Nashville, 8th July
We arrived after what seemed a long drive up from Memphis, stopping just once at Parkers Crossroads, which we understand was the site of a major battle in the American Civil War, on December 31st 1862. The confederate leader, attacked from both sides by Union troops, ordered his men to charge in both directions and somehow managed to escape. There was one of the canons outside, and an information centre, which fortunately had a friendly lady behind the desk and a restroom!
Arriving at Linden Bed and Breakfast, once we had worked out the road numbering, we were met by the delightful Catherine, who greeted us with a flurry of things we should be doing ‘as you are in Nashville for such a short time’. We agreed dinner first would be good, and she recommended a restaurant, Demos, and booked us a taxi so Rog could have a drink. She assured us we would have a very full day tomorrow!
The restaurant was a huge relief, it did proper food, Rog ha chicken soup, salmon fillet and broccoli, and I had lasagne and salad. What a joy to get away from fried food! Although it was strange to have to produce photo ID in order to be able to buy a drink, new law just come in, apparently.
Next Catherine had said we must walk down Broadway, where the bars all have live country music, and you just walk in and out for free, you don’t even have to buy a drink. She was right, with music spilling onto the street from all of them, and neon lights everywhere. The street was buzzing, very crowded, but good humoured. Here, everyone was so friendly, seemed such a contrast. Dress code for anyone wishing to be taken seriously included a fancy pair of tooled leather boots, in all the colour of the rainbow. There were lots of shops selling these, buy one pair, get two free! T-shirts had the same offer. Nearly all the shops were still open, as well as the bars. We did get our hands stamped going into one, not sure why, since it rubbed off very easily.
The standard of music was variable, as was the range of styles. Some we would have been happy to listen to for some time, others just made us want to get out again straight away!
The B and B have given us a lovely ‘Paisley’ room on the ground floor, with elegant bathroom. In the hall outside is a fridge for our use, and upstairs there is a tea and coffee making area next to the Breakfast Room, already set out with glasses and linen on a polished wooden dining table.
We slept well in a comfortable bed, and were welcomed by Catherine to a roomful of people, so were happy to sip fresh coffee and wait for a seat at the table, which wasn’t long.
When I saw the size of the breakfast that the others were eating, I followed the advice of Maureen, another guest on my right, and got Rog to ask Catherine if I could just have half a one. This was delicious, half a home made waffle with strawberries and bananas, whipped cream, maple syrup and bacon. Rog had the full size and is now saying he won’t need lunch!
We departed for the Country Music Hall of Fame, after arranging to meet up with Maureen and Steve for dinner as we were both going to the Blue Grass Show at the historic Ryman Theatre, previous home of the Grand Ole Opry, and indeed it still broadcasts from here sometimes during the winter.
The Hall of Fame had so many artists whose names we recognised, and many that we didn’t realise were deemed Country artists, such as the Everly Brothers. As with the Elvis Museums, there were displays of their clothes, guitars, etc and it was arranged so you could follow the origin and development of country music up until the present day. We have to confess we didn’t recognised the recent names.
But there were fascinating things like a car with guns mounted on the bonnet and boot, and also a side gun by the door handle! There was also Elvis’s most expensive car, with 20 coats of paint made of crushed diamonds and fish scales, to give a pearlised finish. There was also the gold plated piano that Priscilla gave Elvis for their first anniversary present.
We moved on to the actual Hall of Fame, where those elected have a plaque put up with a bit about their achievements in it. I have to say that the facial features were pretty unrecognisable, but there were many names we knew.
We then managed a bit to eat in the cafe in the foyer, and were treated to a guitarist playing the Shadows music at the side, it all happens here.
We had booked the RCS Studio B tour, this was where a lot of very famous artists in the area cut their records. The tour included a bus trip, with a very knowledgeable guide who just could not keep still!
He was telling us that Elvis was sold by Sam Phillips to RCA because Sam was a gambler, and had run up $40,000 debts, so he sold Elvis’s contract to RCA for $40,000!
We were shown into the studio where Elvis cut most of this records, and there was the piano he used to warm up on, which he had tried to buy to take to Graceland, but RCA wouldn’t let him. They weren’t the only ones to say ‘No’ to Elvis, apparently Dolly Parton wrote the well known song recorded by Whitney Houston, ‘I will always love you, as compensation to RCA when she was wanting to leave. Elvis heard it and wanted to record it, but Col Parker always insisted he had the copywright of the songs he sang, and Dolly Refused to let him have it. She went on to have two No 1 hits with it, it made her a fortune before Whitney recorded it, and Elvis never did get his wish to record it.
We also learned that he would turn up for recording sessions late on a Sunday night. The Studio would be his for as long as he wanted it, everyone else only got time to record four songs. He would begin playing gospel songs on the piano, and just generally have jam sessions with his backing group and musicians until they felt like recording something much later on.
Elvis installed coloured lights into the ceiling, so he could change the mood of the studio. When it came to recording ‘How Great Thou Art’ they could not think of suitable lighting, so did it in the dark. I have a sneaky recording taken with the lights down, of that original sound.
There was a broken cupboard door, which apparently Elvis had kicked in in frustration when the record player wouldn’t work at all, and they had just left it. The piano below is the one he was told he couldn’t take home.
The studio was going to shut down, the date was scheduled for August 17th 1977. It was the day before that Elvis died, and the Studio was saved by someone with the foresight to realise what it would mean to keep it.
Back on the bus, and then back home to change for the Ryman.
We met up with Laurie and Steve, and set off downtown in the comfortable cream leather seats of their large Mercedes. The plan was to head to Demos and eat there again, as they had not visited that restaurant. We spent an hour eating steaks and chatting about the differences in the US and English way of speaking. Steve seemed keen to pick up a bit of English, and as we left, was proudly talking about car parks instead of parking lots!
They are heading back home over the weekend to South Carolina.a six and a half hour drive. All we had to do was drive to the airport, 7 miles away!
We arrived at the Ryman, and there was a group playing outside, with a large crowd gathered to listen. They finished at 7.00 pm, so we made our way through the throng, and inside into the comfort of the aircon, it was really hot out still.
Our seats were in the balcony, in the front row, we were over to one side, but still had a fantastic view. The Ryman was built as a Tabenacle Church in the late 1890s, with a semicircular auditorium in front of the stage. It was designed with good acoustics so every one could hear the preacher, and of course this made a marvellous arena for the courtry music sound. We noticed we were on the ‘Confererate Balcony’, I think I would have taken the Union side in the war!
The first act on was the Gibson Brothers, two brothers with a fiddle player, banjo player and a double bass player, as well as the two guitars the brothers played. Their music almost immediately got your toes tapping, and they kept the humour going with jibes about one brother’s lack of hair, and the other’s lack of intelligence!
At last their music got rid of the catchy refrain which had been buzzing round our heads all day from the previous night’s bar attendance. You can’t easily for get the line ‘All my Ex-es live in Texas, that’s why I’m down in Tennessee’!
They played for an hour, then there was a 15 minute break. I got up to get out of the sitting position, much is made of the ract that the Ryman has hard long pew like seats, and those in the know bring cushions. Those on the stage seem to revel in how uncomfortable their audience is!
The next group on were ‘Hot Rise’. Apparently they had found their was a cake raising agent sold which had the same name, and the company promised not to make a fuss ‘as long as you keep it clean’! We were divided over the acts, I enjoyed the more easy going Gibson Brothers, Rog like the more technically superior, but to my ears more frantic, music of Hot Rise. In the end we didn’t buy a CD of either of them.
We met up with Laurie and Steve, who had had tickets for the back of the balcony, and decided the night was yet young, and we would go clubbing! (They were not in the prime of youth either) The Hot Rise compere had said that a new group, friends of theirs, would be appearing in ‘Roberts’ a bar on Broadway, at 11.30 pm. We passed the bar at 10.30 pm and decided to see if we could get in. It was very crowded, and we were asked for ID, but when I couldn’t quickly find my driving licence, mt wrist was stamped with an ‘R’ and in we went. It was packed out, but I spotted that there was a balcony which looked a little lest crowded, and made gestures to Rog and the other two that we might try to get up there. I started to weave my way through to lead the way, but the others were struggling make progress. I actually got chatted up by a large gentleman, which hasn’t happened in a very long time, but I pointed out my husband was on his way (I didn’t say how big he was!) I then felt a definite pinch to my bottom, and looking round, there was a couple of girls laughitg and introducing themselves to me. A bit taken aback, I agin pointed out my husband was just behind me, and one of them said ‘right. I’m going to get his ass too’ and she did, Roger’s face was a picture, I should have filmed it!
Anyway, we managed to get up the stairs, and other customers quickly found us high stools to sit on round a table. This had the advantage, that we could hear the music, whilst not completely deafeningly loud, and breathe away from the crush, so we had beers and enjoyed ourselves. I would have photographic evidence of me waving a beer bottle, but Rog forgot to put the flash on his camera. If the kids could see us now, would they be proud or horrified? J
It was getting late, so we made our way back to the Library Car Park where Steve’s Mercedes was parked, and headed back to the Linden B and B. I got into trouble with Catherine in the morning for leading her other guests astray, she assured us they had been in bed by 8.30 pm every night till then, not sure I believed her!