February 22, 2020

Nashville Sights & Sounds – Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry & Opryland Hotel

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.  You may want to grab your favorite beverage at this point and settle in for a time.  I realize this is a long post, but I didn't want to split up our Nashville visit into too many posts.  We still have a lot of miles to cover on this trip!

Alan’s and my most recent memories of Nashville date back approximately 23 years to when our son Ryan was just two years old, and our daughter wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye.  During that visit to Music City, we were traveling with my Mom and her niece, my cousin, Annie.  At the time, the Opryland theme park was still in existence, our visit to Nashville coincided with the holiday season, and we enjoyed a wonderful (but brisk) walk through Opryland to take in the lights and shows.  Unfortunately, we happened to be there during a cold snap, and I can still recall the wicked temperature of 17 degrees on the evening of our excursion through Opryland.  (It was not a problem that a large mug of hot chocolate and the pleasure of being with family couldn’t fix.)  On that trip, our budget allowed for one night at the Opryland Hotel and, rather than drag Ryan’s camper crib in for just a single night, Alan and I decided that we’d let him sleep in the bed with us.  Big mistake.  We discovered that our two year old traveled about 4.5 miles in his sleep at night, and Alan and I woke a number of times with Ryan’s various body parts in our faces or poking us in the back or belly.  Lesson learned.  Never again.

I’m going to digress here for just a moment to share something with you:  Alan and I have lived in our current home for more than 38 years, and every once in a while we try to go through it to keep the clutter down and clear out unused items.  Now that we’re older (and, hopefully, wiser), we’re realizing that we have a lot of “baggage” that our son and daughter would have to wade through after our, um, permanent exit from the stage of life.  In an effort to save them from that fate, I’m currently cleaning out, yet again, and with a more critical eye.  Through an amazing coincidence, about six hours after I drafted the previous paragraph, I was going through some old greeting cards and memorabilia in our upstairs storage area, and I came across an envelope marked “Ryan – First Trip to Nashville – 12/16/96-12/22/96.”  It was SO coincidental that it was actually eerie.  On the positive side, I just might write about a winning lottery ticket and see what happens.

Getting back to today’s tale . . . In a previous post, I had mentioned that our friends, Kathy and Albert, were on board with our desire to re-visit the Opryland Hotel, to tour the Country Music Hall of Fame, and, of course, to attend the performance of the Grand Ole Opry for which we all had tickets.  Our time together in Nashville began with a quiet picnic lunch at our campsite at Seven Points Campground, the Army Corps of Engineers facility located on J. Percy Priest Lake just east of Nashville.  Following lunch, our whirlwind tour began.

Seven Points Campground ~ Hermitage, Tennessee

Our first stop was the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, formerly known as the Opryland Hotel.  I consider the resort to be an impressive and spectacular facility.  The atrium areas are exquisitely designed and delightful to tour.

Impressive design accents at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Alan and I recognized a small café in the atrium where we had dined with my Mom, Annie and Ryan when we were there in 1996.  Our tour that day with Kathy and Albert also reminded us of the splendid evening light show at the Delta Fountain which, if I recall correctly (never a sure thing), was accompanied by a talented musician tickling the keys of a piano.  Wandering through the Opryland Hotel proved to be a most pleasing stroll down memory lane.

There were many lovely waterscapes throughout the hotel.

Our visit to the hotel was followed by a quick supper at Logan's Roadhouse, and then it was on to the Grand Ole Opry, an iconic Nashville tradition that began quite humbly back in 1925.  The entire history of the Opry can be found on the Grand Ole Opry’s web site (link HERE).  Just to prove exactly how humble that beginning was, I’ve quoted the following from that site:  “One of the founders of National Life and Accident Insurance Company had a fascination with radio and convinced the company to launch its own radio station. In its downtown Nashville office, National Life built a small studio with a window, which passersby in the hallway could peer into. With call letters that were an acronym for National Life’s slogan “We shield millions,” WSM went on the air on October 5, 1925. The station later gave birth to the Grand Ole Opry, and soon enough, country music fans began showing up in droves to watch the show, crowding the building’s hallway at the aggravation of some National Life executives.”  I love this story!

Here we are!  This is so exciting!

What is now known as the Grand Ole Opry began as a simple one hour live radio show called the “WSM Barn Dance” which first aired on November 28, 1925, and was hosted by George Hay.  Two years later, Hay coined the term “Grand Ole Opry,” and the show went on to become the longest running radio program in the country.  WSM continues its live broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry to this day.  (When the “ON AIR” light went on during the performance we attended, it was touching moment.  Not only were we privileged to witness this long-standing tradition but we were, in fact, part of it.)  The Opry soon outgrew its original location in the National Life and Accident Company office, and moved to several other venues before finally settling into the current “Grand Old Opry House” in 1974.

The respect and reverence that exists for country music’s history and the artists who built it impresses me to no end.  While, certainly, singers and musicians from many genres admit to being influenced by those who came before, my personal feeling is that the level of respect that exists in country music goes above and beyond anything else I’ve seen.  Indeed, when constructing the new Grand Ole Opry House, an eight square foot piece of hardwood was cut from the stage of the Opry’s previous home at the Ryman Auditorium, “the Mother Church of Country Music”.  The square was then carved into a six foot circle and placed center stage at the Opry’s new home so that a beloved and important piece of the Opry’s history would not be lost.  To me, that simple act speaks volumes.  Now, on to the exciting part!

Historic radio station WSM, 650 AM on your radio dial

I mentioned in a previous post that, when tickets for an Opry performance become available, the program is not finalized and you “pays your money and you takes your chances” when you buy tickets early on.  At the time I purchased our tickets, the only name I recognized was that of Chris Janson.  Janson is one of those “overnight successes” who had been releasing music since 2010, but didn’t break through until 2017.  His single that was playing on country music radio around the time I was looking into tickets had quickly become one of my favorites.  Its title, Drunk Girl, wasn’t what had won my admiration.  What did was the theme of the song - and Janson’s musical talent on the piano keys didn’t hurt a bit either.  In a Billboard interview, Chris Janson revealed that he and his co-writers (Tom Douglas and Scooter Carusoe) wrote the song from a father's perspective.  They all hoped that a young man would treat their daughter with respect, do the right thing and simply take her home.  That fervent wish, in reference to their young daughters, plays itself out beautifully in the song and, while I hope our daughter, Kyra, never finds herself in that situation, Chris Janson’s wish is my prayer, as well.

“Take a drunk girl home, let her sleep all alone
Leave her keys on the counter, your number by the phone
Pick up her life she threw on the floor
Leave the hall lights on, walk out and lock the door
That's how she knows the difference between a boy and man
Take a drunk girl home”

I was delighted that we would be seeing Chris Janson perform live at the Grand Ole Opry.  From that point on, I didn’t check back on the program until shortly before the big day.  After all, it was the tradition of an Opry performance and live broadcast that Alan and I wanted to enjoy.  The fact that there was already one performer I would be tickled to see was enough of a blessing.

Chris Janson at the piano

As (our excellent) luck would have it, Riders in the Sky and Sawyer Brown were added to the list of performers.  Both of these groups were familiar to us from the 90’s, and Sawyer Brown remains one of our favorites to this day.

It was a treat to see Sawyer Brown in concert again!

Sawyer Brown’s lead vocalist, Mark Miller, deserves bonus points as far as I’m concerned.  Despite the fact that he had celebrated his 60th birthday about six months before this Opry performance, he was still pulling off the dance moves for which he was well known when he was in his 20’s.  God bless him.

Notice the hardwood circle cut from the stage of the Ryman

Also included on the program that evening were Hunter Hayes, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, and Chonda Pierce.  However, the highlight of the show proved to be none other than country music superstar Keith Urban.

This was a delightful surprise!

I will confess that I’m not a huge Keith Urban fan and I’ve not seen him in concert before; however, I do like several of his songs, and I was impressed that evening by both his musical talent and his rapport with the audience.

Our daughter, the barber, would say he needs a haircut.

Considering Keith Urban’s memorable appearance, the pleasure of seeing an old favorite like Sawyer Brown and the opportunity to hear Chris Janson sing a song that had already touched my heart, the evening was just magnificent.  As it so happened, Janson’s parents were in town to celebrate an anniversary and were backstage to watch their son perform at the most revered venue in Nashville, the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.  Wow!  What a wonderful night!

The large screen above center stage made it easy to see every performer.

The next day, our friends, chauffeurs and tour guides extraordinaire, Kathy and Albert, picked us up and we continued our fun-filled exploration of Nashville.  Our first stop was the new Country Music Hall of Fame.   I say “new” because Alan and I had never visited the Hall of Fame at its current location on 5th Avenue.  Decades ago, we had thoroughly enjoyed touring the “old” Hall of Fame which was the lovely, but much smaller, original facility on Music Row in downtown Nashville that had opened in 1967.  (The move to 5th Avenue occurred in 2001 – well after our last visit.)

The entrance to the Country Music Hall of Fame on 5th Avenue in Nashville

The new museum promised to be bigger and better, and we were eager to see it.  How would I describe the new Country Music Hall of Fame?  Spectacular?  Impressive?  Enjoyable?  Enlightening?  Fascinating?  Engaging?  Awe-inspiring?  How about all of the above and then some?!  There is one other word I would use, if I were to be truthful: overwhelming.  (Mike, is that "were to be truthful?"  Or "was to be truthful?")  The Hall of Fame shares such a large volume of intriguing information and unique memorabilia with fans of country music, all displayed in so many creative and stunningly beautiful exhibits, that I’ll bet you could spend at least two full days here if you wanted to read and listen to everything available to you.  If I had taken the time to get a better feel for the exhibits before we visited, I certainly would have planned for more time there.

This display of gold and platinum records was quite amazing.

Another interesting piece of Nashville’s history is Hatch Show Print.  This small printing company opened its doors in 1879, and has been a beloved institution in Nashville ever since.  The company prints handbills, posters and other forms of advertising for all kinds of clients – and I do mean all kinds.  Vaudeville acts, carnivals and concerts all benefited from Hatch Show Print’s colorful and eye-catching designs, as did local businesses like movie theaters and grocery stores.  The shop’s history truly is fascinating.  Alan and I had visited Hatch Show Print in the early 90’s when it was still located on lower Broadway.  The sheer variety of old and new advertising posters the shop had produced was appealing and utterly amazing, and I can still recall exploring the old storefront when we first visited Nashville all those years ago.

So happy to know that Hatch Show Print has been preserved!

Shop ownership changed a number of times during the history of Hatch Show Print, but all of the owners were dedicated to keeping the historic print shop open.  In 1992, Gaylord Entertainment donated ownership of Hatch Show Print to the Country Music Hall of Fame, ensuring that the shop’s history would remain intact and its contribution to the music industry would be visibly recognized and applauded.  Following an expansion at the museum, during which space was specifically designed to meet the needs of the print stop, Hatch Show Print moved to the Country Music Hall of Fame complex in 2013.  Visitors can wander through the print shop, view countless advertising products from years of history, and watch the designers and printers who are still creating memorable, colorful and effective advertising for businesses in Nashville and throughout the world.  Hatch Show Print will always hold a special place in my heart and, while I don’t say this often, I’d consider this a “Don’t Miss!” for anyone planning to visit Nashville.

Show prints with character - I could NOT resist buying one to bring home!

The remainder of our very relaxing and most enjoyable day was spent touring the gorgeous town of Franklin, just south of Nashville, and traveling a bit of the Natchez Trace Parkway with Kathy and Albert.  We had SO much fun with these two that we were reluctant to move on.  Move on we did, though, because we had a date to overnight at an RV park in Georgia to which we have an unusual connection.  Please join us on the next leg of the journey!

A special thank you to Mona and Janis, both of whom recommended the country music documentary by Ken Burns.  Ladies, I requested it from our library system and it just arrived yesterday.  It looks fabulous, and I have no doubt it will be thoroughly enjoyed.  Thank you for recommending it!


  1. Very readable and informative writeup, Mary, as always. Your narrative made me almost wish we had visited these places when we went to Nashville recently. I nixed it due to my pique at the transmogrification of 'real' country music into what I contend are today's pathetically forgettable 'saga' songs with no recognizable melodies. (Riders in the Sky is an exception, thankfully.) The Hall of Fame would have been little comfort--the singers I liked are still dead, and that would have just been a reminder. But I'm old, and curmudgeons don't just forgive, forget and "move on" unless it's to our benefit to do so. In regard to your grammar question, any time you begin a phrase with the word "if" (or similar conditional phraseology) and an associated personal noun or pronoun follows, you can bet that the subjunctive mood is indicated. Therefore, you were correct to write "were" instead of "was." Remember, 'conditional' needs 'subjunctive.' Or, more simply, 'if' needs 'were' to be happy. (Yes, I was Mrs. Reid's favorite.)

    1. Thanks for the grammar lesson, Mike. I can handle the "how" of the rules (most of the time, anyway), but you're much stronger than I in reference to the "why." I think I've forgotten all the "whys" and mostly write on autopilot. By the way, I had to look up "transmogrification." (Anyone else would have just used the word "transformation.") You're better than the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day!

      Nashville is an interesting city. We don't patronize the many bars and honky-tonks (although we did search out the iconic Tootsie's Lounge for a photo opp back in the 90's), and we find the traffic to be quite crazy at times. Like you, we consider some of the most beloved landmarks to be more hype than substance. I'm thinking of the widely praised Loveless Cafe. (Please don't tell me that's one of your favorite foodie places.) Yet, Nashville is full of gems, like Hatch Show Print, the Pancake Pantry and a delightful and easily accessible statue of Little Jimmy Dickens near the Ryman. Now, the Pancake Pantry - that should be on your list of restaurants to visit the next time you're in town. Yum, yum! Don't worry - they're open until 4:00 p.m.!

    2. We missed all of those recommendations, dang it! Tell you what I'm gonna do: Making sure I remember the Pancake Pantry, I'm going to drop it into my list of favorite restaurants there on my blog, based upon your rave. Anyone who cares about the subjunctive mood deserves that, as you hit on one of my pet peeves in grammar atrocities. (Another is the improper use of 'who' and 'whom' that has reached pandemic proportions today, along with the failure to use possessive pronouns in front of gerunds). You write so well that the 'why' of grammar is unimportant; your gift is what matters. It would be interesting, however, to know how your prowess was developed.

    3. Hmmm. I'm thinking you need to fire your trip planner. Changing the subject (quickly), it's funny that you should ask about my prowess. As I mentioned, I'm working hard to go through all the "stuff" in our storage area. Just yesterday, I went through a box of letters to my Mom that turned out to be love letters from my Dad! Letters and poems he wrote for her. You could have knocked me over with a feather because I knew him as a quiet homebody who worked as a machine operator on the railroad. Who knew?! Maybe I'm a lot more like him than I thought, and maybe you have the answer to your question.

    4. What a find! And what a lovely way to connect the dots. Thanks for sharing.

  2. brought back memories of our trip to country music hall of fame in the early 2000's. We felt like we were in a holy shrine.

    1. That museum contains many priceless - and sometimes poignant - items. One of the exhibits that got to me was Alan Jackson's original, hand-written lyrics to "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" which he wrote in response to the tragic events of September 11th. Speaking of priceless, that trip with my Mom and Annie was unforgettable. I remember both of them sitting in the back seat with Ryan, and all three of them were giggling like toddlers! Great memories, without a doubt. Thanks for stopping by, Janine!

  3. That looks like so much fun! ne of these days, perhaps I'll get there (I wonder who will be on the stage?). I have never heard the Drunk Girl song, but I really love the message.

    1. Oh, Janis, Nashville is definitely a good time town, but you don't have to drink or party to have fun. You and your husband would have a blast - and I say that remembering that you're not a big country music fan.


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