Someone told me that if I ever go to Nashville, I should skip music row and just go to the Whole Foods in town. Apparently at the food/salad bar there the Whole Foods employees make orders from scratch using ingredients from the produce in the store. This advice obviously came from a classic Denverite.
Thank God I skipped her advice.
Music row comprises the few blocks along Broadway in Downtown Nashville where wanna-be country music stars play for tips on smoky stages, new restaurants, old-time honkey tonks, and famous dive bars. Almost all the establishments have signs outside informing country-loving tourists which famous singers got their start in that very place and whether Tim McGraw had ever been there. Sadly, I did not see any famous people on music row, despite keeping my eyes peeled for Taylor Swift.
I was actually a little worried that I wouldn’t see ANY singers, famous or otherwise because I was in Music Row on a Sunday afternoon. According to most country songs, everyone would be in church or enjoying a fried chicken family meal after church. Luckily, this was not the case in real life. There were TONS of bands playing on music row, despite the fact that it was Sunday afternoon. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Legends Corner were some must-see (must-listen?) spots. My mom and I briefly popped into those and several other bars, listened to a song (or a verse, depending) or two and then headed out, wanting to check out ALL the Broadway bars.
We also wanted food. Many of these bars didn’t have much of an afternoon menu, but were more than willing to serve us a beer or a shot of whiskey. As much as I love Toby Keith’s “Whiskey Girl,” I passed up the shots since I was starving (and pregnant). Most of the places to eat and also listen to music in the afternoon were chain restaurants that we weren’t really interested in patronizing. (Sorry Margaritaville).
Then we came across Honky Tonk Central. This isn’t an old, dingy bar – quite the opposite. Steve Smith, owner of Tootsie’s, recently purchased the long-abandoned Seanachie building, refurbished it, and opened up the new bar. Live music is played here daily from 11am to 3am AND they have a full menu.
Mom and I immediately knew we’d found our resting spot for the afternoon. We passed the packed bar in the middle of the restaurant and found a place at a table in the back next to a huge open-air window. After listening to various members of the band endlessly sound check the mic (seriously, this took, like, thirty minutes), a female-led cover band took the stage and belted out Sugarland, Johnny Cash, and LeAnn Rimes songs. They gladly took requests and even sang Whiskey Girl. It was exactly what I needed to hear in Nashville.
After a couple hours, we stuffed money in the tip bucket and finally tore ourselves away to head to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Here we spend a couple hours listening to old-timey country music, watching a pretty good film about country music on TV, touring the Country Music Hall of Fame, listening to a banjo demonstration/lecture, and (my favorite!) checking out the display of Taylor Swift’s tiny dresses from her “Speak Now” tour. We also walked across the street through the Music City Walk of Fame and Nashville Music Garden, which is worth skipping.
The museum is very heavy on the roots and history of country music. Downstairs there is a quick walk through of contemporary musician’s exhibits (mostly clothes worn during famous performances). Interestingly, there is nothing on the Dixie Chicks. I’m always interested in seeing how country music venues deal with my favorite politically ostracized country singers. I think the further south you head the less you hear about them.
It was a perfect afternoon in Nashville. Sadly we had to head out of town that night, but I’m excited to go back one day and check out the bars at night, go to the Loveless Café, and hear a performance at the Ryman Auditorium. And next time, I’ll be drinking whiskey.