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Photo by Neala

Nashville, Tennessee: All music, all the time

Three nights, five different music venues with fiddlin', finger pickin', and singing. From ballads at Bluebird, to the cover tunes at honky tonks, and traditional country of Grand Ole Opry, Nashville is truly Music City.
There's certainly more to enjoy in this downhome city unexpected sights such as a giant gold leaf Athena, a symphony orchestra (Schermerhorn Symphony Center), an art deco post office turned sophisticated art museum (the Frist), and historic mansions, but Nashville is country music home, and, when I wasn't listening to music, I was exploring musical history.

Honky Tonks of Broadway

With no cover or minimum in most clubs Broadway, also known as the Honky Tonk Highway, is the place to start the musical journey.

The icon of the area is Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Part of the early lure is said to be its location 26 steps to the Ryman Theater, which meant just a short stroll took singers from the theater to the bar. Photo by Neala

There's photo- and graffiti-covered walls, and wall to wall people on weekends, and even during the week. Two floors, and singers playing their own songs and covers of audience favorites, it was also my introduction to the hallowed tradition of hollering and swallering. "On the count of three first we're gonna holler," intoned the musician, "then we're gonna swaller." Not one to miss such an important tradition, I held my drink aloft, hollered and swallered.

Just about three doors down, Robert's Western World started life as a western wear store which explains both the cowboy boots adorning the shelves running along the walls and the album covers. Come on inside and listen to music, or buy a pair of boots. Either one works.

There's plenty more places to try, so if you've got the time, start at one end, and listen your way down Broadway.

Market Street

Not all the music plays on Broadway, Market Street has become another music and dining scene. The Wildhorse Saloon turned a three-level historic warehouse into 66,000 square foot live music and dance. There's even dance lessons to help you get into the rhythm of the city.

For Finger Pickin' Good Music

The Station Inn specializes in bluegrass and roots music. It's a funky place, an iconic smoky joint only without the smoke since Nashville has gone s mokeless with exposed heating and air conditioning vents, rough wood floor, folding chairs. Dimly lit, mainly by neon beer signs except for spots on the stage. Photo by Neala

Bluebird Cafe

The Bluebird Cafe was easily my favorite. This tiny gem is located off the main downtown area, in a strip of stores, making it easy to miss. But don't it's worth the trip. It serves food and drinks but it's the music that sparkles. It's a place for song writers, and that can range from just breaking into the business to "oh my gosh I love that song?"

In Nashville, it's easy to go exploring and find your own music just look for the Live Music Venue sign.

Nashville Symphony

This city is more than country music. It has a fine symphony orchestra, and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center offers a full musical program each season provides 100 classical, pops and special concert events. There are recitals, choral concerts, cabaret, jazz and world music events. It all takes place amid classical designed space.

The innovative and thoughtful features include a custom-built concert organ, and a unique motorized system that lowers rows of seats into a special below-surface storage space to transform the concert hall into a more intimate setting for cabaret-style events such as pops and jazz concerts.

Music Floats From Utility Boxes

Yes, the Department of Public Works added music to the utility boxes around downtown. The box by the Schermerhorn Symphony Center plays classical music while the box by Country Music Hall of Fame plays... country. More are scattered around the city.

Read next page Music City: Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and more