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2015 Bonnaroo Music Festival

JUNE 8-11, 2017

Bonnaroo 2016

Come Early, Stay Late

If you’re lucky enough to have a day to spare before or after Bonnaroo, you ought to spend it knocking around neighbor city Nashville, a mere 60 miles northwest of Manchester. Nashville’s hot shit right now, according to loads of style mags and newspaper trend pieces. And ABC’s night-time soap Nashville has only ratcheted up the buzz. But you don’t need to take some trend-spotter’s word for it—not when you can get the grand tour from a local.

Instead of the same old, same old rundown of all that’s hip, highbrow, historic, or holy in Music City U.S.A., here’s a grab-bag of tips from Marlene Dickson, who calls drag bingo night and sings in a drag gospel trio at Canvas, one of Nashville’s newer gay bars. Be forewarned: she takes just a little creative license with her stories.

—Jewly Hight

Come Early Stay Late - Marlene photo 2

What’s it like at the drag bingo night you host? Why should Bonnaroo attendees come to yours as opposed to, say, one hosted by the Knights of Columbus?

We hold bingo the first and third Monday of each month down at the fellowship hall (Canvas Lounge on Church street). It’s a very low-key, fun evening. We usually just drink and talk a little about the Bible during the games. Sometimes, if we’ve had enough communion, we’ll even sing a hymn or two.

I guess having bingo there at the bar is my way of very subtly trying to introduce the gospel to all those who are lost and deceived. We also have a couple of our church girls (the Holy Rollers) come out and serve communion shots on skates, to help make everyone a little more comfortable.

Do you have any fond memories of visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame or the Ryman Auditorium? How up are you on your country music history?

I do have some very fond memories of the Ryman Auditorium. I remember back when I was much younger, and before I found the Lord, I ushered there at some of the country music shows. I remember Little Jimmy Dickens trying to get at my cookies backstage MANY times. I’m pleased to say he only tasted them twice!

I have also been to the Hall of Fame a few times. I helped lead tours there for the Tammy Wynette exhibit. Tammy and I used to be pretty tight back in the day. Lord, I can’t tell you how many times we prayed and popped pills together! My knowledge of country music history is pretty good, although I do have to admit, there’s some big gaps that seem to coincide with a few of my rehab visits.



Have you ever blessed the Sunday night bluegrass jam at the Station Inn or the Monday night Keep on Movin’ Dance Party at the 5 Spot with your performing gifts?

I have never had the privilege of gracing the stage at these places, but I do believe God can minister anywhere! So, if they’d like to contact the ministry headquarters I’d love to speak with them.




I’m not sure whether or not you’re a fan of sports, but have you ever attended a Nashville Sounds baseball game?

I have only been to one Sounds game. My sisters and I sang the National Anthem there once several years ago. I’m not sure, but I think the fact that we did it topless MIGHT have hurt our chances of going back….we had a little tequila before that one!

There’s a new fiber-optic art installation in the Cheekwood botanical gardens, and a one-of-a-kind recording booth at Jack White’s Third Man Records. Have you had the chance to experience either?

I’m not familiar with Cheekwood—is that a strip club? And concerning Mister Jack White, my lawyers have instructed me to keep quiet on that matter.



Marlene’s Top Five Things To Do in Nashville:

1) Hit up her drag bingo night at Canvas

2) Tour the historic Ryman Auditorium, then sneak across the alley to a Lower Broadway honky-tonk like Robert’s

3) Scour the vinyl bins at Ernest Tubb’s, Third Man, and Grimey’s record shops

4) Get some fresh air at the Cheekwood Light installation

5) Visit the life-size replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park


What’s the first landmark you think of when you think of Nashville?