Many also call it, “NashVegas”. You can see their point when a fat white Elvis waits with you at the traffic light. They also have an exact scale model of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece …Okay… there is some flamboyance going on here!
Otherwise, it is better than Vegas as the live music venues (called honky-tonks here) are everywhere, in volume, with talent, and charging no cover. Usually, starting at 2 PM daily, four acts are booked at each so you can wander from place to place all evening to pick your favorite style of country…and we found two blues clubs.
Named the “Buckle of the Bible Belt” due to the huge volume of religious publication centered here. There are also more than 800 churches, a lot for a population of 600,000. Yet, music reins. Although country rock and rockabilly (think Presley) preponderates, it is balanced by the lovely harmonies of gospel crossover and old tyme music. There was a good bit of the ballad/pop/modern country fusion, fortunately counterbalanced by some fiddles playing irish trad, bluegrass, and of course the banjo and strings that Bill Monroe and the Clinch Mountain Boys introduced at the Grand Ole Opry in their “Hillbilly” music lineup. Did I mention the influence of Earl Scruggs? The entire 2nd floor of the Country Music Hall of Fame is devoted to these Hillbilly artists. The exhibit is immensely well researched with evidence of the banjo’s primacy in Africa before being brought here by enslaved Africans. Musicians jam on the streets and these parking signs show the priority on music in Nashville.
The Ryman hosts the Grand Ole Opry live radio show twice a week. There’s nothing like Minnie Pearl’s traditional greeting, “How-Dee-e-e-e-e!” and her advice, “Hey Northerners! Put something fried on that salad”! However, some of the modern country tunes with goofy titles like, “If I Could Have A Beer With Jesus”, were not sung like the humorous “achey-breakie” country style, but as a slow and mournful prayer. Yep this is a thoroughly, seriously Christian town. There are no “Happy Holidays” greetings here, as one is corrected with a pointed, “Merry Christmas”.
I learned that Bud Isaac was the first musician to create and play a pedal steel guitar. He said everybody started to try to tune their guitars differently to get that sound, but it was not possible to get it without building a whole new instrument, with a new sound.
Nashville is booming with new construction. The new convention center is being constructed on three downtown blocks, while Patsy Cline supervises.
The old and the new mix comfortably in Nashville. The mounted officers are proud to tell you that they ride only “Tennessee Walkers”, as they should as it is a really comfortable riding gait, faster than a walk, and smoother than a trot.
Boots. Western Style dress. Very big here. Every block seems to have a boot shop with some quirky marketing…
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts provided amazing eye candy. Carrie May Weems, photography exhibit was moving as she unflinchingly shoots poverty and beauty all over the world. Also, “Degenerate Art” was on view as well in the German Expressionist exhibit owned and developed since 1943 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Hitler denounced this art and proceeded to put on the biggest and best represented expressionist art show ever produced. Over 20,000 people in Germany went to see it. Kinda backfired, I’d say. Expecially as Peggy Googenheim and Valentiner swept in to purchase and export everything they could get their hands on. Unfortunately, many of these artists later suicided when they were fired, not allowed to paint, not allowed to rent, and were shunned by Germans fearful of the Nazis. We were disappointed that none of the galleries on 5th (Gallery Row) showed local artists.
…and if that is not enough entertainment for you, how ’bout serene fishing on a lake within Nashville that has no houses on it and makes you feel deep in the country as you head out in the boat? …or perhaps 3 hours of bowling, including the shoes for $6…or maybe covered tennis courts for $30/month so you never get rained out? We really enjoyed all these things in Nashville so much and want to come back soon, but maybe we will wait for the nightmare traffic due to all the construction to end first!