Tim Rushlow Talks 'Special' Impact of Big Band-Style 'Home For the Holidays' Show

Russ Harrington


Tim Rushlow has had quite the varied career. He’s enjoyed hits on the charts with such material as “She Misses Him” and “I Can’t Be Your Friend” (as part of the band Rushlow) and is also well-remembered for his years as the frontman for multi-million selling group Little Texas. But, within Rushlow beats the heart of a crooner. That’s a part of his music that has been there from his earliest musical memories – and it plays a huge part in his current musical direction, which is on full display during his Home For The Holidays show, going on through Christmas at the Nashville Palace in Music City.

“I grew up with my father’s record collection. I remember listening to Gene Autry’s ‘Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer,’ and I have that album still,” Rushlow recalls to Billboard. “I remember listening to the Christmas music of Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, and Bobby Darin. Years later, I thought ‘I have had a good run in country. Little Texas had a good career, and I had a couple of solo hits. It’s been fun, but I want to do what I love to do now.’ So, I recorded a Christmas album with the Nashville Symphony, and it did pretty well. That turned into a PBS special that has been a pledge drive program for them to raise money."

Someone who was paying attention to Rushlow’s new sound was Barrett Hobbs, owner of the Nashville Palace, who asked for a meeting with Rushlow and his manager – agent, Clif Doyal. “He said, ‘We’d love to do something different with you. We’re right across the street from Gaylord Opryland, but when the holidays are here, it’s probably one of our slowest times. We love that Big Band thing. How could we get that here?”

It was an idea that sounded good, but given the Palace’s well-earned reputation as one of the premier Honky-Tonks in Nashville, the two wondered if such a marriage could take place. Doyal was concerned The Palace might not be the right venue – but instead of giving up on it, they worked on how they could make it the right venue.

Needless to say, Hobbs delivered on his deal. For two months, the Palace – the place where Randy Travis got his start as both a performer and a cook – underwent a major transformation. “They got rid of the neon signs and the sawdust, and they put tables and chairs in and made it look like the Copa room at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas from 1965," Rushlow explains. "We’ve got tablecloths and candles, so you get to come in here and go back in time. When we hit the stage, we’re in 1950s tuxes, and I come out in my 60’s suit, and we try to take people back in time to a era when things were simpler. You’re not allowed to bring your baggage here. We want you to come in and forget about your problems, and play some classic music, as well as some Christmas songs, that will make you smile.”

What is it about this music that affects listeners, as well as Rushlow? “I’ve just always found it to be special," he says. "It just felt different to me – in a personal way. These songs always put a lump in my throat, and made me go, ‘Man, this is really great. I’m not sure if I’m gonna smile or cry, but this is really great.’ I looked back at when these songs were written and who wrote them, and I realized that most of the songs from the Great American Songbook all came from guys in the '30s through the '50s from people who wrote songs for a country that was hurting. If you want to go back and look at World War II, this country was in turmoil, and these guys knew their job was to bring hope and joy to a country that needed it. These songs had that. I think there is just magical fairy dust sprinkled on them. To me, bringing those songs back to life with a big band – played the way that they were written – is something special. It’s just not being done today.”

Rushlow has seen the impact that nostalgic sound has on an audience first-hand. “I had a guy come in last night and tell me, ‘I hadn’t cried in thirty years. Your show had me choked up about three or four times.’ I asked him why that was -- he said ‘They are just special.’ That’s the best answer that I would ever want to hear.” 

Rushlow will be playing his holiday show Fridays and Saturdays through December 30 at the Palace, and will also soon be releasing a new album of similar-styled material titled Date Night in 2018. He hasn’t totally forgotten his Country sounds though, as he will be playing shows next year as part of The Frontmen of Country package with Restless Heart’s Larry Stewart and Lonestar’s Richie McDonald.  

Fans can purchase tickets to the show only, or a package that includes dinner prepared with food from Tennessee company Springer Mountain Farms. For more information, visit www.NashvillePalace.com


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