The Grand Ole Opry. . . and a few old men


The Grand Ole Opry

The absolute centre of country music is the Ole Opry, which used to be in Nashville and has now moved to just outside of the city. We felt it would be remiss to not visit, so after visiting the Belle Meade Plantation (see my last post) we drove to the Inn at the Opry. Our room was a motel-style entrance, with an exterior door which actually opened into their convention space (a huge hall with swimming pools and conference spaces and a restaurant, all open-plan under the same roof). It was a little odd, as we had no outside window.

We had an early dinner, then caught the shuttle bus to The Ole Opry. The bus went via a few hotels, picking up excited middle-aged people on the way. The Opry was clearly a ‘thing’. We were met at the drop-off place by a man with a buggy for people who couldn’t walk, and there were giant guitars for photos, and a line of people waiting to go through security. Loud speakers were telling people to leave their guns and knives in their cars (not quite England then).

The Grand Ole Opry is actually a huge auditorium with padded pews. This would be comfortable unless someone big shares your pew, as the seats are numbered but not segregated, so you all have to squash together. Everyone was very excited, and I wondered what exactly we had come to—I am not really a fan of country music. There were lots of cowboy boots on feet, and chequered shirts, and friendly chatter.

The compere appeared on stage, telling jokes and encouraging the audience to shout and clap. The audience didn’t need much encouragement. All the veterans were asked to stand, and we clapped them (being a veteran is a thing in the U.S.) It was very bright, overly loud, with smells of popcorn and Tide washing powder and a soup of perfume and deodorant drifting past us. Lots of “Y’all” and “Yee-Ha!” It was so not my kind of place.

 

The curtain lifted, and there on stage were four old men with guitars and cowboy hats. They must have been nearly 90 years old. I gave Husband a hard stare, but he was avoiding eye-contact. I wondered how long the show would last. And then, the old men started to speak, and they were actually very funny, joking in a depreciating way about their age compared to the young and famous. They played and sang, and it was tuneful and clever and entertaining, and I decided that I did like some country music after all.

One of the acts was Hank William’s grandson, Sam, who was giving his debut performance at the Ole Opry. He’s 22 years old, and I enjoyed his singing immensely.

I have to admit, I don’t entirely ‘get’ the whole glitzy, cowboy, country singing, thing. But the songs seem to encourage wholesome ideals, and some of the music I enjoyed. Sometimes it’s just fun to be with hundreds of enthusiasts, and you catch a little of their excitement. I would say that even if you’re not a fan of country music, if you’re in Nashville, visit The Ole Opry for an evening—you might find that you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading my blog. Our next stop was Atlanta (see previous posts) and then we wanted to see the Carolinas. We discussed where to stay, and decided that after two weeks of hotels, it would be nice to stay somewhere that we could get up late and eat cereal for breakfast, so we booked an Airbnb. Although our children use Airbnb frequently, we’ve never booked one, so we were a little nervous. Especially as the photos on the website didn’t seem to relate to the actual house we would be hiring. . .but that’s for another blog. Why don’t you sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share our adventures…
anneethompson.com

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link: Here

 

US Link: Here

 

Nashville Honky-Tonks. . . and other stuff


 I’m excited to tell you about Nashville, because it was so unexpected!

Before we visited, I read the guide books, and they described honky-tonks. They sounded like fun, so I hoped we’d manage to find one while we were there. I had no idea how significant they are.

Now, Nashville is the centre for country music—this I knew. Think Dolly Parton and Hank Williams. . . For any Country band that wants to find fame, Nashville is the place to be. What I hadn’t really grasped though, was that this means Nashville is the ‘go to’ place for anyone who really loves listening to country music, and that anyone who is a big fan hopes, at some point in their life, to visit Nashville. A sort of Mecca for committed fans. Which means the centre of Nashville is simply teeming with people (even older than me!) dressed in cowboy boots and hats, having the trip they have always dreamed of. It makes it a happy, exciting place, because most people are fulfilling their ambition, and the honky-tonks are full of them.

Now, everyone should visit a honky-tonk. There is a street—Broadway—which is lined with bars (as in, every building is a bar). They are 2-storey red-brick buildings with flashing billboards and flat roofs. Each bar has a band crammed into the windows, playing live music, which is blasted outside through speakers. People listen, sing, clap while drinking beers and eating the sort of fried food that sticks to your ribs and fills your stomach. This is a honky-tonk.

 The bands are extremely talented, so you get to hear the very best country music being played live, all day long. I guess that any country music singer or band that hopes to ‘make it big’ goes to Nashville, looking for a slot in a honky-tonk in the hope that they will be spotted and picked up by a record label. It means the music is excellent. Some of the acts are tribute bands, some play their own music.

We sat and listened to a Johnny Cash tribute band and drank beer, then wandered round the corner to a 7-storey diner for dinner. We ate fried shrimp and grits (big prawns and a sort of creamed sweetcorn mix with garlic and flour, which looks like mashed potato, for my English readers!) and hotpot with brussel sprouts that were fried, and delicious.

Some honky-tonks ask for ID before they will let you in (even from obviously-old people like us). I think it’s the law, so they are all meant to ask for ID, but some places are stricter than others, and it was bit of a shock when I didn’t have my passport with me to not be allowed into a bar because I didn’t have proof of age with me! Long, long time since that has happened. . .

Tuesday, we decided to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. We walked there, which took most of the morning because the pedestrian crossings have lights, which take absolutely ages to change. Husband spends the whole time telling me we can ‘do a quick nip’ and invariably crosses while the lights are still red—and then waits for me on the other side, so I’m not sure what it achieves.

 Arrived at the Hall of Fame eventually and paid an extortionate $25.95 each to enter. I would say, unless you are a big country music fan, then use the money for dinner instead. We didn’t pay for audio guides, so wandered around the museum not knowing what anything was. Most of the displays were about people who I’d never heard of, and there is a limit to how interesting their clothes and shoes are (and that limit was below $25.95!) To be fair, other people were emitting gasps of excitement at photographs of music scores of famous songs (which I didn’t recognise) and they seemed ecstatic at the shoes and handbags of a girl with brown hair (who I didn’t recognise) so perhaps I’m the wrong person to offer an opinion. The only thing of mild interest to me was Elvis Presley’s gold Cadillac.

I learned that: people found the title of ‘hillbilly’ too derogatory, and preferred the image of cowboys, so started to wear the hats and boots and link the style to the music. There were a lot of female comediennes, and they were very famous back in the day. I also listened to a lot of guitar music.

We left the museum as soon as we could without feeling that we had entirely wasted $25.95 (though the feeling lingered) and went for a walk. I was keen to have a coffee in a china mug—this has become bit of a thing with me now, I really hate drinking from disposable cups. It took some time to find anywhere that used china mugs, and we ended up in the Fairlane Hotel, where we over-paid for a bagel, but did manage to have coffee in china mugs.

We walked up to Tennesee State Capitol. Husband asked me if I wanted to walk “up an ugly road or along a pretty river?” We walked along the road (I felt it was the only option, given the question. But it was rather ugly). The capitol was worth a look, and a photograph, but the weather was too hot for it to be good for long. We then returned to the hotel via the river, which was lined with homeless people and felt distinctly dodgy. America seems to have a lot of homeless people, but maybe I just notice them more than in England.

Dinner began with another beer in another honky-tonk. They are such fun! This one had a band singing, and people were swaying along with the music and generally having a nice time.

Walking back to the hotel after dinner, we saw a hot-tub full of girls, being towed around town on the back of a lorry. I’m guessing it was a hen party. The waiter wore a cowboy hat. Not everyone in Nashville is older than me.

We left Nashville via the Belle Mead Plantation. I wanted to learn something about the slave trade here. But that will have to be my next blog.

Thank you for reading. I hope you hear some good music today.
Take care.

Love, Anne x

We spent October on a road trip, driving through the Eastern States of America. We had a fabulous time!
Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you can share our adventures…
anneethompson.com

 

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.

UK Link: Here

 

US Link: Here