, we had just enough time to grab something to eat and get to the venue for sound check at 6pm. The show started around 9pm and we went on around 11. After the show, we were all just ready to go home and sleep in our own beds rather than unfamiliar couches (and possibly floors), so we headed out.

Sunday, May 2nd 2010
Arriving in Nashville around 4am, my girlfriend Michelle and I decided to stay at her place because we didn’t want to wake up my roommate. In retrospect, that was one of the worst decisions EVER. As I parked in her driveway, I noticed her backyard had been flooded by Saturday’s storm. Like I said earlier, we hadn’t talked to anyone at this point and had no clue that another round was on its way. For all we knew, we were going to sleep till noon and have a lazy Sunday to rest from the busy weekend.

It was exactly 8:41am when Michelle woke up because of the heat (apparently the AC unit was already under water). I shot straight out of bed to her screaming at me from the kitchen, looking at this:

Trying not to panic, I was thinking I might be able to wade out and save some of the band’s gear. Luckily, I noticed the water level in the garage before I got dressed. When I glanced again right before I headed outside, the water had risen approximately 6 inches in the matter of 5 minutes. I abandoned that plan real quick and switched my focus on getting us to higher ground. The current was rushing straight at the house, so swimming was out of the question (not to mention idiotic). No options left but the roof. By the time we got our important stuff into zip lock bags and stuffed in our pockets, this was the scene in her living room:

By the time I boosted Michelle up on the roof and stacked a pile of patio furniture to get up, it was around 9:15am. Notice the mailbox, lawn mower, and covered boat (top right by the white truck)

We called the authorities and notified them we were stuck on the roof and they pretty much said they would get to us when they could, but thousands of other emergencies took precedence. So there we sat, while someone threw buckets of water on us from close range. ~11:30am: (lawn mower was now in the backyard)

The toughest part of the whole situation was actually watching as the water rose inside my car, submerging our whole band’s gear.

Finally, a couple awesome neighbors came by in their fishing boat and rescued the older couple next door, then came back for us. By the time we jumped off the roof into the boat, the water was only about 3 or 4 feet from the gutters. I slept good that night for sure.
Guess we really are just a “dirty old garage band”

ReTune Nashville announced that the Benefit Concert and Art Auction Event is set for Saturday, October 23, 2010 at Nashville gear storage facility and rehearsal space, Soundcheck.
ReTune Nashville founder Sheri ONeal comments about the importance of using Soundcheck as the venue for the event, “From inception, we wanted to have the event at Soundcheck. It was suggested by musicians, and it's the place where a lot of heart-breaking damage was done. We wanted to turn something negative into something positive for the facility and for the musicians. We couldn’t think of a better place to hold the event.”To date, ReTune Nashville has collected more than 60 damaged instruments from the Nashville floods of May 2010 with more than 50 visual artists committed to bringing them new life.
For more information go to Retune Nashville at

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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