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Bicentennial Park, Nashville, TN
1st Aug 2008
Nashville, TN

Ahhhh, the humidity!  I'm certainly back in the South.  I thought DC was bad, but back in the real South it's as humid as I remember it, the only difference is that now I am spending my days trekking around and not sitting in an air-conditioned cubicle.

I started my day's tourism in Capitol Bicentennial Park, before climbing Capitol Hill to enter the city.  Nashville, the state capital, is not too big, not too new, and not too old, despite many of the buildings being done in Greek Revivalist style, including the Capitol.

I wondered around until I found myself in Ryman hall, one of the homes of the Grand Ole Oprey (more later).  Adjacent to this was a vintage guitar shop, which of course I went in.  I didn't touch any of the instruments as their price tags and the "you break it, you pay for it" signs meant I was out of my wallet's depth:  an SG for $10,000, a 1934 The Gibson banjo for $12,5000 and a white Gibson mandolin for $20,000.  Beautiful.

One attraction is the replica of Fort Nashborough, from which the city grew. I didn't stay long here as it was in Bum Central.

Nashville is known as Music City and is famous for its country music.  Not only are there many bars and clubs but lots of record companies too.  I went to Music Square, a posh part of town where every building is a record company HQ or recording studio.  I admit that although I only knew some of the labels (EMI, RCA and Sony) I did recognise the names of the songs that were on banners outside the buildings:  "ABC record company congratulation A. N. Other producer for his hit 'Better as a memory', by whomever, recorded here."  Some of the houses had been turned into recording studios, presumably to rent by the hour. 

Finally I went to the TN State History museum, which was interesting.  I did, however, spot an error and duly reported it (the British in 1790 would not have flown today's Union flag, which dates from the 1801).


The Grand Ole Oprey is a TV show, a country music magazine.  It started in 1925 as a radio show that quickly drew a live audience following.  The show has moved homes several times and now has a dedicated building near to where I am staying.  I went to the museum.  It was of excellent quality, but I had no idea who anyone was and so didn't get too much out of it.  

I read that many of the bands were hickified by the management.  Normal Tennessee artists, with names like Daniel and his Clarkes or something, who wore normal clothes, were turned into redneck spectacles, given floppy hats and dungarees, and told to call themselves Daniel and the Whiskey-Sippin' Hill Boys or similar.


In the evening my hosts Nate and Sara took me and another surfer out to some bars.  The crowd in Nashville is much older than in, say, Atlanta, with a population distribution skewed towards 50 or 60-somethings and, alas, away from 21 year old girls.

The first bar we went to featured a virtuoso country band in a bar whose decor was cowboy boots.  I already knew that country guitarists are among the most talented, but this bad convinced me.  Anyone who can play at that speed and remain so accurate, without letting the distortion play for him and mask his imperfections, will always rank higher in my mind than a rocker.

The second bar was very strange.  The male lead musician wore a pink satin shirt (or blouse), unbuttoned to show his male-symbol necklace, wore tight jeans with sequins on them, and sat with legs wide apart facing the crowd even though his blues piano was at 90 degrees to this.  He flopped his long blond hair around and towards the crescendo of a song stood up and played the piano with his feet, even hung from the rafters and played with his feet.  I think he missed out on being an 1980s hair band player so is making up today.  The shoeless guitarist looked like Boomhauer from dat dang-ole King of the Hill man.

I wished we had gone to more country clubs as I'd only really seen one country band, but a house party was calling. The theme was Christmas in August and many of the female guests were dressed in green lycra dresses with tinsel.  Most amusing.  Halfway through a huge group of dirty punks arrived, all riding bicycles, and descended upon the house.  The fashion in bikes in Boston was single-speed messenger bikes, in Nashville it is for "tall bikes".  A tall bike is essentially a comically-oversized bike, often made from two frames welded together, with the saddle about neck-height.  The bikes have no brakes besides a foot on the tyre.  I rode one and fell off from this great height, landing on my back unscathed, due to braking too hard and losing all my speed.

I wasn't quite ready to leave the party when my friends were, so I drove them home and then I returned to the party to finish what I had started. With a girl called Georgia.

Next: Long-distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee.
Previous: Charleston, WV and Lexington, KY, on the way to Nashville, TN

Diary Photos

Bicentennial Park, Nashville, TN

Bicentennial Park, Nashville, TN

State Capitol, Nashville, TN

State offices, Nashville, TN

Modern buildings, Nashville, TN

Old geezer, Nashville, TN

Music lovers` bus stop, Nashville, TN

Pew guitar, Nashville, TN

Ryman hall, Nashville, TN

$20k mandolin, Nashville, TN

Vintage music shop, Nashville, TN

The Batman building, Nashville, TN

1st St, Nashville, TN

Fort Nashborough, Nashville, TN

EMI records, Music Square, Nashville, TN

Music Square, Nashville, TN

Musician practising, Music Square, Nashville, TN

Recording studio/house, Nashville, TN

Duelling pistols, TN State Museum, Nashville, TN

Stocks, TN State Mus., Nashville, TN

Jackson guitar, Nashville, TN

Capitol Hill, Nashville, TN

TN War Memorial, Nashville, TN

Cash`s guitar, Oprey, Nashville, TN

Origins of redneck bands, Nashville, TN

The Grand Ole Oprey, Nashville, TN

Band, Robert`s bar, Nashville, TN

Supercamp band, Nashville, TN

House party, Nashville, TN

Tall bike 1, Nashville, TN

Tall bike 2, Nashville, TN

Christmas outfit, house party, Nashville, TN

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