Monday, April 13, 2015

First Day in Nashville

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 7, 2015) my husband, Don, and I drove from our home in Chesapeake, Virginia, to Nashville, TN, as part of our spring vacation.

I was curious about Nashville from watching episodes of a reality TV show, American Pickers. The show stars two men, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, and their assistant, Danielle Colby Cushman, who run an antiques business, Antique Archaeology. The men mostly drive a van around the country looking for unusual antiques, or "rusty gold," as they put it. Danielle mostly runs the retail end, finding the men leads on good places to pick, minding the store, etc.

Due to the growth in their business they decided to open a new store in Nashville, and the shots of their new location in an old brick factory caused me to beg hubby to bring me to Music City. Last summer I met the Vickie Vaughn Band, which I wrote about earlier this year in Latin.  To summarize, I met her at a Bluegrass festival in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and liked her sound. She said she's from Nashville, and, to my surprise, is friends with Ricky Braddy, a former high school student of mine who moved to Nashville and enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame as a television contestant on American Idol. Both young people said nice things about Nashville, and I'd heard a lot about it over the years, so between that and wanting to see the new American Pickers location I decided I wanted to go.

I just realized all of the above makes me sound like I'm a star-struck television addict. The fact is, I hardly watch any television at all. I mostly read, write, teach Latin, cook, garden, listen to music, and work out at the YMCA.


Anyway, Don loves me and indulges me. A lot. So we arrived in Nashville yesterday after a
gueling 12-hour drive from our home in Southeastern Virginia.

OK, so it was grueling for Don; I mostly slept or read the whole time. Did I mention he indulges me?

In reality he spoils me rotten.

This morning our first order of business was to visit the Marathon Motor Works, the home of the new Antique Archaeology location. While we were waiting for the business to open, we explored the whole building, both floors, because Don has a strong pair of legs and an insatiable curiosity. The building is still being renovated but already contains an eclectic mix of retail shops, food vendors (coffee, baked goods, or candy), and creative endeavors related to web design, radio, or music or film production. There are signs, pictures, and photos throughout the building, almost like a museum, so the building encompasses a vibrant mixture of old and new. It's a great setting for the famous antiques business. A different television show, Nashville, also must like the location, because it was setting up to shoot on location there as we were leaving.

Antique Archaeology's storefront at the former Marathon Motor Works, which made cars c. 1911
Marathon Motor Car back in the day

Our next stop was the Ryman Auditorium, the "Mother Church of Country Music" and the place where bluegrass music got its start. It's named after a river boat captain, Thomas G. Ryman, who first built it as an actual church, the Union Gospel Tabernacle, in 1892, for a traveling preacher named Sam Jones. Careful attention was paid to the acoustics of the space so that the congregants could clearly hear the preacher's words. In fact, the acoustics even today are said to surpass that of famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.

View of the Ryman Theater from the Confederate Gallery

View of the Ryman Theater, former home of the Grand Ole Opry, from the stage

"Union Gospel Tabernacle--1895;" oil on Canvass by Michael Summers of Nashville, TN

Many different speakers and events have taken place at the Ryman over the centuries, drawn in part to those amazing acoustics. Big names include Mae West, Katharine Hepburn, Rudolph Valentino, and Bob Hope. On Saturdays from 1943-1974 the Grand Ole Opry, which started as a popular radio show, made its home there. Name a popular country or bluegrass performer from this timeframe and he or she probably performed there: Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams, the list goes on and on. We toured the building, took the backstage tour, had our picture taken on the stage, then made our way over to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, TN

On our way it was impossible not to notice that a national convention of the National Rifle Association was coming to town. Bars along our route boasted an odd mixture of Miller Beer signs welcoming the NRA's arrival and signs prohibiting guns on the premises. The buzz was that the NRA was bringing over 70,000 members to town for its convention, which is an awful lot of money no matter how you stack it.

The NRA Annual Meeting will draw over 70,000 visitors to Nashville, including presidential hopefuls and over 400 protestors

Elvis Presley's "Solid Gold" Cadillac

Webb Pierce's "Silver Dollar Convertible," designed by Nudie Cohn

The Country Music Hall of Fame had so much to see and hear that it was overwhelming. We spent hours there. Special exhibits on Kenny Rogers and on "(Bob) Dylan, (Johnny) Cash, and the Nashville Cats" were not to be missed. I especially enjoyed seeing Elvis Presley's favorite car, the "Solid Gold Cadillac," which he donated to the museum about a year before his death. We also took a tour of historic "RCA Studio B," the "Home of 1,000 hits," where Presley, the Everly Brothers, Charley Pride, Roy Orbison, and many others recorded their hit songs. I was thrilled to stand in the same room that Elvis did, the "sweet spot" with the room's best acoustics marked with a blue X to show where he stood, and to see the Steinway piano that the "King" loved to play as he was warming up his vocal chords prior to his recording sessions.

Brenda, our docent, in Nashville's famed Studio B. Steinway where Elvis Presley warmed up before recording

After the museum, we walked around 5th Street and Broadway for a little while, taking in the ambience, and stopped into a little bar for some orange juice and some rest and to hear some modern-day live country music.

Drink, Exercise, and See the Sights in Nashville's Pedal Tavern (We skipped this)

Nashville is an interesting blend of the historic and the modern, even in its architechture. I've never visited a city quite like it. And I can't wait to find out what's in store for us tomorrow.


  1. HI Mary Lou, I love your blog and your writing style. Thanks so much for doing this! I am intrigued by the peddle bar. I can visualize you two getting your OJ there. Thanks for doing this!

    1. You are welcome. Thanks for the encouragement.