“Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville…..”.
And, by the end of today we had heard quite a few of them. What a fabulous city Nashville is and how we wish we were staying longer. Nashville’s self proclaimed status of “The Music City” feels right, and although the main focus here is country and western, we have heard quite a mixture. Nearly every bar downtown offers live music, played at considerable volume to draw in the very willing visitors.
We began our visit with what we thought was a quick trip to The Grand Ole Opry to collect our tickets for the evening performance. The sat nav takes you to the Convention Hotel, some distance away, and the venue hides itself away in a corner of vast car parking facilities. There are no row numberings or markings in said car park, so you just have to remember where you abandoned your car. Finally, tickets secured and time for lunch. The closest place was Dave and Buster’s, which turned out to be a sort of casino, 10 pin bowling arcade and games and slot machine heaven for kids and adults alike. The food was OK, with waitresses who check your progress every few minutes and the noise was deafening.
Come on, let’s go downtown, which is actually a 20 minute drive from The Ole Opry. This was just amazing…bright, brash and fun with everyone clearly having a good time. Plans made. We were spending the day there tomorrow. We were not staying in the centre of Nashville as the cost of the hotels, to say nothing of the cost of parking, is like any major city in the USA – expensive. We had a 15 minute drive from the centre, checked into the Holiday Inn Express and turned ourselves around for a night at the Grand Ole Opry.
The performance began at 7 pm and as you quickly find out, you are taking part in the Saturday night broadcast…Live from the Grand Ole Opry. We laughed at the regular breaks for “Messages from our Sponsors”. These were commercials read by a guy on stage and advertising various products. Chicken featured and one ‘lucky’ member of the audience was selected by seat number to receive a quantity of the stuff delivered to his door (“But not just yet”). Fortunately it wasn’t us.
The performances were interesting/good/and excellent. Crystal Gayle was a featured artist but, personally, I thought she was outshone by Wynonna, Patty Loveless and Brandy Clark. The night belonged to Jeannie Seely, who is a bit of a legend in terms of the Opry, and was celebrating her 50th anniversary since first singing there. She still has an amazing voice and a wicked sense of humour. The whole show was a mixture of music, comedy and even some square dancing.
When leaving, we actually found our car easily after walking some distance and, although I thought the escaping 4,400 members of the audience might present a degree of difficulty because of the sheer volume of cars exiting at the same time, we were back at the hotel in about half an hour. Result.
Did I mention the heat and humidity? In such fabulous sunshine it seems churlish to complain but when the temperature climbs high into the 30s….ouch, blisters. For the second time this trip we took a ride downtown with Uber. We had no idea where to park, no idea how long we wanted to stay and the cost of the door to door service was only marginally more expensive than parking charges. Which is how we found ourselves right outside the Johnny Cash Museum. Carolyn was humouring me as I used to quite like Johnny Cash but, although interesting, the Museum was not a standout feature of the day.
That belonged, without a doubt, to Nudies Bar. Not the bar itself because, as Carolyn has said on Facebook, we went for the fun of the name and stayed for the fabulous music. By this time we had taken a tour around Nashville on a hop-on, hop-off bus. In the intense heat we were in need of a drink so we’re attracted to the bar with the quirkiest name and the loudest music. Carolyn will talk about this further on but I must just say it is a long time since I sat watching music with the beat vibrating up my bottom!! It took a couple of hours for my ears to readjust…pardon?
The rest of the day was spent doing more hopping on and off the bus, seeing music venues, music museums, recording studios, etc, and loving every moment. We should have spent a week here, but perhaps better to leave wanting more. Memphis is waiting, so on we go.
Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌
Wow! Wow! Wow! Not merely a wow-wow pedal but the whole Downtown of Nashville producing sounds and sights which provoked even more than possibly imagined. I’m starting my section at the end of the two days here because I’m still buzzing more than a little.
Jarett McAlister and his band were well into their set when we arrived but we, immediately, became entranced. Jarett with his guitar led each song with laid-back vocals, a fiddle, bass and lead guitar joined on vocals as well as contributing to the musical tapestry. But, then,… the drummer! Oh, my word. Imagine a combination of The Who’s Keith Moon and Nirvana’s/Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl at their best. The rhythm was precise and forceful, punctuated and decorated in sound with a combination and variety of fills utilising every element of the kit – including the cowbell – with flair, expertise, elegance and showmanship. Visually, stick twirling and tossing added to the seemingly effortless drive. Not only did he continue playing whilst drinking at least four bottles of Bud and accurately disposing of them in an adjacent bin, he didn’t miss a beat! Wow! Wow! Wow! I chatted to him at the end, thanked and praised him and pointed out that I’d drummed in a band before he was born but not, in any way, at his level! His response was to thank me, call me awesome and then, in the manner of a Southern gentleman, I imagine, took my hand and kissed the back of it. Oh, my word, indeed!
Before we left, a second bar visit was needed as I felt I had to try my first Jack Daniel’s as we were where it came from. The No.7, by the way, is the number of the liquor licence awarded to them and, we were told, licences are handed down within families.
Yesterday, was much more sedate with the music just as professionally competent but, somehow, lacking in rawness and edge. The very practised and loved artists who were heroes to the audience put on an excellent show. The star was Jeannie Seely and the other artists took every opportunity to praise her ability, sassy humour and work to allow other women to raise their profile in Country Music. She was the first to perform in a miniskirt at the Grand Ole Opry, we were told, but her real innovation was in her writing and performing. At 77, still a formidable lady!
Of course, we were thrilled to have seen the Opry but, would I go again? Probably not. Although very, very competent, it was a little formulaic for me. And the quirks of adverts being read out like a latter day Rowan and Martin from Downtown Burbank distracted as did, I’m sorry, every artist, male and female, except for those wearing cowboys hats, seemingly wearing wigs. In fairness, Crystal Gayle still appeared to have her own sitting on length tresses as she sang, “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue” her 1977 hit.
But, look what we two Prestonians found?!
Curios on the way included a new-to-me road sign and then Kath trying on a hat! (Didn’t buy it!)
The bus tours of Nashville were interesting with the hop-on, hop-off giving us four different driver/tour guides. Always good to listen to different descriptions and interests. The most fascinating for me was twofold:
The incredible concrete replica of the Parthenon (left over from an Exhibition in the early 20th Century) much more complete than the real one we saw earlier in the year), and…
The recording studios side by side for hundreds of metres along adjacent roads. The studios were hidden behind facades which made them look like the protected architecture they were. What was inside was left to imagination except for the almost universal garish signage outside proclaiming for each studio their latest artist and No. 1 hit! The signs deprived much visual value from the protected frontages. My favourite memories were provoked was RCA Studio B (appropriate heritage sign) which was formerly referred to as just RCA Studios. It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious studios in Nashville. Gaining wide popularity in the 1960s, RCA Studios recorded artists like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and many others.
A final note is the roundabout based group of nude statues which is nicknamed the ‘round-a-butt’ for obvious reasons.
I wouldn’t go to the Opry again, perhaps, but would I come back to Nashville? Yessiree, Bob!