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Music City Roots Leaders Resign from Roots Barn Partnership

A long-planned partnership between the Roots Barn venue development in Madison and radio/television show Music City Roots dissolved last week, and MCR producers and staff have departed the holding company.

Note: Author Craig Havighurst is an interested party in this story as a founding co-host and senior producer of Music City Roots. This account is meant to consolidate news that has been made public on this breaking story. WMOT has been a long-running partner with the show as well and will be adjusting to the different future these developments suggest for 2022 and beyond.

A statement released in the early hours of Monday says, “Music City Roots creator, executive producer and founding member John Walker announced his resignation today from both the show and the pending Roots Barn project at Madison Station, citing fundamental creative differences.”

Fred Kennedy of The Roots Barn said, “This is a very amicable transition. We’re grateful for John’s passion, perseverance and leadership that brought us to this point.”

Walker’s announcement by tweet was followed by a post from Nancy VanReece, the Metro Councilwoman who was instrumental in securing the land in Madison for the barn to be built. She became a vice president in the new Roots Productions company, but she explained in her post that she has resigned.

“I am heartbroken that the show Music City Roots, at least how we have known it...will not continue,” she wrote on a blog post linked here. “There is a beautiful music and events venue currently under construction on Madison Station Blvd. For the benefit of all of us, I can only hope that any new vision will be communicated promptly by the owners.”

The longstanding hosts and crew of Music City Roots released the following consolidated statement to WMOT:

“We are mystified and heart-broken to report that the investors behind the new Roots Barn in Madison TN have withdrawn their support from Music City Roots as we have known it. MCR co-founder and executive producer John Walker resigned on Nov. 11, citing “creative differences.” The rest of our team was terminated or resigned on Nov. 12.

Between 2009 and 2018, MCR produced 44 shows a year at the Loveless Cafe and the Factory in Franklin. We sought to be curators for roots music and good global ambassadors for Nashville. We brought old school broadcasting values and a taste of Nashville history to a modern, multi-media distribution system that included a rich partnership with WMOT and MTSU, as well as webcasting, syndicated radio, a podcast, a successful YouTube channel, and five seasons on the American Public Television network. We developed productive sponsorships, thematic shows, and a network of mutual benefit among bands, brands, and fans. We made community and family. To all those who ever played our stage, helped our operations, volunteered, partnered with us, bought merch and otherwise supported the show, we extend our most profound thanks.

We don’t know whether the owners of the Barn intend to produce a show called “Music City Roots.” While they can legally do so, it would not include any of the producers, hosts or history of the MCR we built and love.

As for John Walker, we salute his tenacity, his loyalty, his imagination and his high standards as he’s led us and kept our dream alive. He managed this entire process in good faith. We pray his vision and passion for great music and culture-making can find a rewarding outlet in the future.”

We will update this story as new information becomes available.

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org