Going in I knew we were in line to see the heart, soul, and home of country music. The Songwriting Capital of the World, Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, Music Row… in case those aren’t enough clues, I’m talkin’ Nashville. I compiled a country music playlist for our getaway. It required a little study, I needed more than those from my personal country music heyday – circa 1974. The exercise helped me get my hoedown on.
Once we landed at the Nashville airport, we were immediately intercepted by our co-conspirators, and partners in fun: Sharpshooter Sam, and “Sweet Tooth” Wiley McGee. Add yours truly – Shorty Squints – and Curly, and we were ready for a boot kickin’ time!
Instantly swept away
Driving into a sunny, blue skied day, we headed straight for some famed barbecue eatin’. Now, I had absolutely every intention of going on this little trip with a travel-writers mind: pen & notepad nearby – camera, photo ready. Without realizing it, that intention went right out the window. Yes, that intention was riding on the back of the smokey curls wafting through the establishment. What is it about smoked BBQ that makes one so weak at the knees? Well, Jack’s Bar-B-Que did just that. It’s a classy joint with red vinyl draped tables and styrofoam plates. There was just a little wait when we got there, but I understand patron lines can be well out the door. Anyway, by the time my intention connected with my brain again, all that was left were messy, BBQ-smeared empty plates.
We had scheduled a tour, so after lunch we rolled ourselves to Buffalo’s Bar to meet our new best friends for the day.
This Music City Pub Tour was slated for two hours, but with our new friends the party was goin’ long after that. We were introduced to some local history, heard a few southern toasts, saw a handful of the older drinking establishments, participated in line dancing & bull riding! Yee-Haw!
We spent most of our time exploring in and around the area known as Music Row. Music floods out of every venue. When you step inside, you discover each floor has a different band jammin’. And, to my delight, it isn’t all country music. We heard plenty of good music (wink): Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, even Aerosmith! From my brief visit, it appeared that a band would play for maybe a couple hours, and when their time was up, there was another band stepping in immediately behind them. Imagine dozens, and dozens of music halls, many with 3 or more floors, playing music almost 24 hours a day. . . there just didn’t seem to be a shortage of live music. I have an untrained ear, but everything I heard was exceptionally good and always a crowd pleaser.
Beyond the Honky-Tonks & Watering Holes
We extricated ourselves from the juicy music options. At least a little bit. We tooled around the Capitol Mall State Park.
We drooled at some amazing boot options.
We stepped foot in the Ryman Auditorium (opened in 1892), and signed on for the back stage tour. The guide was a bit difficult to understand, but between him and the museum walls I got the gist of one of the better stories I’ve heard. The auditorium was named after Thomas Ryman, a wealthy businessman who owned several saloons and a fleet of riverboats. Saloon business was slowing down due to a certain enthusiastic evangelist, Samuel Jones, who came to town preaching to the masses. Mr. Ryman had the aim to give this man a piece of his mind, and attend one of his sermons. He may have come with the intent to heckle, but he left a converted man. Yes, that day, on the spot and never looked back. Soon after he pledged to build the Union Gospel Tabernacle so the people of Nashville could attend a large-scale revival indoors. Amen!
Renamed Ryman Auditorium upon Thomas’ death, and several evolutions over the decades, even 20 years of complete disrepair, the Ryman Auditorium stands today, and is considered “The Mother Church of Country Music.”
Circling Back To Food
Since I began talking about food, I guess I’ll end with it too. I have to give a shoutout to Cafe Monell’s. It’s a place that captures my vision of southern hospitality: a proper (ie no cell phones), old-fashioned, family-style, boarding-house-like restaurant. Large tables, all guests seated together and breaking bread together.
I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! Smoked Sausage, Bacon, Biscuits and Gravy, Country Ham, Fried Apples, Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs, Hash Browns, Cheese Grits, Skillet Fried Chicken, Corn Pudding, Coffee and more. Take your portion, then pass to the left. When you can’t fit anymore in, you get one of these:
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