Building A Safe Haven For Country Music's Seniors

When it's time to head for the sunset, C&W singers will have a place to settle down.

When veteran country singer Jan Howard heard about the Country Music Retirement Community, a project supported by some — but not all — Music Row record labels, she thought the idea made good sense.

"I really think the record companies should be involved. They've taken so much from the industry it would be nice if they gave something back," said the Grand Ole Opry star and singer of such classics as "For Loving You" (1967), "If It's All the Same to You" (1969) and "Someday We'll Be Together" (1970).

The project, which is modeled on the Motion Picture and Television Home for retired movie and TV employees in Hollywood, is planned as an apartment-like community exclusively for veterans of the country-music industry.

It's an idea the Country Music Association (CMA) has worked toward for years without taking concrete action until recently.

In early March, SunTrust Bank, which has its largest branch in the state on Nashville's Music Row and is an active participant in industry activities, decided to step in. The bank jump-started the process by donating five acres, worth $300,000, in nearby Spring Hill, Tenn., for a retirement home. Now CMA officials say they will confer to plan the next step.

SunTrust's land grant specifies that construction of the project must begin before the year 2005. The cost of construction has been estimated at $7–10 million.

"I think it's wonderful," said Harold Bradley, president of Local 257 of the American Federation of Musicians, who played guitar on Patsy Cline's immortal "Crazy" and who is said to be the most recorded guitarist in history.

Howard is so excited about the prospects of the new community that she even talks about moving in. "I just wish they'd hurry up," she said. "I just bought a new condo. If they'd hurry up, I just might be their first client."