Nashville beckoned to us in 2002, the year Judy and I did our first cross-country driving tour. We arrived in Nashville from the Shenandoah Valley, just in time to register at our downtown motel and then drive to the Grand Ole Opry performance.
Our balcony seats, which we’d booked at the Tennessee Visitors Center when we crossed into the state, were perfect. With the help of strategically-placed video screens and our binoculars, we had a great view of the performers and of the “friends and family” gathered on the porch behind them. It was two hours of non-stop performing—including the live radio and TV broadcast.
Ready for sight-seeing the next day, we toured the “new” Country Music Hall of Fame. If you are a lover of country music, this needs to top your list. From blocks away, the imposing, modern structure, with windows placed to resemble piano keys and a radio tower incorporated in the design, is eye-catching. Inside, the sounds of country music set off toe-tapping and wide grins. Incorporated with the colorful displays and memorabilia, there are interactive computers and videos featuring country stars, and there’s the rotunda of Hall of Fame legends. (In 2012, they added a Bakersfield Sound exhibit.)
Later, as we roamed the streets of downtown Nashville, we came upon a block of honky tonks and dropped in at Legends Corner to listen to the music. We made ourselves comfortable at one of several back tables that sat on a raised platform and ordered a couple of beers.
Between songs, the band members bantered with each other. Then the leader turned to the audience and asked where we all were from. When Judy and I shouted “Bakersfield,” hoots, cheers, foot stomping, and applause erupted. Everyone turned to look at us, and they were all smiling. I’d never experienced such a welcome.
While we sipped our beers, the band played several country standards made famous by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, the leader gesturing toward us and announcing, “This one’s for our Bakersfield friends!”
The Historic Ryman Auditorium, which was home to The Grand Ole Opry for over 30 years, was a sight to see. That gorgeous red brick building holds a lot of country music history and serves as a venue for all types of musical events. Besides the great vibes one gets from merely standing in the Ryman, there are exhibits and photographs that outline the building’s beginnings as well as memorabilia from some of the Opry’s finest stars.
There’s also a respect for learning and knowledge in Nashville. We toured the gorgeous new main library, a building so inviting I couldn’t wait to enter!
Once inside, we were not disappointed. Hammered copper panels, murals of Nashville through the years, photography, other works of art, and beautiful comfortable furniture filled the halls and rooms. There is a peaceful central courtyard with fountain and trees and benches. And from the north windows of the library, we looked up the mall to see the War Memorial Plaza, with rows of the lovely pear trees we’d seen blossoming everywhere, and the Tennessee State Capitol Building.
I got a good feeling in Nashville. And, there is no doubt that it is, indeed, Music City.
~ xoA ~