I don’t really get star-struck as I have sold many items for very prominent people in my career. However, when my phone rang on Wednesday afternoon, and I saw the name…John Baeder, I must admit, I was a little star-struck. Let me explain.

You see, as a very young auctioneer in the early 90’s, I was asked by a friend (thank you Diane) to be the guest auctioneer for an event benefiting the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). It was called Star Doodles. I had no idea what a huge event this was. I had been to TPAC to see performances, but I had no idea the auction was going to be held on stage in Jackson Hall.

At the time, I felt like that was the event of the season…at least for me it was. Attendees included many notable and prominent Nashvillians, artists, celebrities and music industry people. As the auctioneer, I sold “Doodles” famous people had created – sketches and small pieces of artwork. Sometimes it was simply song lyrics (like Peter Frampton) who had written lyrics along the edge of a large pottery serving charger, and sometimes it was a celebrity’s attempt at creating a small piece of art. Some of those people included Tony Bennett, Joe O’Donnell, Brenda Lee, Red Skelton, Steve Wariner and of course, JOHN BAEDER. I live-auctioned these items to attendees and everyone had so much fun! I was the auctioneer for this event until it was no longer; it had a great run of about 10 years.

I met John Baeder at one of the Preview Parties for this event. I also sold a “Doodle” or two over the years he had donated for the event. Of course, once you see John Baeder’s art, you’ll remember his unique style from that day forward. In my 25+ years in the auction industry, I have never had the opportunity to sell another one of his pieces…until now. AND, it’s an original watercolor of the very iconic Brown’s Diner. Now, if you’re a native Nashvillian, you’ve been to Brown’s diner and you get it. It’s iconic in every sense of the word. If you’ve only heard rumors, just go. Then you’ll get it.

Back to my phone call… I knew Christie’s in New York had just sold one his pieces this past July, and I’m sure he was wondering how my company earned the privilege of attaining a piece of his artwork. I explained to him I had been hired by a Nashville Estate to sell this piece. I told John the widow of the estate was moving to California and said her husband would have wanted this particular piece be sold in Nashville. So, John shared with me how the Brown’s Diner piece was born.

He created the Brown’s Diner watercolor for Cumberland Gallery in 2004. It was to be included in an exhibit featuring only Nashville inspired images. Referring to Brown’s Diner, Baeder said, “Although an iconic Nashville landmark, it has no ‘curb appeal’, nor an interesting diner per se. No one can tell it was once two interurban trolley cars that ended the line at Hillsboro and Blair.”

He went on to say the image is from early June,1980 when he was first visiting Nashville. At the time, he didn’t know he was going to move here. Referring the the front façade of Brown’s Diner, Baeder said, “Trees and beer signs were still prevalent, thus making for a composition. The parked cars assisted greatly, today an impossibility.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a native of Nashville, or you’re a recent transplant, we have all witnessed the boom Nashville is experiencing. It’s hard sometimes, to let go of some great landmarks that are no longer visible. John Baeder probably said it best.

“My quest has always been preservation, therefore the decision for such an important Nashville image. A simple diner, transformed into an institution, mostly due to the multitude of musicians that have frequented its glory, further making ‘Music City’ history”. 

So what’s in a name? In this case, everything. John Baeder and Brown’s Diner go together like hamburgers and french fries.

Photo Credit: Jim McGuire