Nashville Digs Out From One-Two Punch of Tornado and Coronavirus

the Basement East
Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Damage to the Basement East music venue near the Five Points area is seen on March 5, 2020 in Nashville.

The country music business took it on the chin at home and on the road over the last week as the genre's home base suffered a devastating tornado on March 3 and the coronavirus outbreak caused cancellations in other markets.

The tornado destroyed numerous private planes at the John C. Tune Airport; decimated Donelson Christian Academy, where Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott attended school; and hit a Kroger grocery store that numerous road bands use to board their tour buses. Dierks Bentley rolled up his sleeves and pitched in to help clear the wreckage at the home of his drummer, Steve Misamore, as several sections of the city and its suburbs — particularly East Nashville, the Donelson/Hermitage area and Mt. Juliet — took on the most damage.

Even as the city reeled from that first jab, the spreading coronavirus began to encroach on the country industry. Old Dominion canceled a U.K. tour, and the Nashville Songwriters Association International postponed its annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival March 24-28. That rescheduling occurred as airline and cruise line bookings are slumping, Austin's South by Southwest Conference was canceled, and numerous entertainment stocks dropped dramatically to their lowest levels in a year.

Nashville reacted quickly with a series of tornado-relief events and donations. WSMV-TV and CMT pulled together a three-hour telethon on March 5 with Cassadee Pope, Blanco Brown, Devin Dawson, Travis Denning and Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood helping out by answering phones and chatting on camera. The telethon raised more than $387,000, with Kid Rock donating $50,000 and Big Machine Label Group chipping in $100,000.

Apart from the TV show, Taylor Swift donated $1 millionChris Young shelled-out $50,000, and Dan + Shay gave $100,000. The Dan + Shay gift was timely; it was given the same week the duo launched its first arena-headlining tour with two concerts at Bridgestone Arena.

Two competing benefits were set for March 9: a Marathon Music Works concert featuring Ashley McBryde, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Brothers Osborne and Sheryl Crow, among others, and a Whiskey Row bill that includes Mitchell Tenpenny, HARDY, Adam Doleac and Jessie James Decker. Other events this week include:

Mark Wills will assist ORCA as the company delivers cooler care packages on March 10.

Buddy Miller, Mary Gauthier, Sierra Hull, Vanessa Carlton and Rob Ickes are part of a bulging lineup that will perform March 10 at City Winery for an emergency response fund.

Ray Stevens is donating the proceeds from the March 12 opening of the new concert season at his CabaRay theater.

• The Country Music Association/SESAC office is providing a dropoff spot for supplies from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through March 13.

• Gibson Guitars is working to replace lost instruments for affected musicians.

• The Academy of Country Music extended the voting deadline for its awards to 7 p.m. CT on March 11.

Additionally, two organizations are selling T-shirts to aid the recovery. Soundstripe has a More Than Music shirt available here, and I Believe in Nashville shirts can be purchased here. The latter design mirrors a logo that has become a symbol for the tragedy. Much of Basement East was torn apart, but a wall was left intact with that inspirational message: "I believe in Nashville."

This article first appeared in the weekly Billboard Country Update newsletter. Click here to subscribe for free.