Like a rhinestone cowboy...

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End May 20, 2012

Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So we have come to the end of our second day in Nashville. When we arrived yesterday, Sian's exact words were that she wanted to go for "a nice relaxing swim", and it turned out to a semi traumatic experience filled with giant bugs. OK so I may be exaggerating a little, but we definitely should have gone with my idea of getting a drink instead. This idea was made more difficult by the fact that our hotel here has NO BAR! Why do they not have a bar I can almost hear you say? Well, I have no idea, but I was not happy about it! This predicament was soon rectified by a cab ride to Broadway, Nashville's equivalent to Beale Street (though to be honest, there is no contest...Beale Street wins every time). We had a pleasant enough meal accompanied by some locally brewed ale...the US has a surprising amount of ale to offer, something I am very pleased about.

After dinner, we walked up Broadway, and after being harassed by several staff trying to promote their bars, we settled on a place with a bluegrass band who turned out to be really good (although the banjo player did creep the hell out of me). Several drinks later we headed back to the hotel to rest up before a day of country music sightseeing.

This morning, we started the day with a breakfast that contained waffles, which is always a good thing, but to my horror and disappointment, it seems that the sausage gravy has followed me from Memphis to Nashville (there is a video rant about the sausage gravy that we will upload when we have a wifi signal that is better than dial up in the 1980's). After breakfast we had a stroll towards the centre of Nashville. Our first stop was Third Man Records, Jack White's record label and recording studio. On the way, we spotted a large liquor store that we earmarked for later (if they won't provide a bar, what else are we to do! Not drink?!). When we got to Third Man, Sian was very excited by the odd decor of the shop and all of the vinyl on offer, and only got more excited when Jack White walked through the shop and into the recording studio. Apparently he had forgot his keys, and he had to hammer on the door of his own studio to get in. We purchased a few souveniers and proceeded to our next location...Hatch Show Print.

While on Beale Street, we met a very drunk but very friendly girl from Huntsville Alabama who loved Sian's accent. She told us we should check out a small poster printing place in Nashville called Hatch Show Print, so we went to check it out. It started out well when we read a sign on the door that said "Please close the door behind you - we have cats". Hatch Show Print is a great little place that still prints posters with paint and letterprint, but I was not expecting the first thing we saw upon entering the shop to be a big ginger and white cat called Huey. Sian being Sian was down on the floor fussing Huey immediately, but after a couple of minutes, when Sian decided she wanted to look around and check out some of the posters, Huey was not happy. He followed Sian and jabbed her in the back of the leg until he received more attention! The shop itself is brilliant, and I absolutely loved it in there. There are old posters from people like Hank Willams and Johnny Cash (and hundreds of country artists that I have never head of), more modern acts (including two PJ posters) as well as other bits and bobs including election posters. The printing area takes up most of the shop and is for employees only, but you can still see a lot of it, and it's really great to see pots of paint and assorted printing letters just lying around. We purchased a poster (commemerating Huey the Huge and the shops other elusive cat) and were on our way.

Our next stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame. We were persuaded to go for the Studio B tour as part of the ticket admission. Studio B is a famous recording studio, known as the "home of a thousand hits", as over 1000 hit records have been recorded there. The tour guide was very good and a fantastic character, and talked to us about some of the most famous people who recorded there and played their music while she did so. I will admit, most of them I have never heard of, but the ones I can remember are Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, The Everly Brothers, and Elvis. Elvis recorded over 200 songs at Studio B, and when you are taken through into the actual studio, you can sit at the piano that he played. Sian was very pleased with this indeed! I enjoyed studio B and i'm glad we did it, but it's not a patch on Sun Studios.

After Studio B, it was back on the bus to the Country Music Hall of Fame. This was an experience. First of all, you must understand that they take country music VERY seriously in Nashville. Very seriously indeed. If you know me and Sian well at all, you will know that we do not do serious all that well. It started off well enough, with a range of exhibits about country music from the early part of the 20th century - I learned a fair bit, and I was enjoying myself, but the beginning of the end happened when we went into one of their listening booths and heard a song from sometime in the 30's or 40's (I forget exactly when). Sian could not take this song seriously, as it contained a fair amount of yodelling. As we walked out of this booth, she proceeded to do her impression of the song. Needless to say, some of the looks that were thrown our way contained some VERY sharp daggers! Shortly after this, we came to the part of country music history where country music died. It was killed by one man - Elvis. His rise in popularity caused the downfall of country music from the charts, and their attitude towards him in Nashville is very odd. They are happy to make money from the fact he recorded so much as Studio B, and sell merchandise with his face on, but it is clear that they are not happy that they have to include the fact that he caused the demise of country music in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I think one of the displays said something like "some people believe that Memphis is the birthplace of Rock and Roll". How they can put any uncertainty around this escapes me, when the first song ever to be categorised as Rock and Roll was recorded in Sun Studios in Memphis. It seems that Nashville do not want to give any more credit to Memphis than they have to. While it is true that the King is dead, at least he took country music down with him when he went. Or so I thought...

After Elvis' rise in fame and country music's decline, pop country was invented. As far as we can tell, this basically involves making the music bad, and slapping rhinestones on EVERYTHING IN SIGHT! If there was ever any doubt about me and Sian becomming country fans, it was put to bed with the second half of the museum. Rhinestones, bad hair and a few more rhinestones is the only way I can sum it up. We got through the second half of the tour in about a third of the time that we did the first half, and the more rhinestones we saw, the louder we started to declare how hideous they were. Some people did not seem happy about this.

We purchased the bare minimum of souveniers (making sure that none of them had the words "country music" printed on them) and got out of there quicksharp. Did I enjoy the Country Music Hall of Fame? Yes. Would I go again? Not unless you let me burn all the terrible outfits. I know I shouldn't take the piss out of country...but when they dress the way they do, they make it so easy! 

After that experience, we decided a trip to the liquor store was in order. They sell most european beer and a few english ales, including one of my favourites that I would never have expected to see here. I settled on some locally brewed beer and Sian got the US equivalent of Hooch, made by Jack Daniels. Very odd. Even odder was the fact that the guy who served us has family who live in Solihull and has dual English/American nationality - small world!

And so that is it for Nashville. I have liked it here, and I would come back, but if it's a choice between here and Memphis, I know where i'm gonna pick. Tomorrow it is on to Lynchburg and the Jack Daniel's distillery, so I should go and get some rest.

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