You would probably have to live in Nashville to know who Joy Ford is. I got to know Ms. Ford, the owner of Country International Records, when I served as court appointed conservator for a well known songwriter and his wife. Ms. Ford was a close friend of the couple and I don’t think she always approved of my actions on the couple’s behalf.
Country International Records is one of the last of the truly independent labels in Nashville- a place where country music hopefuls can get an audience and maybe the chance to put out a record. These small businesses were once part of the fabric of the music business in Nashville. Ms. Ford does business out of a small one story office building near Nashville’s Music Row. It is this building that has made Joy Ford famous. The building sits on a blighted plot of land near what used to be the gloriously tacky Barbara Mandrell World, adjacent to what used to be the little souvenir shops on Demonbreun, All of these have been replaced by trendy bars and coffee shops. Developers want to turn this large undeveloped tract into some sort of fabulous hotel/retail establishment. There was just one problem: Ms. Ford’s building sort of stood in the way. The developers tried to but the land from her and she refused to sell, even when they offered her an outrageous amount of money. People accused her of being greedy and/or crazy. She said that she just didn’t want to move or see her building torn down. She had too many memories of her late husband associated with the property. Finally, the developers convinced the city of Nashville to institute an eminent domain proceeding against her.
Nothing seems to get people more worked up than the concept of eminent domain, the constitutionally mandated power of the state to take private property for public use. The idea that the city of Nashville had the right to take this woman’s property just because it interfered with a developer’s plans is one of those hot button issues that even liberals and conservatives tend to agree on. One has to think—they knew this woman’s property was there, why not plan around it? And in the end, that’s just what they did. Ms. Ford and her lawyers apparently negotiated a creative deal with the developer that allowed her to stay in her little building and lets County International Records live another day. This is a victory for individual rights as well as one of the last little pieces of Music Row’s history.