Reception for Marty at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center

"Shooting From the Heart"

If you are a Marty fan.....a photography buff......or merely a Country Music need to get yourself to the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center in Clarksville, Tennessee!! The exhibit is on display through September 30th and features pictures from Marty's book: "pilgrims.......sinners, saints and prophets", plus some that are not in the book. Located at 200 South Second Street, Clarksville proper is approximately an hour's drive from Nashville on I-24 West.

In the heart of Clarksville's Historic District, the Customs House was built in 1898. Once housing the post office, the building is a "must see" for history fans like me! It's absolutely charming! The main purpose for the Customs House, when it was built, was the collection of tobacco taxes. Tobacco was the area's biggest crop at this time. The building was later converted to a Museum in 1984, and was expanded in 1996.

The "Marty Exhibit" was originally scheduled for December of 2000, but due to scheduling conflicts, was moved. Though I was busily preparing for my Mississippi trip, I just knew I had to be there to help support our Marty (getting a Marty hug was icing on the proverbial cake!). I made a phone call to check and see if I could take my camera, and learned that 2,000 invitations had been sent out, and that they had about 300 calls THAT DAY!! I was really glad when they said I was more than welcome to bring my camera along! I decided to shoot black & white.....partly because I had never shot Marty in black & white, and partly because I thought it would fit the occasion, since as most of you know, most of the "Pilgrim...." photographs are also in black & white!

Knowing rush hour traffic all too well, I decided I better leave early, since the reception was scheduled from 6 - 8 P.M.! I arrived in Clarksville at about 5 P.M., and luckily found the place quickly. Upon parking I spotted fellow FC Member, Evie Jo Totty, and was relieved I wouldn't have to stand there all alone! Evie Jo is such a sweetheart, a genuinely nice person. I enjoyed standing there with her, and it sure made the heat easier to bear to have a friend to talk with and share Marty stories. Plus we could "catch up" with each other's lives to boot! While standing there, we discovered that we could go inside and escape the heat and humidity, and sneak an early peek at Marty's exhibit!

The air-conditioning felt delicious!!!!! Inside the door, we found "Shop Marty" filled with FC Merchandise such as ball caps, "Pilgrim" books, mini-standups, Marty shirts, magnets, photos, etc. I secretly hoped that it would ALL sell-out!! We signed the museum guest book and chatted a bit with volunteers and employees of the Customs House. They really seemed grateful to us for coming. We felt truly welcome!

Stepping into the vast exhibit area, you first see the words to "The Pilgrim" on the wall......quite an impressive way to begin your "journey"! Upon turning to the left, you see our Marty's handiwork! Soooo many excellent shots, shots that seem to delve deep into the soul of each "Marty model"! Such talent....there's just no end to what he can do!

Past the photographs, you see some of Marty's personal mementos, a photograph of a 13-year-old picker climbing up on to Lester Flatt's bus.....smiling proudly, mandolin in hand! A red shirt and bolo from his childhood, a look into the future wardrobe of one of Country Music's flashiest dressers!! (Eat your heart out, Porter, hahahaha!!). There was a pair of his trademark boots, and one of his stage jackets. Also a "Marty Fender", and a unique "Pilgrim display" with stuffed crow, hat, and tattered flag. Very interesting!

Caterers were busily adding last-minute touches, including a dolphin ice sculpture. No alcohol would be served, per Marty's request.....such a refreshing idea! ("Thanks, Marty!!") After taking a few pictures, we sat down to await our favorite photographer!

Sherry and Mario arrived around 6 P.M. or so, and the four of us "Marty fans" talked while we waited. The hors d'oeuvres looked tempting, but I really wasn't hungry, so sat that part out! Soon I spotted Marty's assistant, Maria-Elena, so I knew Marty had to be close by! I was right, as you could easily tell he'd arrived when flash bulbs started popping, and you could here whispers announcing his arrival! He looked dashingly handsome in his black suit that hilighted his tan perfectly. His black patent leather boots were so shiny you could see your reflection in them!

Marty strolled around, viewing the exhibit, posing for photos, and chatting with the crowd as they approached him. Close behind were Mom Hilda, Jennifer and Connie. Marty continued, listening intently to each person that came up to him. You can clearly tell he enjoys being around people, a true "people person"! I decided to stand back a bit and talk with Mom, Connie and Jennifer, I'd be able to talk to Marty later when he wasn't so surrounded!

Evie Jo wanted a photograph with Mom, Jennifer and Connie, and handed me her camera. Well, I can handle my SLR, but without my glasses I had some trouble with this point & shoot one! Of course, Jennifer enjoyed my struggle, hahaha!! She also pointed out that she just knew I needed more photographs of Marty, since I only had about 10 million already ("Is that all???!!!!")

Marty, Mom & Connie then went to the front to listen to Kristin Wilkinson and the Wilkinson String Quartet. They are very good, and they provided just the right finishing touch to this classy evening.

Then Marty slowly made his way to a table set up in front of the words to the "Pilgrim", and folks quickly started lining up for a chance to talk to him and get him to autograph their books, Custom House newsletters, Opry picture books, and even guitars! Marty graciously signed for them, smiling and listening to each from child to senior citizen!

Some nibbled on the hors d'oeuvres, admired the photographs, or shopped in the Museum store (I happily eyed the line at "Shop Marty"!!) Jennifer and I fell in love with many, many items in the gift shop, and decided we could possibly be forced to accept items from there with little problem, hahahaha! Got to talk with Jodee for a while, I know she HAD to be tired, as she and Gregg are remodeling their kitchen. Gregg was home working on it as we spoke! I knew he had to be on the bus for Texas with Marty and the guys at midnight, so hoped they'd be able to get some much needed rest before the two shows! But...Jodee stayed till the end! Bless her heart, I knew she had tons of things to do, but she stayed right there with us!! ("Thanks, Jodee, you're a sweetheart and we all love you!!")

Near the end I did get a few seconds with Marty, and we got to giggle a bit. He's just so dear and soooo much fun. I wanted to surprise him in Mississippi, so didn't tell him I'd see him Saturday.

All too soon, it was 8 P.M.! Marty and entourage climbed into their white stretch limo, and sped off into the muggy Clarksville night. The rest of us hugged and said goodnight, and left behind our man!

"Good night, dear safely!!"

Till next time....
Love & Luck!
Shelby Jean

P.S. I'm sure I speak for us all when I express gratitude to the Customs House for choosing our Marty's photographs for their exhibit. Just as we display great taste supporting Marty - they showed their good taste in recognizing his talents!

Photos by Shelby Jean Gootee, Nashville, TN

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