RetroView – Nashville 2007


Nashville is the New Vintage*
By Chris Murphy

I have always been a blues guy. My first electric guitar was a Fender Stratocaster with a tube amplifier. The BBQ and the Blues was my thing, and Nashville was always 4 hours away. It was in the category of “Never got around to it”. So this spring, I decided to change my plans and dive head first into Nashville. But first, we digress.

The country and rockabilly sound is something that is a treasure to Modesto. Local band Maddox Brothers and Rose have been considered some of the true creators of Bluegrass and Rockabilly music and they were on the local airwaves on KTRB with Chester Smith and his other touring artists that were semi-adopted locals like Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and visits by Hank Williams. We have our own share of music history.

Fast forward to Nashville 2007, the Grand Ole Opry is alive and kicking and still is broadcast on radio as it was over 50 years ago. WSM AM 650 is the country heartbeat and a trip to the Grand Ole Opry is a religious experience, complete with a ice filled Jack and Coke accompanied by some serious toe tapping.

Modesto has a really good music scene and when I go to places like Chicago, Memphis, New York and check out the local scene, we don’t realize how good we have it and why it is so important that we make our music and entertainment industry a regional priority. Why? People come from far and wide for music and music is the soundtrack of our lives.
Nashville is truly a special place. The stakes are high. Whether you are in the split level twin stage setting of Tootsie’s or in the Full Moon or The Stage or even the hallowed Ryman Hall, the quality of the music is unreal. The Country Music Hall of Fame dominates the downtown business area, side by side with vintage guitar shops like Gruhn and great new boutique restaurants. Downtown Nashville is easy to navigate, not too big and there are some great areas like Printers Row and the old Stockyard areas that really take you away.

Just how do you do Nashville? First, it starts with a nice local flight out of Modesto where you can connect in LAX or SFO and then pass through Denver or Chicago and then into Nashville. There really is no direct way from the west coast. The next questions is rental car or not. Depends on what you want to do. If you want to take some of the regional drives and check out some of the beautiful antebellum style mansions and enjoy the scenic parkways a car would be ideal and parking is easy most everywhere. If you are into the downtown and Opry scene, then one of the many shuttle busses works great.

There are a couple of good hotel offerings in the downtown and the freeway areas, but to truly go all the way and get into the scene, then it is mission critical that you book into the Gaylord Opryland. Unreal. This is the only way to describe it. Over two thousand rooms in 6 complete theme areas, completely enclosed and air conditioned, New Orleans style villages have been recreated, lakes and waterfalls, giant mansion that double as steak houses sit completely under the glass ceilings. You need to make sure that you upgrade to one of the interior rooms. Don’t kid yourself, in the summer, it is hot and humid in Nashville. In the spring and fall it is really nice. Still, get an inside room with a balcony and you will love it. Now here is the best part.

The Grand Ole Opry is right next door. Walking distance. You can enjoy a nice refreshement in the Jack Daniels lounge, maybe grab a steak, or even sushi in the Cascade wing and then walk, or take the free shuttle busses, over to the Opry. This is an amazing experience.

The night we went, we were treated to Porter Waggoner, Pam Tillis, Little Jimmy Dickens, Marty Stuart, and even American Idol Kelly Pickler and the radio show DJ narration throughout the evening made it fun. The “New” Opry building is a massive room, with church-style pews and a massive balcony and stage technicians that make the show run flawlessly. It is a revered tradition to both attend and perform at the Opry. There are occasional some special Opry events at the original Ryman Hall in downtown.

Getting around town
This is easy. There are tour and shuttle busses everywhere. There are shuttle that run from the Opryland every half hour until midnight. This makes going downtown and having fun a pretty easy deal. On Broadway, the honkytonk scene couldn’t get better. On one block of Broadway, between 4th and 5th Streets, there are 8 bars with live bands, some with two stages.

The music is top notch. There must be some kind of rule that says “Don’t show up in Nashville unless you rip” Even thought Gibson is a high profile sponsor of many events, the guitars are Fender Telecasters and acoustics are Martins. There is a wide variety of music from hard core country to mainstream rock. Still very few Les Pauls.

No trip to downtown is complete without a tour of the original home of the Opry, the Ryman Hall. Dinner downtown should be enjoyed at the original Stockyard Steakhouse. Delicious aged steaks and a huge variety of memorabilia and on display is a bottle of 1776 red wine, housed in a pressurized tank in the lobby. A visit to the Hall of Fame is essential as are trips to the giant 3-story Wild Horse Saloon where line dancing lessons are provided, the Sun Records Store to load up on Johnny Cash and Elvis stuff, Coyote Ugly where the cute cowboy hat wearing bartender girls can rip it up like Charlie Daniels on the fiddle playing Devil Went Down to Georgia. Tootsie’s is a split level twin stage mindblower that is always packed and before they close for the evening, shop for vintage 1957 Strats at Gruhn Guitars. And then catch your late night bus back to your hotel. Such a deal.

Nashville is the real thing. You will feel the real thing and best of all, you will feel a cool connection when you come back to Modesto and realize, that our own Chester Smith walked the floors of the Opry in the same room as Elvis and the voices of Maddux Brothers and Rose ring in our memories.

Here are the info spots:

Fly Modesto
www.ual.com
www.expedia.com
Make sure you try both to get all the connector options

Get Opry Information Here:
www.opry.com

WMS 650 AM – Tune in to Nashville today
www.wsmonline.com/

Check out the Gaylord Opryland.
www.gaylordopryland.com

Country Music Hall of Fame
www.countrymusichalloffame.com

Gruhn Guitar
www.gruhn.com/

One of the best local websites for info
www.nashvillesightseeing.com
The Stock Yard Steak House
www.stock-yardrestaurant.com

*This is a rerun of an 2007 trip to Nashville when we could fly out of Modesto.

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.