Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Ke$ha and more stars help repair the city after devastating rains

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated May 14, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Two weeks after the disastrous floods in Nashville, Music City is just starting to dig out of the muck. ”It was a wild couple of days,” says Brad Paisley, whose H20 World Tour set was damaged by the water. ”You know how when it rains, you always feel like it’s gonna end? I started to think it was never going to.” Earlier this month, 13 inches of rain caused the Cumberland River to crest at its highest levels since 1937, leading to 31 deaths in the region and more than $1.5 billion in damage to homes and businesses. Pop star (and Nashville native) Ke$ha flew in from NYC on the Monday after the storm. ”I remember looking out and seeing lakes with the roofs of houses in the middle,” she says. ”I really didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation. I’m not sure the rest of the world does, either, until you see it firsthand.”

The flood struck Nashville’s music industry hard. High water seriously damaged a major rehearsal facility called Soundcheck, where superstars like Paisley and Keith Urban keep their gear. Countless instruments were lost, many with historical value. The city’s Bridgestone Arena and Schermerhorn Symphony Center both sustained significant damage. And musicians like Kenny Chesney, Jo Dee Messina, and Dierks Bentley were among the many residents whose homes were affected. ”Things were floating around the basement,” says Bentley, who jury-rigged a sump pump he later loaned to Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley. ”But that’s minor compared to others.”

The stage of the Grand Ole Opry, country music’s cathedral, sat under at least two feet of water for days. It has since drained, but cleanup is expected to take months as workers empty backstage lockers of ruined instruments and muddy rhinestones. Happily, it seems the Opry’s archives were spared the worst, thanks to employees who whisked artifacts to high ground. Even the famous circle of wood in the stage will likely survive, though it’s now soaked in new history. Until the house can be restored, the show will go on from alternate locations. Not such a big deal, according to its members, who say the Opry is more of a spirit than a place. ”There’s not much in the way of the human condition that the Opry hasn’t seen or withstood,” says Marty Stuart, who performed ”Let the Church Roll On” as the first song of the first post-flood show. ”At the end of the day, we still have music to play. A lightbulb and a microphone, and there will be a show.” — Additional reporting by Adam Markovitz

Stars Plan Big Benefit Concerts
The floods hit Music City. Now Music City is hitting back. Fund-raising efforts began May 6 with a Vince Gill-hosted telethon, which raised $1.7 million ($500,000 came from Taylor Swift). A look at some upcoming events.

May 16
GAC will air Music City Keep On Playin’, a live national telethon broadcast from the historic Ryman Auditorium from 8 to 10 p.m. Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum, Kellie Pickler, and more are scheduled to perform.

June 9
Marty Stuart’s ninth annual Late Night Jam will kick off CMA Music Fest. Stuart, Keith Urban, Ronnie Milsap, and others will gather at the Ryman for a night of traditional country music, benefiting the MusiCares Nashville Flood Relief Fund.

June 16
Ke$ha, who grew up in Nashville, will play a fund-raiser benefiting families and animals at local club Limelight. Fans can also purchase a package that includes a meet-and-greet with the singer.

June 22
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill will headline Nashville Rising, a benefit at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The night’s all-star lineup includes Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Carrie Underwood, Brooks & Dunn, Jason Aldean, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

How you can help
Donationsare being accepted by the Nashville Red Cross (, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (, and the MusiCares Nashville Flood Relief Fund (, and volunteers can sign up to help out at Hands On Nashville (