Nashville as Music City U.S.A. is not some tourist marketing slogan. The places lives and breathes it while being a focal point of its economy.
Music labels are moving resources from New York to Nashville (as well as Los Angeles) because of its wealth of musical talent, production know-how and industry expertise. It’s not just for country music, it’s for all genres who appreciate the city’s history.
Sure, you can hit up any number of dive bars to see the potential next big act or the tourist trap honky tonks on Broadway, but you should really get an all-encompassing experience at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Located in the heart of Nashville, it’s everything you wanted to know about country music and appreciation of the artists that made it an American tradition.
Do I like country music? Yes and no. I’m all over Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams and even some of the goofy acts you’d fine on 70s comedy show, Hee-Haw. The stuff that passes as country music — that’s just water-down country mass marketed to the general public.
Luckily, the Country Music Hall of Fame focuses mostly on the history and it’s most vital artists. Like an good museum, you start with a timeline of the origins, dating back to British and Irish musicians bring fiddles, banjos and guitars with them in the mid-1800s.
Many of the stereotypes we associated with country music — the big hats, big buckles, cowboy shirts and twangy accents — comes from early Hollywood talkies from Tom Mix and Roy Rogers.
One of the many thing I liked about the museum is that embraces the often goofy aspects of vintage country. Look for crazy outfits and a decked-out Rolls Royce fit for The King.
It also brought out a lot of forgotten artists that I remember my parents listening to like the Mandrel Sisters, Eddie Rabbit, Alabama, Kenny Rogers and Mac Davis. There’s plenty of recordings and videos through the hall.
The special exhibit during my visit was on an unlikely Nashville artist, Bob Dylan. Many of his best known albums were partially recorded in Nashville, even during his Greenwich Village days. Blonde on Blonde was recorded in Nashville in 1966 to take advantage of local musicians.
Your visit will end with the rotunda with the bronze plaques of the hall members. It’s newest members in 2017 included Alan Jackson, Jerry Reed, and Don Schlitz.
Plan for about three hours to explore the museum. You can buy tickets online, but there no line when I visited. Tt is worth seeing if there are any online discounts. I also did the Hatch Show Print shop tour, which will add about 90 minutes to your visit.