You could not know around one the Nashville’s most renowned exports, but rural America sure does

Friday, July 5, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 27By Tom lumber

Tourists flock come Nashville come visit the Ryman, check out the country Music room of Fame, go to the Opry, and also increasingly, look for out the “Diner.’’

“From the time we started, people would come to Nashville and ask the Gray Line tourism operators to take them to the Diner,” says Larry Black, the Bellevue entrepreneur and creator the the cable tv show, “Larry’s nation Diner.’’

“They said they didn’t understand where the was, that it didn’t exist,’’ that explains. “And the doesn’t. It’s a tv show. It’s a set at a studio.”

Now in its fourth season, the success that the “Diner’’ has spawned a live stage display at the Starlite Theatre in Branson, Mo., and Caribbean and also Alaskan cruises filled with the quirky personalities from the weekly hour-long improvisational tv show.

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Up next: a real diner in Bellevue based upon the show.

The TV show has that is broadcast house on RFD-TV, the linchpin of the landscape Media team television network based in Omaha, Neb. But its production facilities are in ~ NorthStar Studios turn off Dickerson Pike.

Other properties incorporate Rural TV, FamilyNet, RFD-TV The Magazine and also the RFD-TV Theatre in Branson, Mo.

The three cable channels reach a linked 62.5 million households. “Larry’s country Diner,’’ is just one of the most famous shows on RFD, through an mean audience of 1.4 million monthly.

Country reality TV

The setting for the TV show is just what the surname implies, one old-fashioned country diner where nation music legends and current stars just happen to drop by to song a few songs, chat through a friend, mingle and also mill around.

Food is served, tall tales are told and also sometimes-corn-pone, sometimes-edgy feeling abounds.

It is just the form of familiar gathering ar that appeals come the sensibilities the rural-minded Americans, no matter what part of the USA they speak to home.


Larry Black, proprietor of “Larry’s country Diner,” gets an earful indigenous Nadine, one of many characters who have actually earned a warmth spot in the hearts of viewers.

-- Lyle tombs | Nashville Ledger

“Larry black color is the finest thing that’s taken place to nation music in 30 years. He’s keeping nation music alive, and that’s what it’s all about,” states Grand Ole Opry star and Hall the Famer Jean Shepard.

“It’s not all the new stuff prefer they have actually around. It’s the past, almost, the timeless music, and I’m proud that Larry.”

And so is Jimmy Fortune, now a solo artist since the legend Statler Brothers retired in 2002.

The show, that says, “has done much more for the older musicians than any type of other display in a long, long time. It provides us an outlet and also it’s restored a most careers.’’

“It’s been favor a household reunion with a homey atmosphere,’’ happiness adds. “They’re offer food if we’re singing and, while the tape’s running, it’s real. So numerous things ~ above TV bill themselves as reality TV as soon as they room not. But “Larry’s country Diner,’’ is fact TV, ns promise friend that.”

‘Biscuits by springtime’

So, if tourists are hunting for the mythical diner, then perhaps one need to exist.

“If castle stumble throughout (the show), and it’s fun, they stay. And also they come earlier the next week. And also because that that, we realized that a physical diner would more than likely work in Nashville,” states Black, 69, a former disc jockey in ~ WSM and also movie/television actor.

Black is still increasing funds, however spent $1.2 million because that a 1.3-acre parcel simply off federal government 40 at the Bellevue exit (196) throughout from Shoney’s. The present structure has been take it down, and architectural plans because that a 140-seat facility have actually been drawn. Over there is a billboard touting the residential or commercial property as the diner’s future home, however a building and construction date has not to be set, although there is a target date.

“Here is my optimistic expectation, the we will break soil this fall,” describes William Bass, the chef financial officer the Black’s Gabriel Communications. “And relying on how the winter goes, the will probably be about a nine-month construction project. That’s for phase one. So I’m hoping we’re marketing biscuits in the springtime.”

Renae Johnson, the vice-president the operations at Gabriel communications – but better known come the show’s faithful as the white-haired, Renae the Waitress – can’t wait for groundbreaking.


The Jeff and Sheri Easter band, with child Madison on the guitar, daughter Morgan singing and Landan smith on drums, perform during a recent taping in ~ NorthStar Studios turn off Dickerson Road.

-- Lyle graves | Nashville Ledger

“Instead that shovels, we’re going come be out there v a huge fork and spoon. It’s gonna be great,” she says.

“We’re excited around the possibility of being able to develop the thing. Ns think the will come to be a destination point,” claims Black, who in December 2012 was called an Ambassador good Will for Tennessee.

“In ours blue-skies technique to things, we also have a vision to have a power venue the end here. I’d take it the old country folk who are legends, who space basically sitting about on but on the weekend doing nothing, and give lock an possibility to come out and play because that folks. I think that would certainly be a great attraction.”

Longtime restaurateur Charlie McCabe, who right now operates the PaSgetti’s restaurant in Bellevue and whose household owned the Loveless Café till 2003, will be the meat-and-three’s manager.

A ‘talk show’ in a diner

It might not look or feel like one, yet in its simplest form, “Larry’s nation Diner’’ is a speak show. Black had actually been producing the “Country’s family Reunion Roadshow,’’ videos since 1997 and decided he’d prefer to try a talk show when friend Ralph Emery chose to end his interview show on RFD.

“So I saw that there was an opening, and also I’d constantly wanted to execute an interview show,” black color says. “When i was top top in the mornings top top WSM, the was fun. I always enjoyed talk to people and also learning about them.

“But ns hated the thought of act a couch point behind a desk, fireplace sit in the background, sit in easy chairs, all the conventional talk present kinds that things. I simply didn’t like that.

“So ns conceptualized, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it it is in nice if there to be this small Podunksville diner someplace, grounding in anywhere USA, and also the regional cable firm needed programming at having lunch time. So they would simply send the camera crew in, and also they’d just film human being having lunch.

“And it was interesting that this specific town had actually a sheriff who was a world-class etc player. And he’s shows up every day because that lunch. And if a star reduce by, i m sorry they constantly did, then he’d obtain his etc out that the patrol car and play v them.

“And the camera’s over there … shoot them.”

Drew Carey chimes in

“All of that is unscripted,’’ says Black. “I have no idea what Nadine’s going to do when she’s the end there. And she’s out there five to seven minutes, and I have actually no idea what she’s going to say.

“Sometimes Keith will perform a fun fact, periodically we will execute something from the mailbag, a letter, however the remainder of the time we’re just flying by the chair of our pants. And that renders it fun. That’s what ns enjoy.


The feeling on the collection before and during taping is basically the same, unscripted banter between cast members, and the audience enjoy it pie and also iced tea.

-- Lyle tombs | Nashville Ledger

“Jimmy Carter, who does entertainment report (for WSMV), came and also planned to stay 5 or 10 minutes. That said, ‘I remained for the whole thing because I didn’t understand what to be going to happen next.’ He said it just had actually that kind of freshness, wherein you couldn’t figure out wherein it was going and didn’t want to miss anything, so girlfriend stayed.”

And it’s no just regular folks who are tuning in.

“The most interesting social tweet we’ve had was from drew Carey, the host of “The Price is Right.’’ drew Carey tweeted one night, ‘I’m city hall “Larry’s nation Diner,’’ and trying to figure it out.’ and also I go, ‘That’s cool.’ friend never understand who’s watching.

“Ray and Linda Davis, who very own the Texas Rangers, it’s she favorite show on television. I’m going, ‘who knew?’ as soon as you placed something out on the cable or the airwaves, you don’t have a clue that is watching. You have actually no regulate over who is watching.”

Pay the freight, purchase the time

Black claims the display is not a money-maker. Advertising has continued to grow, but the display is financially underwritten by Black’s videos.

“I didn’t know how long it would last. I simply wanted to do it, not understanding if it would certainly take off,” he says. “From a jae won standpoint, it to be risky in ~ best. The was prefer going right into a casino and also putting all her money on the 11 and hoping it’s going come hit, because then it payment 35 to one.

“It was risky. The ‘Diner’ itself has never made any type of money together a TV show. But it has been attributed with maintaining some of the careers alive of part really fine artists. Ns mean, Gene Watson will tell girlfriend he gets more comments when he’s the end doing concerts about “Country Reunions,’’ and also “Larry’s nation Diner.’’

Unlike the nationwide networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, which pay for shows to it is in produced, wait time is commonly bought by the producers on cable networks like RFD.

“It’s interesting. When you speak to people, the first thing they desire to know is just how you gain on RFD if you’re a nation person. And also I tell them you have to have a good, strong budget,” black explains. “You deserve to be on tv if you desire to it is in on television, if you’re willing to salary the freight. We’ve constantly had come buy television time.

“We pay a comprehensive amount that money to air the currently that’s various than typical television. On typical television, they salary you to be on television and also they offer the declaring time.”

Black claims the yearly budget because that “Diner,’’ is around $700,000.

Help construct Larry’s country Diner

Fans that Larry’s country Diner television show can to buy personalized bricks for screen in the real Bellevue diner’s “Legacy Walkway,” yet it isn’t cheap. The red cement bricks selection in cost and also size from $300 (8x4) come $500 (8x8) to $1,000 (12x12). Information:, 1-800 820-5405.

They tape 26 episodes a year and also each airs twice.

Tapings room done every February, June, August and also December at NorthStar Studios off Dickerson Pike.

“When you break it down, that looks a little more feasible. But it’s one expensive present to do,” black color adds, pulling out a calculator and tapping in numbers. “So it’s choose $13,000 a show.

“Then that is a number you can work with, since we have actually eight minutes precious of commercial air time in the show.

“There are four two-minute commercials, for this reason if I division that through eight, a advertisement to break even, simply to pay the costs, because that a 60-second advertisement is $1,682 (per episode). Then you can come close come making her budget.

“For an yes, really sponsor, for a 60-second spot, that’s not bad once you define it. And also if you marketed 30-second spots, it’s half of that. That gets under to $841 for a 30-second spot.”

True believers, old friends

Gus Arendale, owner that Springer Mountain ranches Chicken, was lugged on board as an advertiser this season through longtime girlfriend Shepard.

“Larry is taking care of what Jean and I call modern-day country,’’ Arendale explains. “But Jean is responsible for us acquiring with WSM, Larry, the cool Ole Opry and the Ryman. We think nation music fans are the many loyal in the world, and also they assistance us and also we obtain thank-yous because that supporting modern-day country music.”

Ann Tarter, executive, management vice president of Tarter Farm and also Ranch Equipment, states the show, “just matched perfectly with our demographic and our product.”

Randy Little, that owns PFI western wear (Boot daddy brand) and operates the Starlite Theatre in Branson, has known black for almost four decades since their college days in Springfield, Mo.

“Larry’s a couple of years older than I am, so i listened come the radio terminal top top a small AM transistor radio. And also over the years, we simply kind of adhered to each other,” small says. “And he invite me under to his show and also that’s type of how we started.

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“And I came to be a sponsor, and then additionally partners in the Starlite Theatre. So currently we’re taking “Larry’s nation Diner’’ ~ above a road present to the Starlite Theatre.

“It’s been an extremely successful due to the fact that of him. It’s to be a many fun. We’ve done a many of different fun contests v him and it’s been a blast.”