Do you like to have a good time? Do you like to party? Do you sing karaoke? Dance on table tops? Stay up way late at night? Then Nashville is the town for you.
We are glad we stopped in Nashville; it is a busy and boisterous town.
When we pulled into our campground I guess you could say we were the “trailer trash” in a cab over camper. The campground was filled with big, big motor homes or equally large 5th wheels.
Nashville is known as the Music City and she got her nickname from the Queen of England. “As the 1800s unfolded, Nashville grew to become a national center for music publishing. The first around-the-world tour by a musical act was by the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Nashville’s Fisk University. Their efforts helped fund the school’s mission of educating freed slaves after the Civil War – and also put Nashville on the map as a global music center. In fact, upon playing for the Queen of England, the queen stated the Fisk Jubilee Singers must come from the “Music City.” (visit musiccity.com)
Nashville is a tourist mecca and she wants our dollars! We were camping about 20 minutes outside of Nashville and for a little $$ a tour van company picks up tourists and partiers at campgrounds and motels. We used the van to get to Nashville in the daytime as well as the night to go to the show at the Grand Ole Opry. The company knows what they are doing, there is no better way for us campers to get to downtown and there is no better way for the drinkers to get back to their camp or motels! And let me tell you, on our return after the show our van was a lively bunch!!
We thought Nashville is as promoted and Dale and I can say, “Been there, done that.” However, we are very happy that in a spontaneous moment, I bought tickets for the Grand Ole Opry; we were not disappointed.
It was fun to be at the historic Ryman Auditorium and to imagine the Opry all those years ago. “The Opry, still staged live every week, is America’s longest-running radio show, in continuous production for more than 85 years. It ignited the careers of hundreds of country stars and lit the fuse for Nashville to explode into a geographic center for touring and recording.”
But before the 7 p.m. show, Dale and I spent the afternoon on “Broad Street”, the main drag of boots and bars. Our driver suggested Jack BBQ so Dale and I traipsed up the street for some good ole bbq. Since I want to try all of the southern states unique to the area bbq flavors, I ordered the Tennessee pork shoulder with the Tennessee vinegar based bbq sauce. It made my taste buds sing with that vinegary zing.
After having lunch we found our trolley tour. This is the way to see a city on limited time, the tour stops at the hot spots, we can get on and off and best yet, it is narrated so we can hear about the history of the city and the significance of what we are looking at.
I’ve taken the Philadelphia on/off trolley tour and Dale and I have taken the New York City bus tour; both were great. The Nashville one was a little wanting. First, not too many sites and stops interested us and the tour all depends on the narrator. The first narrator sounded bored with it all, the second was much better and more interactive.
Dale wanted to get off at Antique Archaeology, the American Pickers store. I think we both expected kind of a large warehouse displaying picks for sale. The room really was no larger than 7 Eleven store or Circle K. There were items for sale and I recognized some picks from shows. One recent show Mike and Frank picked a Cinco cigar sign; Cinco cigars is my family legacy. I don’t recall how much it was picked for but we asked at the store if it sold. They had two signs; one sold for a whopping $1,400 and the other for $900!! My family collects these signs and I don’t think any one of us paid more than $100., and that may be too high.
At 7 p.m. we returned to Broad Street and the Ryman Auditorium for a Classic Country night of singing. But before I tell you a little bit about our evening, I want to give you an example of the hospitality here.
Earlier in the day, we made our reservations on the van for our ride downtown to the auditorium; our reservation was for 6 p.m. We went to the pick up spot and waited and waited and waited. The camp host called the company to ask if they made note of our reservations. Apparently, they didn’t but a driver who was just getting off her shift, got back in her van and came and picked us up and literally sped us to Broad Street. We were impressed that their response wasn’t “too bad, so sad”, leaving us high and dry. She and her boss, who was along for the ride, apologized the whole way! Nice folks.
So back to the show. Our evening’s show/broadcast were Sarah Darling, Jeannie Seely (longtime member of the Opry), an old guy (sorry, don’t remember his name), and Neal McCoy; Neal was the spotlight entertainment. Neal was great as he really wooed the silver-haired ladies lucky enough to sit close to the stage. It was funny to watch the swooning and after the show, Neal was available to autograph his new album for purchase (of course). I think only women were in line!
On our city tour earlier in the day we were told how members of the Grand Ole Opry gained (or earned) their membership. Every artist is invited to join by a standing member and once the artist accepts, the artist must commit to 12 shows in a year. That is a steep commitment and that is why singers like Carrie Underwood are not a part of the Opry; her career is international and she is on the road most of the year.
“The decision to bring a new act into the Opry fold is a two-pronged one, based on a combination of career accomplishment and commitment. But, really, it comes down to just one word: relationships. The relationships between performers and fans. The relationships Opry members have with each other, relationships that may last for decades. And, perhaps most importantly, the relationship between each artist and the ideal of the Grand Ole Opry.” (http://www.opry.com/artists/BecomingOpryMember.html)
Reading the history of earned/invitation membership and the music controversies over the decades is interesting. The Grand Ole Opry must change with the changing culture; the Opry has had it’s growing pains and change is hard. But the Classic Country night reminds us of yesteryear except for one thing, there were drums and electric guitars; using those instruments was controversial long ago but now allowed. Minnie Pearl is past, Rascal Flatts is present.
The next day Dale and I continued driving south, we were on our way to Charleston, SC and broke the drive into two days.
We decided to stop at what we thought would be a small, Tennessee town, about 30 miles outside of Nashville. We were surprised that the suburbs sprawled all the way to Nolensville. At one of the antique shops, the clerk explained that the farm land is being snatched up by the successful country singers so with that came the suburban ooze. Actually, she said that this area was not effected by the economic collapse and continues to grow. Her leased shop was sold recently to make room for another new strip mall.
We read in one of those tour magazines about Nolensville’s downtown antique stores and a favorite restaurant called Nana’s. We decided to eat at Nana’s for lunch and boy, siree, were we stuffed! For a $7.95 lunch we could have “one meat, three sides.” Dale had a pot roast open-faced sandwich smothered in gravy and I had friayed catfish, friayed okra, hushpuppies, green beans and cole slaw. I was in southern heaven! We ordered to go desserts, a slice of coconut cream pie and chess pie.
Chess pie is a true southern dessert! Never heard of it before. Folklore has some variations of the history of southern chess pie. One I read was the hostess didn’t have pecans for pecan pie so she just made up the custard and poured it into a pie shell. After serving the pie, a guest asked what was this unusual pie. The hostess answered, “Jes’ pie” – thus, in a southern accent, “chess pie.”
Other folklore is, “One explanation suggests that the word is “chest,” pronounced with a drawl and used to describe these pies baked with so much sugar they could be stored in a pie chest rather than refrigerated. Another story is about the plantation cook who was asked what she was baking that smelled so great – “Jes’ pie” was her answer.”
Well, we left Tennessee fat and happy. Yesterday while driving through North Carolina, we drove on about five miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which last week was closed due to the government shutdown. We drove just enough to say we were on it.
We are on our second day’s drive to Charleston and we will arrive tonight. I sure hope they offer van service to historic downtown Charleston – that was such a convenience! NOTE: Dale just called and James Island County Park, Charleston, SC does indeed have a shuttle!! Yippee!
Some photos from the neon bar signs on Broad Street, Nashville
Some photos from Nolensville