Refrain on the Road…Nashville, Tennessee!!

Posted: 21st October 2012 by refrainmusic in Concerts

Nashville Airport – Welcome 2012

That’s right…Refrain is on the road in Nashville, Tennessee!  Nashville, music city, home of country music…it’s all that and so much more. From the moment you land in Nashville and find rocking chairs and guitars in the baggage claim at the airport things just seem to fit. From your first walk down the world famous Broadway Avenue in downtown, you realize that first and foremost this city is about the music. But you also start to see other nuances appear that show that the denizens of this city like more than just music, sports being a big one with LP Field and Bridgestone Arena just steps away from Broadway’s thriving music culture.

Nashville, TN – Music City

Nashville, TN – Music City – Whiskey Bent Saloon

There is a bit of awe as you first walk the downtown street where so many come to ‘make it’ in country music, for that matter, in music at all. That’s because as you’ll find as a surprise to some, that Nashville isn’t just about country music, there’s plenty of Blues, Rock, and many other things mixed in there too. But let’s face it, Nashville is mainly about country music. As you stroll down Broadway you can feel it, you can hear it in every bar all the way along until you reach Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where Hank Williams would run across the alley from the Ryman to grab a drink between sets. You can see it in the many boot shops mixed in with the bars and restaurants, one shop you could even get three pairs of cowboy boots for the price of one, belts, hats…everything country. As you walk you see all the brightly lit neon of each watering hole featuring with a blast of music escaping the doorway of each with a hopeful performer looking to pull you in to places like Tootsies, the Whisky Bent Saloon, Tequila Cowboy, and The Stage. Just about every bar or restaurant has a live performer, The Stage has four shifts of performers each day…the opportunity for live entertainment is incredible.

Nashville, TN – Broadway St.

Everything is ‘grand’ in this city from the Opry Mills Mall which is massive, and of course I see a repeating theme…more boots stores. It’s a typical mall feel but it has a really cool ‘aquarium’ restaurant in it and an IMAX and a lego store. We even saw Americon Idol contestants Colton Dixon and Schyler Dixon in the food court while having lunch, which was our only ‘sighting’ of the whole week in music city. Another attraction that is of grand stature is the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, with it’s opulent gardens (four in total) that are set up like tropical rain forests inside this spectacular hotel. It has shops, and restaurants, and bars and clothing stores and souvenir shops…it even has a boat ride ‘in’ the hotel in one of the gardens. If you stayed here you’d almost not have to leave to have plenty to do, but that would be a shame with so much to offer outside these walls. The gardens are the feature point though, they are magnificent, with tropical forests and flowers, waterfalls, the aforementioned boat ride, colored fountains and rooms and restaurants overlooking it all.

Delta Garden – Opryland Hotel – Nashville, TN

Speaking of ‘grand’ (like that segue?)…right beside the Opryland Hotel…is the Grand Ole Opry itself. The ‘new’ opry, in it’s current location since 1974 was our Tuesday destination for the 100th Birthday Celebration of Minnie Pearl, or the women who created her, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon who was born October 25, 1912. Walking in to the Opry you can just feel the buzz of the building, the history, it’s electric. Tonight was a fantastic night with performances by Mel & Pam Tillis, Riders In The Sky, Amy Grant, and Vince Gill, what a line-up! The line-up is mixed in with comedic acts, tributes to Minnie, and comes complete with commercials as the Opry still to this day is a ‘radio’ show, broadcast live from the stage out to the world on 650/WSM AM radio. When the new Opry opened in March of 1974, a six-foot circle of oak was cut from the original stage at the Ryman Auditorium 9 miles away in downtwon Nashville, and inlaid into the stage at the new venue. This show I will not forget, a memory to treasure for sure.

Pam Tillis – Grand Ole Opry – Nashville, TN

Vince Gill – Grand Ole Opry – Nashville, TN

Before I spoke of things to do outside of Nashville, and this leads us to one of our day trips down to Lynchburg, Tennessee…home of Jack Daniels. Yes, that Jack Daniels…his distillery, and the spring that makes every drop of ‘Jack’ the is consumed in the world come from this one small county. It’s almost ironic where this distillery is, about an hour and a half drive from Nashville, we enter the ‘dry county’ of Lynchburg. Yes, that’s right, Lynchburg, the home of one of the biggest brewers of whiskey in the world is in a dry county. As you are guided around the distillery you learn about the various processes behind what goes into making Jack Daniels, I don’t want to give it all away as it’s a fun tour and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But you learn about the sugar maple using to make the charcoal, which is used to mellow the pure JD ‘moonshine’ down to the beverage we know of in stores and bars around the world. You visit the spring from which the water flows that makes Jack what it is, and you tour through Jack’s original office…a side trip I definitely recommend. Oh and don’t forget to drive into the town square to the JD retail store where you can purchase a plethora of JD emblazoned paraphernalia.

Lynchburg, TN – Jack Daniels Distillery

Lynchburg, TN – Jack Daniels Distillery

Day trip number two took us south west down Interstate 40, travelling through the Tennessee countryside where we saw our first real (and huge) ‘cotton field’, where of course we had to stop on the interstate to take pictures (I had to hop the fence and grab a couple cotton balls…sorry Mr. Farmer). But wait, where are we headed? The rockin’ blues city of Memphis, Tennessee that’s where! We were off to visit Elvis at Graceland. Graceland is a massive expanse in downtown Memphis that sits on two sides of the street, complete with the Heartbreak Hotel, the tourist center (that houses souvenir shops, the Elvis Car Museum, and Elvis’s two planes) all across the street from the mansion and it’s 13.6 acres in the heart of Memphis. Bought by Elvis at age 22 in 1957 for a around hundred thousand dollars it’s a beautiful home that again I don’t want to give away too much, but is totally Elvis. As you stroll through the mansion, and more importantly the awards hall, you realize (if you didn’t already know) just how important Elvis was to the world of music. Wall after wall of gold, silver, and platinum records, awards, and achievements adorn the walls and you tend to jaw drop and shake your head in amazement at the enormity of it all. The guided audio tour takes you finally to the meditation garden, to Elvis’s resting place, where his grave site (along with his parents, grandparents, and brother) rests beside a bubbling fountain in a serene corner of the estate.
Off next we went to the Gibson guitar factory, where some of the finest instruments are made and took a tour to see just how much of these guitars are still hand crafted today. Then it was on to the famous Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Like Broadway in Nashville, you can feel the electricity on this street, with bar after bar of live rock and blues pumping out, again just off Beale another stadium in the Fed Ex Forum (home of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies), and the street is alive…it’s a Wednesday night!? We decided to eat at BB Kings Blues Club, and listened to the house band the “King Bees” blast out a soulful set for us while we ate ourselves into southern BBQ bliss. Memphis was a day trip but will be a trip all of it’s own someday, back we go North, back to Music City!

Tennessee Cotton Field

Graceland – Memphis, TN

Elvis’s Grave – Graceland – Memphis, TN

BB Kings Blues Club – Beale St. – Memphis, TN

Beale St. – Memphis, TN

As the week was passing us by we decided next to visit the Ryman Auditorium, the site of the original Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974. The Ryman, was built by riverboat Captain Thomas Ryman who originally named it the Union Gospel Tabernacle, after Ryman’s death, the Tabernacle was renamed Ryman Auditorium in his honor. To stroll through the Ryman you can feel the energy, you can stand in the balcony and envision the crowds as they cheered for the band onstage, you can stage on that stage and almost feel the history pouring off of it. As your tour guide takes you through the changing rooms you think about who has gotten ready in these rooms and it starts to hit you where you are and the musical history the unfolded around these very spots. Johnny and June Cash met in this building, Neil Young recorded the Heart of Gold concert film here, tomorrow night plays host to an Alanis Morissette, and much more it’s mind blowing. After the Ryman we jaunted down to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but it was closing in ten minutes and apparently takes two to three hours to tour through, again unfortunately we never made it back here…something for next time! That night we took in more live music on Broadway at Honky Tonk Central, complete with a guest appearance by Elvis who appeared off the street to play with the band and perform a ‘very’ good rendition of “Suspicious Minds”.

Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN

Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN

Ryman Auditorium – Backstage – Nashville, TN

Honky Tonk Central – Broadway St. – Nashville, TN

Elvis!? – Broadway St. – Nashville, TN

Friday, our last day in Nashville we took in a couple of tourist attractions. First up, was the Belle Meade Plantation a historic plantation mansion whose grounds now function as a museum. Belle Meade Plantation consist of 30 remaining acres (originally it was 5600 acres!) and features a winery, visitor’s center, original outbuildings including the Harding cabin, dairy, carriage house, stable, mausoleum and a reconstructed slave quarters. The Belle Meade Plantation was a horse stud farm with some of their horses going all over the world, some famous decendants of Belle Meade are horses like Secretariat and Seabiscuit. The plantation is still absolutely stunning to this day and you can sense the history of the place as you walk through the well preserved plantation house. I highly recommend a visit to Belle Meade if you ever venture to the area.

Belle Meade Plantation – Nashville, TN

Next up we took in the Parthenon, the life size replica of the one in Greece that sits in downtown Nashville, built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition as Tennessee is known as the “Athens of the South” which influenced the choice of structure built for the expo. Today, the Parthenon which functions as an art museum, stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, a large public park just west of downtown Nashville. Inside sits a re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue just as it was in ancient Greece. She is is absolutely massive, helmeted, carries a shield on her left arm and a small statue of Nike (Victory) in her right palm, and stands 42 feet high, a giant serpent shows its head between her and her shield.

The Parthenon – Nashville, TN

The Parthenon – Athena – Nashville, TN

One final stop that day took us to “Music Row” where such famous studios as RCA Victor, that recorded Elvis, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and more, call home. We took a quick jaunt through Owen Bradley Park to see the now famous statue of Owen Bradley who was one of the orignal producers in Nashvile who, along with Chet Atkins and Bob Ferguson, was one of the chief creators of the 1950s and 1960s Nashville sound. We also made a quick stop to the microphone bike rack (below), how cool is that!?

RCA Victor – Music Row – Nashville, TN

Owen Bradley Park – Music Row – Nashville, TN

Owen Bradley Park – Music Row – Nashville, TN

Microphone Bike Rack – Music Row – Nashville, TN

Nashville…thanks for a great week…we will be back for more! To those of you that are planning a trip, if you are a lover of music, country music…put Nashville on your list. The people are amazingly friendly, there are a ton of fun things to do…and the music never stops in Music City!