Part of the mygrassisblue.com #BluegrassTrails series, on the trail of bluegrass history and its pioneers/early protagonists.
Nashville Bites | Quick Links
The state of Tennessee is conveniently divided into three distinct geographical regions, a.k.a. Grand Divisions, legally defined social and cultural regions known for their distinctive musical heritage and as represented by the three stars on the state flag. From the bluegrass of the Appalachian Great Smoky Mountains in the east, through the country and western sounds of central Nashville, to the steamy blues of Memphis in the west, music reigns supreme and captivates Tennesseans. The state has not one, not two, but nine different official state songs. Enough said.
We did cross the state, approaching lively Nashville from sedate Sparta, TN, the hometown of bluegrass behemoths Lester Flatt and Benny Martin some 85 miles to the east via Interstate 40. It was a Sunday, the eve of a Tennessee Titans game, and the bars and honky-tonks of Lower Broadway were swingin’ (they go off most days). Perfect timing. It was a Sunday funday in Nashvegas.
Nashville | Music City USA
For wannabe songwriters or the up-and-coming next big thing, Nashville, the Music City USA, is the only show in town. And for country music fans it’s the mecca, a trip there the ultimate pilgrimage. Since the late 1920s – when the immense popularity of a simple radio programme broadcast from Downtown Nashville called the WSM Barn Dance, later renamed the Grand Ole Opry – led to the city branding itself as ‘The Country Music Capital of the World’, Nashville has been attracting guitar-toting, stetson- and boot-wearing singer-songwriters and musicians who have since moulded the C&W genre from the ‘hillbilly music’ of the early 20th century to the purist ‘Nashville sound’ of the 1960s to the overly fabricated and pop-tinged so-called ‘New/Hot Country’ of today.
Suffice it to say, and while both a big college town and a sports-mad city, Nashville is still all about the music: Music Row; the bars, dance halls and hell-raisin’ honky-tonks of neon-heavy Lower Broadway, where Nashville becomes Nashvegas; the mammoth Country Music Hall of Fame; the iconic Ryman Auditorium, the venerated ‘Mother Church of Country Music’, the birthplace of bluegrass, and permanent home of the Opry, the world’s longest-running radio show, from 1943 until 1974; and, of course, the revered Grand Ole Opry House itself, a 4,400-seater purpose-built auditorium built in the early 1970s in the Music Valley neighbourhood on the city outskirts as the centrepiece of a country music-themed entertainment complex/amusement park called Opryland USA. Opryland USA is no more, riding off into the sunset in 1997, but the Grand Ole Opry House is still there, entertaining the masses numerous times a week and providing the stage upon which every country crooner worth their weight in rhinestone, male or female, aspires to perform.
Lower Broadway | Nashvegas
– Conde Nast Traveler awarding Nashville Number 4 on its 2017 list of ‘The Friendliest Cities in the U.S.’
Just a block from the bars, dance halls and hell-raisin’ honky-tonks of Nashville’s neon-heavy Lower Broadway, where Music City USA becomes Nashvegas, is the iconic Ryman Auditorium. The venerated ‘Mother Church of Country Music’ was the permanent home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 until 1974 and it was upon its hallowed stage in late 1945 that, it is said, bluegrass was born. >>> MORE
Since its 2001 launch Bluegrass Junction has had its primary residence in Nashville… located behind the blue glass walls of the cylindrical Arena tower of Downtown Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena… the Bluegrass Junction studios are, rather appropriately, in eyeshot of the city’s iconic Ryman Auditorium, upon whose stage bluegrass, the genre the channel promotes, was born in December of 1945. >>> MORE
What started out in November of 1925 as a simple for-radio broadcast of old-time music from Downtown Nashville on 650AM WSM, the WSM Barn Dance, is today the longest continuously running live radio programme in the world. Known since the late 1920s as the Grand Ole Opry and branded as ‘The Show that Made Country Music Famous’, the Opry‘s permanent home since 1974 has been the 4,400-seater Grand Ole Opry House located in the Music Valley neighbourhood some 9 miles east of Downtown Nashville. Both as big and as well-oiled a commercial enterprise as you’ll find anywhere in present-day Music City and a tourist must-do, embarking on a backstage tour of the Opry House… gives an awesome insight into what it is that turned Nashville into the centre of the country crooning rhinestone universe. >>> MORE