Nash Hit; the Home of Country Music Is America's New Party Town. Join the Fun in Nashville, Tennessee

Sunday Mirror (London, England), June 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

Nash Hit; the Home of Country Music Is America's New Party Town. Join the Fun in Nashville, Tennessee


Byline: BRIAN HANCILL

An hour before my flight touches down in the USA I am watching a music documentary on the seatback screen. And the first words in this episode of Dave Grohl's Sonic Highways are: "Everybody now thinks that Nashville is the coolest city in America."

Well that's where I'm going and the Foo Fighters front man is absolutely right. Nashville, Tennessee, is buzzing with success. This is my third visit, and since I was last here four years ago the neon-lit downtown area has all but doubled in size. New bars, restaurants and shops open every week.

Every joint is jumping and traffic is held up by "pedal taverns" full of whooping young women on bachelorette (hen) weekends. Suddenly this is America's party town.

There are cranes and building sites everywhere but you can feel a crackle of energy and excitement in the streets. Sir Richard Branson is now building his second Virgin Hotel on Nashville's Music Row (the first is in Chicago) and there are whispers of a direct UK flight soon.

For decades the city relied on country music to pull in tourists. Now it's a backdrop to vibrant new ventures in art, fashion, dining and drinking. The hit US TV drama called Nashville has helped, mixing soapopera glamour and excellent music with high-gloss images showing the city in a great light.

The show's male lead, Charles "Chip" Esten, 49, was headlining at the Grand Ole Opry on the night we visited. He's come a long way from 1990s TV improv on Whose Line Is It Anyway? We'd booked a backstage tour and stood just inches away as he and his band rehearsed.

Ninety years old this year, the Opry is the world's longestrunning radio show and an on-stage announcer still reads out commercials between the acts. Tickets from PS21, VIP tour PS63 extra. opry.com Until 1974 the Ryman Auditorium in the heart of town WAS the Opry. But after the show moved out it went to seed and had to be saved from the wrecking ball. Now it's busy with gigs nearly every night, while daytime tours tell you about its heritage. You can get up on the hallowed stage with a guitar and when I busked my way through Hey Good Lookin' a stranger from Seattle joined in with a perfect harmony. Tours from PS10, ryman.com Next on the musical must-see list is the Country Music Hall of Fame, where a replica of superstar Taylor Swift's tour bus doubles as a recording studio. Another major exhibit tells how the Nashville Cats, a band of insanely talented session players, attracted folk, pop and rock stars to the city's studios after Bob Dylan made his Blonde On Blonde album there in 1966. We meet Charlie McCoy, 74, the "Cat" whose guitar work on Dylan's song Desolation Row convinced the star to fly south to make his next record. countrymusichalloffame.org Then there's historic RCA Studio B, which opened in 1958. Run by the Hall of Fame with a shuttle between the two, it is full of memories and ghosts with its original Steinway grand piano still in place. This was the home of more than 1,000 hits by legends such as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves, the Everly Brothers and Dolly Parton. studiob.org Nashville's newest attraction is the George Jones Museum, a moving and rewarding tribute to a star hailed as the greatest-ever voice in country. Once an alcoholic known as "No Show Jones", George died peacefully in 2013, aged 81, and the museum is owned by widow Nancy. Along with the guitars, gold discs and costumes you'll see his driving licence, passport, watches, spectacles, even a barbershop that the well-groomed star had installed at home to save trips into town. …

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