This place is colossal! With a mission "to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of country music" you need some serious space and they've got it. I rent the self guided audio tour and get to work.
I start on the 3rd floor which documents the earliest kernels of country music and work my way down. Records here go way back, and cover musicians I've never heard of.
Even if you're not a fan of country music, there is a little something for everyone here.
Honky-tonk singer Webb Pierce paid $20,000 to have this 1962 Pontiac Bonneville customized by Nudie Cohn, a tailor who outfitted singers of the day with elaborate outfits.
|Johnny Cash's guitar|
& signature black suit
|Gold Record Wall|
The gold record wall, recognizing musicians' achievements for selling at least 500,000 albums.
This place is so huge with rotating exhibits that it feels impossible to ever see it all. I have tickets to see the Opry at the Ryman theater so I head outside towards Broadway.
|Tootsie's Orchid Lounge|
It's literally freezing outside, and with time to kill, I pop into the first place that has a heater, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.
Tootsie's has a long history.
Originally named Mom's, "Tootsie" Bess bought the future Honky Tonk in 1960. To her surprise a painter painted the outside purple and the name was changed to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Tootsie was known for slipping $5 and $10 bills into the pockets of inspiring, but down on their luck writers and musicians who couldn't pay their tabs and had resulting IOU's. It is said Opry performers would pay those IOU's each year so Tootsie wouldn't lose money.
Ah...The Grand Ole Opry. I remember this from when I was a kid. Little did I know then that this weekly country music stage concert had been broadcasting since 1925. During this time of year, the Opry is held at the Ryman Theater and features aspiring and seasoned artists alike.
|The Willis Clan|
No pretense here, as it's all about the music.