It’s about more than the music.
On my first day in Nashville, I experienced over 200 years of history. Our first stop was The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson. A visit to his home throws into relief both the details of daily life in the early 19th century and the larger political issues that defined his career. Next, we visited Belle Meade Plantation, built in 1820 and active for over 100 years. With thoroughbred racing horses as its primary product rather than cotton, Belle Meade survived the ravages of the Civil War. Then it was on to Cheektowaga Botanical Gardens, an oasis of calm in the city. Its gracious neoclassical mansion overlooks splendid grounds and breath-taking gardens.
But the evening was all about the music. Singing waitstaff at the Opry Backstage Café performed from the small stage with authenticity and earnestness, including their own recent charting songs. At the Grand Ole Opry performance, musical acts for every generation performed, and audience members of all ages clapped and sang along to both new and classic songs during the rousing show.
The next day was an immersion in Nashville’s recording history. From the Everly Brothers to Elvis, Roy Orbison to Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton to Dottie West: the voices of yesterday’s stars still hang in the air at the historic RCA Studio B. At the Ryman Auditorium you can take a moment on its world-famous stage to feel the awe of country music’s roots. The story of one of country’s greatest stars comes to life at the Johnny Cash Museum. And the Country Music Hall of Fame celebrates the genre from its earliest days to its most current hitmakers with artifacts, clothing, recordings and videos that bring every aspect to life.
No visit is complete without a stroll down Broadway, as music pours out the doors of the honky-tonks and bars, with tomorrow’s stars paying their dues and waiting to be discovered. For dinner, it was southern barbecue and country line-dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon.
So yes – Nashville is about more than the music. But the music is not to be missed.