We started today’s journey by re-crossing the Mississippi and arrived in Nashville early afternoon. I was really looking forward to this and from what I saw on the coach as it did a tour of the town before dropping off at the hotel I didn´t think I would be disappointed. I am not of course referring to Nashville being the home of the Gideon Bible although it has had as many as it has country records.
The coach took us to the Parthenon a replica of the one in Athens. Having not been to the one in Greece, I enjoyed it but I wouldn’t mind betting many Americans think this is the original! We also saw the old Union Station that has been turned into a swish hotel. Not ours – we were in the Holiday Express directly over the road, which was lovely and nothing like those in the UK, thank goodness.
After a quick shower and change, we were off to a Dinner Show. It was billed as a theatre, but from the outside looked like a converted outlet in a shopping mall, and although the show was a family affair, everyone on the stage was related, it was fun and we joined in all the famous songs.
The following day was the biggie; we were off to the recording studios of Music Row, including the historic RCA Studio B, the birthplace of the ‘Nashville Sound’. You don’t have to be a country music or Elvis fan to appreciate the history made here. You could almost feel the presence of so many famous recording stars, especially as most of what you see is original and you are allowed to get up close and personal. Sit at the piano Elvis used, fiddle with the buttons on the mixing equipment, it was amazing to be in the studio where so many songs were born!
Many of Elvis’ best-known songs came to life in the famous studio and to this day, aspiring as well as established artists record here. Not to be outdone, our group were handed the lyrics of Can´t Help Falling in Love and after a rehearsal, we cut our own CD. Our tour guide seemed a bit confused and we learnt afterwards that to cut a record is $700 and we had been confused with another group but too late the deed was done and we all ended up with a very special CD for just $5. Studio B has an intimacy that leaves visitors feeling they have visited somewhere truly special and a definite ‘must see’.
From Studio B we went to the Country Music Hall of Fame this is a wonderful building stuffed to the gunnels with famous music artefacts from Elvis’s gold Cadillac to Patsy Clines dresses and wall upon wall of hit records. Every nook and cranny is worth taking the time to examine and you could see some famous faces on the way.
After a long day we went back to the hotel to get togged up for The Grand Ole Opry. It has its own theatre on the outskirts of the city but due to the floods, it was back at the Ryman Auditorium whilst we were in town and as I’m a bit ofa country music fan, this was to be the icing on the cake.
The queues to get in were long with hardcore country music fans all clutching their beers and hotdogs. Now southern folk are very hospitable and we happily chatted to our neighbours as we shuffled along to take our seats for an evening of worship at the church of country music. I say church because the Ryman used to be a church so the seats are all wooden pews with a balcony overhead. We were towards the back but I figured I wouldn’t be all that bothered if I couldn’t make out the individual wrinkles on the faces of whichever country music stars they wheeled out. Oh boy, not a truer word was spoken.
I hadn’t heard of any of the artists apart from Jack Greene, “There Goes My Everything” whoCarole and I had spotted earlier using a Zimmer frame.He was one of the younger acts! ….. it was like being on the film set of Cocoon 2. Jimmy Dickens aged 89 spent a lot of time telling everyone he should be dead. Unfortunately, we seemed to be the only group that agreed with him.
There was also plenty of fiddle playing and stamping of cowboy boots. The show is broadcast live for radio so between acts the compere reads out long-winded commercials. For dramatic effect, we all had to Ooohh and Aah whenever the sponsor was mentioned. The Grand Ole Opry was not at all what we expected in fact I would say disappointing but then I thought it was a place and not a show which has moved to several locations, so perhaps I am not as much of a country lover as I thought!
The show finished at 9.30 far too early for the likes of us who are used to late nights out in Tenerife to be going back to the hotel and bed. We decided to get ourselves some ‘real culture’ and headed for the Honky Tonksin Lower Broadway. These were superband you can see why they are full of countless hopefuls eager to become household names. It’s said that a trip to Nashville is never complete without visiting the tried and true honky-tonk saloons. While it’s hard to go wrong in any of these gritty watering holes we decided to try out the most famous Legends, The Stage and the Second Fiddle.
So the night ended well or should that be the morning ended on a high – Oh my up at the crack of dawn to be on our way to Memphis tomorrow – home of the King.