9 October 2013 | HarlowMGM
The Nashville Network at it's Peak
NASHVILLE NOW was a live variety program airing on the Nashville Network from 1983 to 1992. It was a whopping 90 minutes for the first several years and later cut down to an hour. Veteran radio disc jockey Ralph Emery was the host of the series which was the flagship program of the network. Pretty much every country music star of the past and present appeared on the show several times during it's run, as well as quite a few promising newcomers and people who never quite made it. For many episodes the Muppet-like puppet of a middle-aged, mustached cowboy named Shotgun Red was Emery's co-host (puppeteer Steve Hall supplied the voice and worked the puppet while hidden behind the host desk) and Emery and Shotgun Red enjoyed friendly, occasionally sarcastic banner in the Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy tradition. The episodes usually had four guests who generally got to sing three songs each and there were segments where Emery went into the studio audience to talk with the fans and on-the-air phone calls were taken from TV viewers who asked the guests a question or two. Each of the guests were also interviewed by Emery after their first song performance. Comedy legend Minnie Pearl began appearing weekly in 1985 in a segment titled "Let Minnie Steal Your Joke" in which she would read three viewer submitted jokes and let the audience decide which was the best joke of the week.
The show was amazingly smoothly run for a live program airing five nights a week (with reruns later at night and the following day). Emery was excellent as a host and Steve Hall's Shotgun Red was a huge hit with viewers. After almost a decade on the air, The Nashville Network replaced the program with MUSIC CITY TONIGHT in a near duplicate format but now hosted by Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase and after a few years later the network revamped things again with PRIME TIME COUNTRY hosted by Tom Wopat. NASHVILLE NOW was easily the best of the three series with it's unique audience interaction, the Emery/Shotgun chemistry, and a wider variety of country singers including many veteran performers seldom seen on television in later years. While I doubt many of the episodes are "lost", it seems unlikely they will ever be broadcast again and with so many of the country greats of the past I'm sure many a viewer like myself wish they had videotaped far more episodes for their personal collections than they actually did.