Nashville is a hoot and a hootenany. It’s faded jeans and leather cowboy boots, Southern fried pickles and Music City Light beer, thronging venues pulsating with live music and no cover charge.
Not surprisingly, it’s estimated that 72 people move to the Nashville region every day. This vibrant youthful city is even crowned with a 33-story skyscraper known as the Batman Building which sports its very own Instagram account (thebatmanbuilding).
Late on a Saturday afternoon, Mr. Wonderful and I continued our road trip and drove into Nashville from the Florida Panhandle. We checked into the Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown, threw our suitcases onto the king-size, and immediately headed to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a Nashville country music institution.
Tootsie’s was jam-packed and cheek-to-jowl with happy GenXers and Millennials, but we were not the oldest people standing. We also eyeballed hundreds of photos on Tootsie’s “Wall of Fame,” including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and others when they were “up and coming” artists.
Mr. W and I quickly learned the Nashville drill. Walk along Broadway (aka Honky Tonk Highway), listen in the doorway to the singer or band, walk in and order beers if we liked the sound or stroll next door to different music. Black-shirted but smiling bouncers guard the entrance of every venue and DAMN! I was never once asked to show my ID.
We soon realized why Nashville is nicknamed Music City. Country music plays everywhere — all day and night in the countless bars, on their rooftop restaurants, on the hotel shuttle bus, in the ladies’ rooms, in the hotel elevators. You hear it along Fifth Avenue from the roving “pedal bar,” a bar on wheels powered by 15 peddling and singing passengers.
On Sunday (during church hours!) we entered the dimly lit Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar near Printer’s Alley. Performing to an audience of 10 were two members of the Bullfrog Revue, one on tuba and harmonica, the other on acoustic guitar. When the waitress asked if I’d like a drink, I said, “It’s kinda early, don’t you think?” She said, “Sweetie, let me make you a Big Easy Hurricane but I’ll use half the rum and only charge you $7 instead of $11.” Sold.
We’d been advised not to miss touring the Country Music Hall of Fame where we ogled Elvis’ solid gold Cadillac (with a television in the back seat). We took a back stage tour of the Ryman Auditorium, “the Mother Church of Country Music” and former home of the Grand Ole Opry.
Then we paged an Uber and hustled over to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken restaurant. This popular place serves such delicious Southern fried chicken that, even on a Monday at 2:30 in the afternoon, a line snaked out the door and down the block.
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman call Nashville home. We never saw them but did have lunch with local celebrity Neil Orne, morning anchor on Channel 2’s “Good Morning Nashville!” Neil is the son of a dear friend and he invited us to take in the Sunday afternoon scene at the Dawghouse Saloon (“a music venue with sports addiction”).
Between listening to the fabulous Spazmatics, who bring the house down with their costumes and fabulous music every Sunday from 4-7 PM, we watched a hockey game and Phil Mickelson’s over-time victory over Justin Thomas, all the while nibbling on crispy friend green beans.
Too soon, Nashville was in our rear view mirror. On Tuesday we drove towards Hickory, North Carolina for a two-day visit with cherished friends. Our road trip was coming to an end. But even now, back in snowy Maine, I can still put myself right back in Tootsie’s, listening to the incredible Russell Brown wail out a song. What a journey!