RCA Studio B, Ryman, a Smash Hit but no Line Dancing in Nashville.

On our last day in New York we picked up our rental car for the next part of our trip. A little shock was in store for us, we knew about the cost of the one way rental (pick NY drop off LA) and accepted that. However, neither of us were aware we may be charged a pricey sum for an auto toll tag in the car. No information existed on the company’s website that we rented the car through either. It listed all sorts of other things but not the toll tag – the previous car we rented from another company didn’t charge, or ask if we wanted, any toll tag. We’ve hired cars in US for long drives and never been charged for tolls in advance like this. It’s a rort, another way to fleece unsuspecting foreign drivers. Of course it was easy to find articles on this practise after the event, which I did, and found car rental companies charge this at different daily rates but their desk staff don’t ask you if you would like to opt out. I found an article on line when Ty showed me the updated contract and the charge that Dollar Car Rental company applied. This article, although helpful, was too late for us. Lesson learned and anyone reading this thinking about a long drive through several States of US in a hire car should ask the question of their car rental company and then do as the article suggested – purchase your own tag when you arrive in the States. Given the small number of toll roads we travelled on we would have saved several hundred dollars having our own tag.

Anyway, that’s my lesson for the day! Much more fun things to talk about than Dollar Rental Car.

The drive from New York to Nashville was just over 13 hours drive so we decide to do it in two stints…Ty would have driven straight through in a day but I wasn’t sharing the driving……when I’d say I’ll do some driving to give you a break….I’d receive the same reply ‘ “I find driving relaxing so you just sit back and watch the scenery” so I am the fidgety passenger/photographer on our trip. I’ve become quite adept at taking photos without blur at 60 or more mph (yes, mph not kph for my Aus/Europe readers).

After driving 8 hours we turned off the Interstate to find accommodation in a town called Roanoke/Hollis. Nowadays we will look for a Hampton Inn when taking an overnight break. Why? Not because other brands are not up to standard (most are) but we know what to expect from the Hampton Inns. Settled into our room it was time to find somewhere for dinner. This town was quite large which meant we had a number of options. We drove around the main street to find something that interested us and we came across a seafood restaurant…..the Harbor Inn. The place was very busy which, to me, is always a good sign. The waitress gave us the menus which had a large number of choices. As always I wanted a small meal, I don’t eat much, so I thought the fish with shrimp would be a good choice. Ty ordered the same. This dish turned out not to be a good choice…..the plate was overflowing and the shrimp was piled high! The fish and the shrimp were both very good but so much of it….we should’ve shared. In fact four of us could have shared one plate. Also on our plate we’re a couple of items they called ‘hush puppies’. Ty really liked them, I reserve my decision.

We asked the waitress why they’re called ‘hush puppies’ and an elderly gentleman at the table in front turned to face us and explained why. Below is his explanation:

” Many years ago Southern women cooked outside where the hunting dogs sat, so they rolled up cornmeal, fried it then threw it to the hunting dogs to keep them quite whilst they cooked”. He didn’t tell me how these ‘hush puppies’ transitioned to become a side dish for humans. Personally, to me, they looked like little frankfurts in shape (not colour) or the little packages of drugs couriers tend to swallow…..you know…the ones they show on those customs airport shows!

Anyway, time to move on….I won’t mention the interesting people having dinner in the restaurant or some different styles of dress…only to say. In my opinion, knee length multi coloured striped socks don’t look good with sandals and shorts on a very thin 60 something waitress.

Before reaching Nashville we needed fuel so we turned off the Interstate and drove into town called Bristol. The were signs welcoming the motor vehicle enthusiasts. I asked Ty what this was about and he looked at the signs and banners then said ‘Bristol Motor Speedway must be on this weekend’. He was more than a little disappointed because if he had known we would have added this to our trip. I had told him to check if any speedways were on through our trip….he hadn’t and we already had tickets to the NFL.

We arrived at the Clarion Hotel Nashville a couple of hours before the NFL pre season game between Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots. Not enough time to unpack and go across to The Broadway. It had been tough trying to decide the best accommodation for us in Nashville. There are any number of hotels to choose from but we had a few factors to consider: cleanliness, ambiance, price of accommodation, cost of parking for 4 nights, being too close to Broadway would be too noisy – till at least 2am, ability to walk back to hotel when shuttle ceases daily operation and reviews. We’ve stayed in Nashville previously and chose a hotel close to Grand Ole Opry…even though it offered a shuttle service to the main streets of Nashville we found it quite restrictive and the hotel was too far from the ‘action’.

The Clarion is across the river from the ‘action’ but not far enough to be hard to get to. The hotel appeared to be quite new, the rooms were a very good size, staff fabulous and the bar area was a great place to meet fellow travellers. A very bright, airy hotel. The hotel is 10-15 minutes walk to the Titans Stadium…so very popular for game days!

Ty likes baseball (Yankees) and NFL games so, a couple of months ago, I checked to see if any games were on anywhere we would be…..found a pre season night game between Titans and Patriots for the day we arrived in Nashville. I’d seen a few snippets of NFL games and didn’t understand it at all but, couldn’t work out why the teams moved their players on and off the field throughout the game! I had heard of the Patriots and Tom Brady. So we booked tickets for the game and were very happy when we found we didn’t have to drive and find parking to the match.

Before the match we had a drink at the hotel bar and met Patriot supporters and Titans supporters…all seemed to agree the Patriots would win. They did and, do I know more about NFL now? Yes, I do …. they have an offence and defence section and specialists too. By the last quarter I had a handle on the game! Of course, people did say the pre season games are not the best to see how the game is played or the most exciting…but it probably helped me understand the game. I prefer baseball..it’s faster. A fast game is a good game as far as I’m concerned. I did enjoy the night even though we had the sun blazing on us for the first hour and a half……there was so much entertainment going on at every break….hard to keep track.

It was amusing and interesting to find that many groups of people go to the game but don’t go into the game……confused? Well, let me explain……along the way to the stadium from our hotel we saw groups of people in fenced of areas, on vacant pieces of land, setting up their barbecue or meat smoker, some had a television set, a gazebo and all had chairs. Many were wearing their team colours, had NFL flags flying and cars decorated. They were having a night at the game outside the game in the main stadium….it was an amazing site and fascinating that people would travel to Nashville to watch their team play on a television set 250 metres from the main stadium…not all groups had a television so I guess they were listening to it on radio or the stadium commentary.

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Up early this morning, time to take the shuttle across the bridge and start the bar crawl!! Weather forecast today is 99 degrees and high humidity….a day to drink lots of water!! First stop was Nudie’s Bar… I’m sure ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ (quoting Jimmy Buffet song line). We stepped in because the band sounded great from the street…..ok so what to drink. Most of the bars don’t serve wine and I really didn’t want a soft drink (Soda). ‘I’d like a vodka and soda please’ Ty ordered our drinks which duly arrived……not so sure about the vodka and tap water I received though! Yuk……

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Lunch at Margaritaville …. love the ambiance of these places and wherever we are, if there’s a Margaritaville I have to go. My favourite one is Montego Bay Jamaica…..great waterfront dining area…..if you’re in Jamaica drop in even if it’s just for a drink you won’t be disappointed. Just a bloody long name to have to write! Lunch over it’s time to walk the Broadway, stepped in to more of the bars to listen to the music, some places we just stood outside. Many have the bands playing in the window which is a great idea. They all play for tips…. after dinner we decided on Roberts Honky Tonk, one of the oldest bars in Nashville. Small, cramped bar with limited seating and just as limited standing room but the band was fabulous so we spent the rest of the night here. Which meant we missed the last shuttle although it was still extremely hot we walked back to the hotel. Could’ve taken an Uber for $7 but the 25 minute walk was very pleasant.

I was keen to try a few line dancing lessons whilst in Nashville and the Wildhorse Saloon was the place to go. They had line dancing between 12 and 2pm. However when we went there the saloon was closed for a private function…try again tomorrow.

Oh well, more bands to listen to in many bars and plenty of shops to check out.

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Bars aside Nashville also has an interesting music history so today we’re visiting Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA Studio B.

The Ryman Auditorium is still a working venue as well as an iconic museum. The Ryman contains a variety of artifacts, anecdotes and one of a kind exhibits. There is a recording booth available to record a song and you can have a photo taken on the stage. There is also a fabulous photo and print gallery. Backstage tours are also available, lots of insider stories too.

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Take a trip through Country Music history at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and see exhibits of classic artists and current country music artists. See their stories, their instruments such as Hank Williams MARTIN guitar, Elvis’ custom Cadillac with gold accessories, scraps of paper the ideas of a song were scribbled from artists such as Kris Kristofferson. The museum has more than eight hundred stage costumes from various artists, six hundred instruments and other memorabilia important to the Country Music scene through inception to this day. The price of the ticket allows access for a visit over 2 days – which you will need.

 

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RCA Studio B opened in 1957 and is known as ‘the home of 1,000 hits. In the 1960’s this studio became important to the development of the production style and technique known as the Nashville Sound.   This style was characterised by background vocals and strings and revived the popularity of country music, which, in turn aided the reputation of Nashville as a centre for international recording.  The studio closed in 1977. Elvis Presley recorded more than 250 songs here, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton are just some of the names that have recorded in Studio B. The studio is made up of several parts, the smaller studio lined with rounded timbers was used for adding. Vocals or music tracks. The different timbers and their shapes helped with the acoustics.  The Studio is listed on the US Register of Historic Places.

RCA Studio B –  x marks the spot for the best acoustics  – all recording artists stood on this spot.

Ironically Studio B closed down the day after Elvis died….pure coincidence though – the Studio was scheduled for closure on 17th August 1977.

I also recorded a hit outside RCA Studio B – unfortunately not one that I wanted or anyone really wants to hear about! I hit the deck! We stepped outside into the car park and Ty was talking to another member of the tour group as I stood patiently by. When we started to walk towards the bus I hadn’t realised I was standing next to those small concrete barriers they have at each parking space. As I put my foot forward my sandal caught on the concrete barrier and I started to overbalance, I tried to regain my balance but only made it worse by trying to step to the side. Over I went crashing heavily to the concrete. I cut my toe on my right foot badly, skinned my left ankle, grazed my left leg just below the knee and a massive black bruise appeared on my left thigh. When I fell I landed on my left arm, thought I’d broken something, still holding my tote bag! So very lucky I didn’t hit my head on the concrete. Ty saw what was happening but couldn’t grab me in time and threw his camera away on the concrete so he could help me up. The tour guide said I fell so gracefully, like a ballerina…I certainly didn’t feel graceful and I’ve never done ballet so I can’t agree or disagree. It was similar to a line in the song ‘tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree’. Instead of the whole damn bus was cheering it was ‘the whole dam bus was watching’. How bloody embarrassing. I hadn’t had a drink so I can’t use that as an excuse! My followers and regular blog readers will know I seem to be accident prone when travelling….. I was trying to be so careful this trip but a lapse of checking what was next to me brought me down. Needless to say the damage to my arm was more severe than first thought but I didn’t want to waste time going to a hospital or doctors……getting a simple prescription took over 2 hours last time…imagine how long organising an X-ray would take……will just put up with it till I get home.

The tour guide and the security staff at the Country Hall of Fame Museum wanted to do first aid on my injuries, I was reluctant but they were insistent so around to their office in the bowels of the building we went. Apparently I was their first case requiring first aid..’did I need an ambulance to take you to the medical centre?” one lady asked. ‘No’ “I’ll be fine thanks” was my forceful reply. So there were 3 people all deciding what was best to do…luckily Ty took charge as they opened their first aid kits and let him decide what he should use on my wounds. They also gave us more band aids and antiseptic cream to take away. They were all very kind and we were most appreciate.

Once I was all patched up and Ty had given our details to the security and first aid persons we walked across the road and waited for the hop on hop off bus to continue our tour of Nashville. We’re on holiday we have to carry on with the tour and the trip. No time for sitting around feeling sorry for myself plus, as many of my readers know, I tend to be prone to a tumble or 2!!

We met a couple from Ohio at the hotel bar tonight. Jeff and Lisa we’re celebrating their wedding anniversary with a trip to Bristol Speedway and a few days in Nashville. Jeff was retired and Lisa worked in Child Protection Services.

We visited Honky Tonk Central, again on the look out for any line dancing…but regardless of all the things I’d read about these bars, there was no line dancing to be found anywhere! Honky Tonk Central has 3 levels with a band on each level….we checked out the level 1 and level 2 bands, they were ok, but level 3 band was much better. We went in and found ourselves a table with a balcony overlooking the street and enough space between us and the band we could still chat. During a break the singer came over to the balcony for a cigarette, he and Ty started chatting about music, one thing led to another, he told singer he was a drummer……so when singer went back to the stage he said to audience, ‘we have a drummer here from Australia and I’m asking him to come up and play with the band’.  Ty got to play drums with a band on a stage in Nashville. He was very chuffed.

There were more bars to visit so we said farewell to the band and moved on to Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk. Before we moved on the singer asked where we were off to next. ‘New Orleans’ was our reply….’be careful’ he said,’ there’s a few dodgy operators down there’. ‘We’re generally very careful’ was our reply.

Kids Rock’s Honky Tonk was very busy but the music flowing onto the street was definitely not country…. I don’t know a lot about country music but as far as I’m aware Nirvana was not a country band…. we went in anyway. The band was made up of 2 twenty girls and 3 guys….all appeared to be early twenties. Occasionally someone in the audience would request a country song, if they knew it they’d play it. All the bands in the bars played for tips.

 

I wasn’t too fussed on the music at Kid Rock’s, I personally think, if Nashville is renowned for country music, the bands should play country music to keep that vibe going. The bathrooms did have great mirrors though, a guitar and drums graced the wall above the sinks.

Went to the Wildhorse saloon again in time for line dancing but, once again, they were closing early for a private function! I was not destined to try out what little line dancing skills I have in Nashville….very disappointing.

For a quiet meal in Nashville Demo’s is very good, large choice of menu items and pleasant wait staff. We ate there twice. Ty loved their spaghetti and meatballs. Their 7oz steak with an Idaho potato and sour cream wasn’t too bad either!

The weather for our stay in the Country Music Capital was hot, hot and hotter. High 90’s to 102 degrees f (high 30’s to 40s C).

We drove out of Nashville at 8.50 am heading for New Orleans…….

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