Bruce Feiler,

Bruce Feiler,

A weeklong electronic journal.
June 19 1998 3:30 AM

Bruce Feiler,

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Wednesday; midnight CT; Nashville
       For the second day in a row, I made someone cry at Fan Fair.
       I got up early to start a full day of radio interviews. One thing about book tours, everything happens either early in the morning or late at night. That's especially true with radio. With so many stars in town this week, at least 50 of the 2,500 country radio stations around America (that's a quarter of all radio stations in the country) send their drive-time jocks to town to snag a star for a few minutes of airtime. The stations set up in a few strategic places--the lobby of an old hotel, a local warehouse--and the artists come streaming through to flog their wares--KILT, Young Country, in Houston; Froggy 95 in San Diego; Mason and Dixon in Winston-Salem, N.C. (home of Krispy Kreme).
       After six hours of answering the same questions ("What's the most surprising thing you learned about Garth Brooks?" "That when he's onstage he wears Wranglers that are three sizes too small." "Does Wynonna wear no panties, like Ashley?" "Only when her mother locks her in the bathroom and throws shampoo bottles at her.") I was ready to escape to the fairgrounds.
       One remarkable thing about country fans is how determined they are not to miss the chance to meet someone famous. At 8 this morning at an unmarked building on Music Row, two dozen people were already lined up outside to snare autographs. One man from New York said he's been coming to Fan Fair for 20 years and always waits outside this building on Wednesdays.
       This dedication even extends to people who may be famous in the future. Wandering around the fairgrounds, I noticed a small crowd had gathered at a booth labeled "Black Country Music Association." Two women who didn't even have record contracts were happily signing head shots. As I approached, one of the women handed me a piece of paper explaining that the BCMA was started in response to a November 1996 article in the New York Times that explored why there were no black artists in country music today (or black songwriters, or executives), when blacks had been such a part of country's past. I wrote that article.
       "You're Bruce Feiler!" the woman squealed. She slid back from the table, grabbed her friend, and by the time she turned back to me her eyes had begun to tear up. "You don't know how much you changed my life," she said. "That article convinced me to quit my job and move to Nashville and try to become a country singer. I owe my career to you."
       For a second I, too, nearly joined the chorus of criers. "I'm overwhelmed," I said.
       She perked up. "Do you mind if I take your picture?" she said.
       Moments later, we parted with a hug.

Bruce Feiler has authored four books, including Learning to Bow and Under the Big Top. His most recent, Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes, and the Changing Face of Nashville, was published last month.