When I was planning my holiday in the eastern United States, I felt that I simply could not miss visiting a place called Music City, aka Nashville (TN). The city is most often associated with Country, of which I’m only a casual fan, but I was sure I would also find other kinds of music to follow and gigs to go to, once I was there. After all, the long list of stars and megastars in the music world who have moved to Nashville at some point in their career contains names from all genres, including heavy metal. And some of them chose to never move away! I decided that they definitely knew something I did not, and that that something was worth discovering.
So I made this a sort of music-themed recce mission, setting aside three full days, with the possibility of returning for a longer stay.
The first thing that struck me when I had my first stroll downtown, along the Broadway, was the sheer number of (excellent) bands playing live on stage in the many pubs on the strip. One next door to the other, all with doors wide open, no entry fee (but tips welcome), all types of music catered for. It was early afternoon on an ordinary Tuesday – a time which, by London standards, would be among the most unlikely for bumping into live entertainment anywhere. That already made Nashville look and sound like musicians’ paradise, and I wondered just how good it would be on a Friday or Saturday evening, when the venues would pull out all the stops!
A quick look at the shops that share that same stretch of the Broadway revealed several places where you can get yourself booted and leather-clad Country style, some tourist shops, and a few record stores where memorabilia and books are also on sale. I apologise for mentioning left-handedness yet again, but the sight of these two books lifted my spirits and gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling!
The following day another musically significant stroll brought me to SoBro (South of Broadway) and the Walk of Fame Park, which is overlooked by the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The paths across the park are the Music City Walk of Fame, and are decorated with stars with the names of musicians who are, or have been, significant for the city or have/had a strong connection to it.
The above are only three among the stars along just one path. There are also stars for Emmylou Harris, Keith Urban, Dolly Parton, Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix, obviously Elvis, and many others, not all of whom had so far been clearly linked to Nashville in my mind. Very awe-inspiring.
Third day of my stay and, after taking a walk in the vicinity of our hotel, I discovered that there was a good reason why the streets around there had names such as Music Circle, Music Row and Music Drive. When I booked the room I thought that sounded like a cool area to stay – but the level of coolness suddenly shot skywards when I realised that it’s the place where hundreds of record companies (some of which are historic, global, world-famous and influential) and other music-related businesses have their headquarters!
The area also boasts the Nashville headquarters of the American Federation of Musicians, which we were invited to visit by its President, our friend, fellow bassist and Basschat member Dave Pomeroy. He was also our guide to the best music happenings in the city for the entire duration of our stay.
It’s thanks to the Nashville Musicians Association that those dedicated loading areas for musicians (in one of my earlier photos) have been created. The Association also publishes a quarterly newsletter with updates, music reviews, even a name-and-shame section that lists bad employers that musicians should avoid working for.
The issue marking the Association’s 110 years (April-June 2012) also has a thoroughly fascinating list of “110 Reasons Nashville is Music City” that practically reads like a Who’s Who (and also a What’s What and a Where’s Where) of Country music and beyond: http://goo.gl/5iS2z.
What to say? Another, longer stay in the Music City is definitely just a matter of when, not if.