Live Music, Nashville
There are tons of music clubs in Nashville. Most of these are small, off the beaten path places with bars and a lively clientele. If you are at a loss for something to do at night here head downtown to Broadway and/or Second Street and pop your head in to one of these places. Not all of them feature country music and some of them are really a lot of fun. The best part is that there are so many clubs that if you start getting tired of the music in one, you can move down the street to the next one. There is even a lot of music happening down here on weeknights. It's great.
Very small and intimate - something like 20 tables, plus seating at the bar. Performances are generally "in the round" and feature songwriters performing their own original works. Come hear the songs you'll be hearing on the radio next year! This is a "listening room" and as such there is no talking during performances. No smoking, but the outside is wired for sound, so if you must step out you won't miss any part of the show. Early performances have no cover; late performances have a minimal cover - all shows have a $7 beverage minimum.
This place is world famous, and rightly so. Some of the best songwriters in the world showcase their songs here, and some world-class and famous people frequent here - both on stage and off. Lari White performed tonight, and was kind enough to autograph my CD!
Dress Code: I am unaware of any dress code other than the standard shirt and shoes...
the cadillac ranch is a bar and resturant located on broadway in the broadway entertainment district. the cadillac ranch offers live country & western music. a fun place to eat and drink and listen to music in downtown nashville.
Dress Code: casual.
Tootsie Bess bought this place in 1960.
She credits a painter with naming Tootsie’s. She came in one day to find that he had painted her place orchid…thus the name Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.
Records recorded about Tootsie’s include “The Wettest Shoulders in Town” and “What’s Tootsies Gonna Do When They Tear the Ryman Down?”
It is rumored that Roger Miller wrote “Dang Me” in Tootsies.
Famous early customers were Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and many more.
Movies filmed at Tootsie’s include “W.W. & the Dixie Dance Kings” starring Bert Reynolds, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” about Loretta Lynn and starring Sissy Spacek, and “The Nashville Rebel” starring Tex Ritter, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Loretta Lynn, The Wilburn Brothers, and Waylon Jennings.
A segment of the Dean Martin summer show was filmed at Tootsie’s.
Willie Nelson got his first songwriting job after singing at Tootsie’s.
The photo and memorabilia lined walls are called the “Wall of Fame”.
Tootsie was known to slip $5’s and $10’s into the pockets of luckless writers and pickers.
It was said that she had a cigar box behind the counter full of IOU’s from where she had given drinks and food to hungry pickers and writers. Supposedly, at each years end, a bunch of Opry Performers would take all the IOU’s and pay Tootsie so she wouldn’t lose the money.
At her funeral were Tom T. Hall, Roy Acuff and Faron Young. She was buried in an orchid gown, with an orchid placed in the orchid-colored casket, so she could take her favorite flower with her to heaven. Connie Smith sang some of Tootsie’s favorite hymns at the funeral.
Dress Code: just walk in
The Bluebird Cafe is pretty much the singer-song-writer hall of fame in Nashville. It's a great little spot, though you'd hardly think to put the location with the place. It's in a strip mall in the near 'burbs and you would pass it up if you didn't do Map Quest to get you right to it.
On the night we went, they were just finishing up a first round of singers from an early, free show. When those guys, all way too clean-cut country for our taste - you could hear them squeak when they went out to the pickups (shiny) with their sweet little wives (also shiny), everyone had to exit the building. Then we could come back in after a bit of standing in line for the paid show. It was a great group of interesting guys, each one with a different sound and a unique take on the whole thing.
You sit right in with the performers and you can order food but do it really quietly. The big thing at the Bluebird is the "shhh" since you are there to listen to the artists, not to do the usual bar yapping.
Dress Code: Casual
tootsie's orchid lounge is located in the broadway entertainment district downtown. tootsie's is a great place to drink and listen to live music. tootsie's is my favorite bar in nashville. see the attached web site for their entertainment schedule.
Dress Code: casual.
Excellent place for live music. Smallish venue (maybe seats 150 at small tables & bar). The sound was great, and the venue is smoke-free, which works for me. Calendar list in on their website, and the music is eclectic.
You've got to drive to the Station, which is not in the greatest neighborhood, but it's definitely worth getting in the car for. The club is open seven nights a week and offers some of the best bluegrass you'll find anywhere. Cover charges are usually under $10, the beer comes in plastic cups, and there are plenty of seats for everyone. This is a great, comfortable, home-grown place.
The hot spot for cruising nighttime Nashville is the stretch of Broadway between 5th and 2nd Streets known as Honky Tonk Row. If you walk around there on pretty much any night of the week, you'll be sucked into any one of dozens of clubs showing live country music every day. Most have no cover charge, but you'll pay dearly for your drinks. The bars here can be fun, but be aware that you'll be socializing mostly with other tourists and a lot of drunken college students.
This is a restaurant and club in what used to be a laundromat--they kept the name. It's a small place, hosting acts that are a little funkier than the typical mass-market country variety. Good food, a great beer selection, and friendly staff. You will need to drive here, because it's well away from downtown in East Nashville.
Tootsie's was originally called Mom's until Tootsie Bess bought the place in 1960 and had it painted an orchid color. In the early days, this bar near the Ryman Auditorium hosted such famous customers as Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and others. Of course that was back when the Ryman Auditorium was still home of the Grand Ol' Opry radio show, and the singers just had to stroll a few blocks down the street for a drink.
Today Tootsie's is famous for its live country music all day every day from 10am until 3am.
Tootsie's also has locations in Panama City, Florida, and in the Nashville Airport. We stopped at the airport location where they had two performers taking turns singing old and new country hits. We relaxed for about 45 minutes while waiting for our flight and really enjoyed the music.
My video from Tootsie's airport lounge is located here.
Burbon Street Blues and Boogy Bar
Located in Printers Alley
Great place for good food, drinks, great music, and fun people. The staff makes you feel at home. Very nice place to spend a night out.
The picture is of people that I have never met before but everyone in the place was into having fun. ;-)
Dress Code: As you are.
Everytime we passed this place the band they had was soo good. At first I thought it was a radio and was shocked to see and hear the live band. Whether day or night this bar was always crowded.
Dress Code: very casual
BB Kings was a great place! If you are looking to make conversation don't come here as it is VERY loud. Prices are very reasonable. I had the deep fried pickles and they were yummy!! The drinks were good too!! There is a cover charge but its well worth it to watch the live band. The place was packed but yet the service was excellent. It was one of my favorite places that we went while in Nashville.
Dress Code: Casual and fun
The following is my idiosyncratic personal opinion, often at odds with the standard guide book choices. Have lived in Nashville for 30+ years and am really enjoying the revival of honky-tonks on 2nd Ave and Broadway, an area formerly dominated by adult book stores and peep shows. First, don't bother with Tootsie's; too crowded, too famous, making it a “must see” according to guide books but I disagree. Remember, Kris Kristofferson doesn't play there anymore.
There are better, less-crowded venues. We always start our evening tour on 2nd Ave, about three blocks up from Broadway. Each club has doors open so that one can hear the music. We pick the first that sounds like fun, most have no cover (just pass the band tip jar around occasionally) and no pressure to buy drinks. If our judgment was good we probably will stay for the whole set by that performer. Or, change your mind and continue the hunt. (I suggest avoiding BB Kings and Wild Horse Saloon unless someone is playing that you particularly want to see). We turn right on Broad and keep listening. There is always an influx of new clubs and new wannabees (and some of them will make it!) Just keep your ears open and don’t worry about the name on the door.
There are some venerable clubs that seldom disappoint: Legends, Robert’s Western Wear in particular. Also try the Wheel and the Stage. There are buskers aplenty so carry some singles to throw in the instrument case of those you like.
Moving a little off the main drag, I must recommend 3rd&Lindsley for great sound and consistently good music. Every Monday night the Western Swing band, the Time Jumpers, is on stage. Now for the little known surprise bit: If Vince Gill is in town he’ll be playing with them. A can’t lose situation!
Dress Code: Wear some kind of footwear, at least a T-shirt and pants, shorts, skirt etc. Cowboy hat and boots are optional.