'Mighty times' of Dale Franklin echo with friendsFrom: http://www.tennessean.com
By Keel Hunt • August 23, 2009
August is the anniversary of all the summers of music, and it's a good time to remember the late Dale Franklin.
When I met Dale two decades ago, she'd already had a lifetime of experiences in a world of music, from rock to country and more, from California and a thousand concert tours, to landing in Nashville for good. Her name will be called tonight when Leadership Music presents the Dale Franklin Award to Garth Brooks, Jim Foglesong and Allen Reynolds.
This past week, thinking of Dale, I phoned a dozen other friends who recalled her spirit and remarkable life. And I was struck by how many cool things happened over the years in the month of August.
August was the time of Woodstock, 40 years ago. Dale was there — not hanging out, but working as director of lodging and transportation. Then she worked with the Grateful Dead. In the band's online archives, a 1971 photo of the "office staff" shows a young Dale Franklin — self-possessed and cool, smiling as ever, that fabulous head of hair.
She became road manager for the New Riders of the Purple Sage. In August 1975, the band recorded Oh, What a Mighty Time, and Dale was cited in the album liner notes for her work.
It was another August (1986) that I met her though Leadership Nashville. She was Dale Cornelius then and staff director of the Nashville Music Association.
Former Warner Bros. executive Jim Ed Norman, who received the first Dale Franklin Award (then called the Bridge Award) as a founder of Leadership Music, told me: "Dale was absolutely the real deal in the kinds of contributions she made. Her managerial skills made her the logical choice to be the executive director."
Bill Ivey, director of the Curb Center at Vanderbilt and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said organizing Leadership Music required wrangling lots of traditional industry competitors — a task "particularly well-suited to Dale's skills."
A musical goodbye
She died at Christmas in 1994. That autumn, Dale held a wake in her own honor at 328 Performance Hall, surrounded by the music and people who meant the most to her. Steve West remembers she arrived via limousine and had a queen's throne in the middle of the venue. Dale asked Beth Nielsen Chapman, whose husband had recently died of cancer, to sing "The Color of Roses."
"I hadn't performed since my husband's death," Chapman told me, "and I said 'no.' Dale looked at me and said, with a wink, 'You've got to. . . . It's my dying wish.' She sort of pushed me, and I'm glad she did because it kind of got me back up on the horse again."
Weeks before her death, Dale gathered her closest girlfriends to her bedside for final farewells.
"She gave me two of her lamps," said Chapman, one of Nashville's leading songwriters. "They're in my writing room now. I write sitting under one of Dale's lamps. It's my lucky lamp."
Legends never die. The New Riders became legends in country-rock, and in 2006, there was a reunion show in California. Lyricist Robert Hunter was there and later recalled the visitation that night of departed band members:
"How sweet it was," he wrote, "to finally sing with the New Riders of the Purple Sage after nearly 40 years. ... The ghosts of Spencer Dryden, Dave Torbert, Skip Batten and Dale Franklin singing along on the chorus."
Keel Hunt, a public affairs consultant, was president of the Leadership Nashville Alumni Association. E-mail Keel@TSGNashville.com