Granville Automatic Unfurl a Piece of Nashville History with "News of the World" (premiere)

Photo: Holly J Haroz / Courtesy of the Press House

Granville Automatic's new single "News of the World" is a gorgeous slice of Americana that tells the story of showman bartender Ike Johnson.

Through Granville Automatic, Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins blend their love for music and history into a forthcoming concept album. Set to be released on 2 November, Radio Hymns uncovers the haunts lying between the honky-tonks and hootenannies in Nashville. The tunes are a love letter to the dense, oft-forgotten bits of history that pervade Music City, turning evocative real-life stories of affairs, murder, war, and ghosts into songs. It's all-too-fitting that the duo would name their band after a 19th-century typewriter as they delve into a treasure trove of little-known history.

"News of the World" is a gorgeous slice of Americana from Granville Automatic, replete with wistful instrumentation and a soaring chorus. Musically, it goes down easy, with an impassioned vocal performance driving it home. Thematically, it's a deep, captivating ride into the world of a particular Ike Johnson and what came after his death.

Granville Automatic tells PopMatters, "Ike Johnson was the showman bartender at the bar in the basement of the Southern Turf building on Printer's Alley (now Skull's Rainbow Room) in what was then known as the Gentlemen's Quarter. A bachelor, he lived alone on the third floor. He made sure all of the poor boys selling papers had shoes during the cold winter, he carried drunkards to a bed, he literally 'held the curtains' for Congressmen while prostitutes serviced them, and he kept many secrets for Belle Meade businessmen who gambled away thousands of dollars.

"Just before Prohibition, the building was purchased by the Nashville Banner newspaper. Ike was asked to leave. The paper's editor visited him late one night in February 1916, the day before the paper was to move in. Ike said, 'This life I've led, it's not one to be remembered.' He was found in his apartment the next morning, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The paper ran a beautiful full-page obituary that week, despite Ike's wishes to disappear into anonymity. Highballs and cocktails would not be officially legal in Nashville again until 1967."

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