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Networking the Nashville Way

March 08, 1992|JIM WASHBURN

Bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs likes watching "Nashville Now." So does singer John Anderson, when he's not watching country stars hunt and fish on "Celebrity Outdoors."

New star Travis Tritt likes to wake up to "Video Morning" and to catch the entertainment news on "Crook & Chase." Country music queen Emmylou Harris tunes in the live music shows "American Music Shop" and "The Texas Connection." Jerry Jeff Walker, host of "Texas Connection," mostly just watches CNN and ESPN, he says.

The rest of the Nashville Network's viewership enjoys everything from the variety "The Statler Bros. Show"--the network's most popular program--to country cooking shows and tractor pulls.

A quick spin through some of TNN's highlights:

"Nashville Now" is the network's flagship, its talk-variety answer to "The Tonight Show," with legendary disc jockey Ralph Emery behind the desk. His co-host is a puppet named Shotgun Red. Along with every country star of consequence, the likes of Robert Duvall and George Bush have also dropped by the program.

"American Music Shop" boasts a house band that includes Nashville session kings Mark O'Connor and Jerry Douglas. Guests from bluegrass pioneer Ralph Stanley to Bo Diddley play live, often in unique, barrier-breaking combinations. As Harris ably described it: "It's one of the best music shows that's ever been, one that brings out the creative possibilities of a live performance.

"The Texas Connection" also presents live music, but with a Texas flavor, according to musician-host Walker. To him that means Lone Star-bred acts, performers who are popular in Texas, and songwriters. "Texans love a good song," he said.

In contrast to the narcissistic sculpted bodies primping through MTV's dance shows, TNN's "Club Dance" offers the latest, and oldest, country dance steps being practiced by real folks, many with real beer-bellies and K mart clothing.

TNN's programming makes a significant shift on the weekends, so don't expect "The Bassmasters" to feature a group of fellows singing real low: It's a fishing program, part of the network's weekend devotion to "all-American sports." That definition includes coverage of NASCAR races, monster truck rallies and rodeos. Then there's "Celebrity Outdoors," a program that joins country stars in their favorite recreations, from the Desert Rose Band's Chris Hillman mountain biking to romantic balladeer Gary Morris quail hunting. (He not only sings like a bird, he shoots 'em too!)

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