Walking Through Music History
Long before it was one of the hippest and fastest growing cities in the nation, Nashville has always beckoned visitors with historic charm.
Known as “Music City,” Nashville is the epicenter of country music. It seems that everybody who is anybody in country music history has traveled the streets of Nashville.
The capital city of Tennessee has kept its country music history very much alive — and relevant — in today’s modern world. The newest stars in the genre still find their start at the same places the fabled musicians once did.
When it comes to vintage Nashville sites, perhaps there are no other places as rich in legendary history as the Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry. Ryman Auditorium is called the Mother Church of Country Music. A National Historic Landmark, the building has been home to celebrated performances since 1892. Tours of the location where everyone from Patsy Cline to Elvis Costello have performed evoke an eclectic vibe, combining state-of-the-art technology with country music artifacts from the last century.
The Grand Ole Opry used to call the Ryman Auditorium home before moving to its current home, the Grand Ole Opry House. The new location pays homage to the past, with a 6-foot oak circle cut from the Ryman stage and located where stars sing on stage at the Grand Ole Opry House.
Tours of the Grand Ole Opry House reveal a storied past, as well. This is where the famous radio broadcast takes place. You may be surprised at the intimate setting of the theater and the down-home feel throughout the entire property. In fact, performers still carry their own instruments inside, share bathrooms and dressing rooms that you can see on the backstage tour.
Nashville’s musical heritage is also honored at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The modern destination in downtown Nashville showcases an exhaustive collection of country music artifacts. It’s been called the “Smithsonian of country music,” and transports you to the very beginnings of the musical genre through stories, songs, videos and personal memorabilia.
From the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, catch a tour to the historic RCA Studio B. The studio where Elvis Presley recorded over 200 songs is Nashville’s oldest surviving recording studio. It’s been the location of recording classic hits such as “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and “I Will Always Love You.” Performers such as Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and countless others have roamed these halls while pondering their world-famous tunes.
RCA Studio B is located on the famed Music Row. For nearly 70 years, this part of Nashville has been noted for its concentration of music recording studios, along with other music-related businesses, such as music publicists and attorneys. Many notable names in the music industry, from the first country crooners to modern-day performers like Faith Hill and Keith Urban, have come to this small part of Nashville on their way to fame.
Since Nashville is synonymous with music, it’s sometimes easy to forget that three U.S. presidents have also called the area home. Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson all lived in this area of Tennessee. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage: Home of the People’s President, is one of the largest presidential residences in America. The 1,120-acre destination is the site of our seventh president’s house, as well as six other historic buildings. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Hermitage combines exhibits, a film, seasonal wagon tours, gardens, walking trails and even an on-site café.
Travel from a U.S. president’s home to a Greek temple in about 15 minutes when you visit the Parthenon in Nashville. Originally built in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, the towering structure is the world’s only full-scale replica of an ancient Greek temple. It’s not just a pretty photo backdrop. Inside you’ll find exhibits on history and art, as well as a 42-foot statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war.
Consider a quick road trip (about 80 miles) to Lynchburg, Tenn., to drink in a bit of the Nashville area’s history at the Jack Daniel Distillery, the oldest registered distillery in the United States. On a guided tour of the famous distillery that opened in 1866 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, you’ll learn about the process of making the famous sour mash and then sample Old No. 7. Visitors in the know also make a reservation for Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House restaurant, a 110-year old family-style eatery serving up down-home cooking.
Explore Nashville’s musical history. Stop by your local AAA office or call 800-398-0379 and speak with a AAA Travel Agent.