Nashville, TN | #BluegrassTrails

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.

Cross our wide state, and along the way, meet entertaining folks, experience warm smiles and feel the rhythm of original music.


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.

Lower Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee. October 15, 2017.

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.

The next big thing? Performing off Lower Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee. October 15, 2017.

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.

Urban Cowgirls. 5th Avenue N, Nashville, Tennessee. October 16, 2017.

Legends Corner, Lower Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee. October 15, 2017.

Lower Broadway | Nashvegas

An obvious first stop on our arrival in the city, and where all Nashville roads lead, was party central, a.k.a. Lower Broadway (best get it out of the way as soon as possible). Still today the centre of Music City’s live music scene, it’s a rousing stretch of neon, noise and rhinestone-tinted BBQ joints, dance halls, bars and honky-tonks. You won’t find much, if any, real (= purist) country music (and certainly no bluegrass) round these parts these days – the kind of music that made Nashville famous and that was sung by the kind of crooner that Nashville once made famous – but you will have no problem finding a hootin’ and a holleriin’ good ole time. And you might even find some friendly locals among the throngs of good-time-lovin’ and bar-hoppin’ revellers.

Nashville holds steady at no. 4 on the list, even as the bachelorette parties descend on its already densely populated downtown. Still, the atmosphere is hard to match: Music City, with its ever-present guitar strum, “has so much character, is the perfect size, has great live music, delicious restaurants, friendly people, affordable accommodations… the list goes on.” “It’s a city of characters and the vibe of downtown is hard to beat.”

Conde Nast Traveler awarding Nashville Number 4 on its 2017 list of ‘The Friendliest Cities in the U.S.’

Buck McCoy, Legends Corner, Lower Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee. October 15, 2017.

We’ve can only assume that the small stage of Lower Broadway’s Legends Corner, one of Nashville’s original honky-tonks, did once play host to many a legend of the C&W genre. It just doesn’t these days. Today it’s a music bar like all the rest, albeit one with a legendary status and name, and on this particular Sunday Funday afternoon its patrons were being entertained by the well-rehearsed antics of Legends resident Buck McCoy, seen here.

Some will say that a trip to Nashville is never complete without visiting the tried and true honky-tonk saloons along downtown Broadway. While it’s hard to go wrong in any of these gritty watering holes, Legends stands out as one of the best. Country music record covers plaster the walls, but the real attraction is the bar’s live music: Some of the city’s finest contemporary acts make their mark onstage.

Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Lower Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee. October 15, 2017.

Yay bluegrass! Unlike its many bars and honky-tonks, about the only place where you’ll find real country music on Lower Broadway these days is in the racks and bins of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, about as iconic a Nashville music store as there is (and where they sell bluegrass, too).

LRB. Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Lower Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee. October 15, 2017.

Nashville Elsewhere

We had a few nights of gallivanting around Nashville, time enough to find some real country music and bluegrass. Both are here. You just need to know where to look (and to avoid Lower Broadway). We found and enjoyed happy helpings of both courtesy of Music Valley’s Nashville Palace, a mere drunken stagger from our room in the Fiddler’s Inn and Nashville’s self-titled ‘Home of Traditional Country Music’, and the simple but intimate setting of The Station Inn, famously ‘Forever Bluegrass’ since 1974. In between we paid a visit to the studios of Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction and 650AM WSM, not to mention a visit to both Opry venues, the old (the venerated Ryman Auditorium) and the new (Music Valley’s hulking Grand Ole Opry House).

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

Broadcast home of the Grand Ole Opry and ‘The Most Famed Country Music Station in The World’, 650AM WSM Radio was founded by the now defunct National Life and Accident Insurance Company, who used the call sign WSM (We Shield Millions), and first broadcast on October 5 of 1925. We paid a visit to station’s ‘fishbowl’ studio in the bowels of Nashville’s mammoth Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Eddie Stubbs spinning the discs as he did each weekday evening before his July 2020 retirement from both WSM and Grand Ole Opry announcer duties. >>> MORE
It’s simple. It’s small. It’s unassuming, both inside and out. But the dark and intimate listening room that is Nashville’s Station Inn is the Music City bluegrass mecca… this first-come, first-served cash-on-the-door-only venue has been ‘Forever Bluegrass’ since its opening in 1974. Legends have performed here. Ground-breaking and award-winning bands have been formed through relationships forged here. And for artists, many of whom view it as the nation’s hub of live bluegrass music, it’s both a career highlight and and honor to perform here. >>> 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

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