Nashville’s 45 RMP Celebrates Classic Country With Live Shows & A New CD

Nashville’s 45 RMP Celebrates Classic Country With Live Shows & A New CD

Members of 45 RPM are Nashville-based musicians, songwriters and producers who have been in the industry for years. They have toured with some of the biggest names in country music and played sessions for many hits and albums. Two are established songwriters and one had a record deal. They’re all heavily involved in a variety of other projects, but once a month they take time out to take the stage together at Nashville’s legendary Station Inn.

They do it for the music itself.

45 RPM pays homage to classic country, those beloved, timeless songs that came off Nashville’s Music Row in the ’60s and ’70s. Songs produced by the legendary Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins, featuring the soulful tones of steel guitar and fiddle, and written by songwriting greats like Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard, Fred Rose and more.

Acclaimed steel guitarist Mike Johnson is arranging much of their music and producing their newly released CD. It includes favorites like Deep Water, Make the World Go Away, Another Bridge to Burn, and more.

Johnson, who currently tours with Reba McEntire and has recorded with Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean, is a four-time ACM Steel Guitarist of the Year, having been making music professionally since moving to Nashville in 1976. He and a couple of other musicians formed 45 RPM after listening to old classics at a sound check one day. They loved it so much that they decided to start a band just to play the music. He says these old songs have so much heart and soul.

“I love the stuff we grew up with. I was raised to learn technique and play, but if you don’t play with your heart and soul, it’s just noise. And the players on those old records played with so much passion. You can feel it.”

In every live show, they strive to honor those old records. They have a number of fans who regularly pack their monthly shows – people who love and appreciate that “real country” sound.

Guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Melton, who is currently touring with Jamey Johnson, is the frontman of 45 RPM.

He opens each show by saying, “We play country music the way it was before it became the way it is.”

There’s always a big laugh. Melton explains what he means.

“I think a lot of people, from us in the band and our fans who show up regularly, prefer country music from the time we grew up. I think everyone likes what they grew up with and we think ours is the best. It’s an art form.”

You found the perfect place to play this kind of music. The Station Inn has been around for almost 50 years and is best known for bluegrass. Famous pickers from Bill Monroe to Ricky Skaggs, The Whites and many others have performed there over the years. It’s remained unchanged inside and out since it opened in 1974, though the Gulch neighborhood that surrounds it has added high-rise buildings, hotels, and restaurants in every direction.

“I first played with a bluegrass band at the Station Inn in the late ’80s,” Melton recalls, “and when you walk in now it’s the same vibe. It’s a great place with a lot of history and looks like so many of the places we used to play. It’s kind of stuck in that era, in a good way.”

45-rpm singer and guitarist Joannie Keller Johnson says it’s all part of the Station Inn’s charm.

“They don’t take reservations, you line up outside for the show and pay cash for tickets, so they kept it old school. And we play old school music that fits the concept. That’s why it gels so well.”

It’s also known as the kind of place where musicians watch other musicians. That’s true whether the Station Inn offers its regular bluegrass or, in the case of 45 RMP, classic country.

“Every night there’s a table full of steel players sitting in front of Mike Johnson,” says Melton. “He’s the best of the best and there’s always five or six steel players coming to hear him play.”

Johnson, who is very humble about it, says the Station Inn has typically attracted great musicians.

“This place has always been like this, especially with bluegrass. You mention some incredible players. Some of the best players in the world play there, young kids or older players, they are just amazing. So, yeah, I think that even crosses over into our thing. We have fiddle players who come to see Joe Spivey and piano players who come to see Dirk Johnson and the steel players thing,” Johnson breaks off here, laughs and then adds: “Yes, there are many Steel player out criticize me.”

Their shows not only attract fellow musicians, but country artists as well. Those who have surfaced include Martina McBride, Rhonda Vincent, Joe Nichols, Mo Pitney, and more. Some come to listen to the music, others get up to sing. The late Daryle Singletary often sang at 45 RPM. He was a good friend and very popular with the band.

“Daryle came down maybe once every two or three months,” says Johnson. “He and Rhonda were two who really supported us the most. These are two of the greatest singers ever put on this earth. Darryl was truly special and we miss him.”

Vincent is still a regular performer and the crowd loves her taking the stage.

45 RPM has been playing for so long that they have developed a strong and devoted following.

“And the funny thing is, they’re not all local,” says Melton. “There are people who come from Illinois, Kentucky and Eastern Tennessee. People driving hundreds of miles to get to this show and queuing for two hours. It is wonderful.”

They come not only for the music, but for the traditional, respectful and professional way it is played.

“Someone once told me they were looking at clips that one of us had posted on Facebook,” Melton recalls, “and they said the steel player doesn’t play there, the fiddle player doesn’t play there, and they should they also. No they are not. Knowing when NOT to play is the secret of country music, it’s the secret of all music. It’s about knowing when to leave space for the song to tell the story, and then when you play, you make it count.”

Because the love for old music was so strong, 45 RPM decided to document what they do and make a CD reminiscent of the old records that used to come out of Nashville. Johnson, who has an extensive background as a music producer, put it together.

In fact, Keller-Johnson, a Nebraska native who grew up in her father’s country band, met Johnson years ago after landing a record deal with Broken Bow Records. He produced their first album and the two later married. As she launched her career and released her debut album in 2000, she kept hearing people in the industry say her voice was “too country” for radio.

“Yeah, I always heard that,” she recalls. “And when I got into it, the girl thing really took off at that point. Also, Broken Bow was just starting out and I was the second person they signed so they were still learning.”

She sings two country classics on the new 45 RPM record.

“There are so many songs and artists that I love, but sometimes you just find a song that feels like you can make it your own and it resonates with you. So I did Here Comes My Baby and Make the World Go Away. And Mike kind of put his own arrangement on it.”

Also on the 10-track CD, Melton sings “Deep Water”, violinist Joe Spivey sings “South’s Gonna Do It Again”, bassist Mark Johnson sings “Night Life”, drummer Brent Rader sings “Drinking Champagne” and more.

It was an affair of the heart for everyone involved.

“We’re paying tribute to those old records,” Johnson says. “We want people to know that we heard the record and not just the song. Then we take it and make it a little bit more of what we do. I think it’s a good balance. People who know these songs won’t be mad that we came in and changed them all, but it will be enough where it’s interesting. And hopefully they will enjoy it.”

They sell the CDs through Johnson’s website, but over time some of these songs may be available to stream.

In the meantime, her next live show is scheduled for Tuesday January 17thth at 8 p.m. Every band member is already looking forward to it.

“I love playing this music so much,” says Melton, “I missed other gigs and flew back to town just to do a 45 RPM show. I won’t miss it.”

And as always, they will play to a full house.

To purchase a CD, click on the link below.

Mike Johnson ProductionsMike Johnson Productions

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