Nashville’s Broadway: Immersed in Honky-Tonk

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of country music, with the exceptions of Patsy Cline, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, C.W. McCall, and maybe Garth Brooks.  Oh, and Flatt and Scruggs.  Ok, so I do like country music.  I’m more old-school.  And I realize Flatt and Scruggs are more bluegrass than country.  I prefer songs about love, swooning over some chick while crying in your beer, truck driving across the backroads of the USA, or opining for your long lost love to return.  I’m not too keen on songs about beating up people who don’t wear enough flag pins (*cough*-Toby Keith*).  But I digress.

My somewhat fascination with the country music scene in America came to fruition when I visited the country music capital of the world, Nashville, Tennessee.  I spent a hot, long night walking up and down the main drag, known as Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Street in the middle of the city.  I was mesmerized by the sheer amount neon, gift shops, live bands, tall buildings, and cowboy hats on every corner.  My first introduction to Nashville came at a young age when I first discovered it on the now defunct TV network, TNN or The Nashville Network.  Of course, the only two shows I can recall is one where couples in some sort of Urban Cowboy setting square dance for hours on end.  The other, an old game show called Top Card, which was essentially Gambit (a game show version of blackjack) with a live band, taped in Nashville; an underrated game show in my opinion.  As a kid, I though that Nashville was just the Old West, minus the cactus and coyotes.  Having strolled up and down Broadway in Nashville, I can now attest that I was right.  But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the scene.

"Hit the Stage in Nashville!"

“Hit the Stage in Nashville!”

Honky-Tonk bars on Broadway in Nashville

Honky-Tonk bars on Broadway in Nashville

The tableau in Nashville is described as “Honky-Tonk”, which is a type of bar that provides musical entertainment (usually country music) to its patrons.  Bars of this kind are common in the Southern and Southwestern United States.  Where the unusual name got its origins is something of a mystery.  One theory is that it came from a call that cattle drivers in Oklahoma and Texas would shout at cows while riding known as “Honk-a-Tonk”.  Another theory is that it came from a brand of pianos in the late 19th century known as William Tonk & Bros.  Another theory is that the name originated from a nickname given to a portion of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, a red-light district of the city where sailors would meet in noisy cabaret clubs, where large portions of liquor were served up; the places were notorious for having almost no class.  Historians and country music afficianados agree that these joints in the South and Southwestern United States were the precursor to jukebox joints, or the equivalent of malt shop hops romanticized in the 1950’s.

"Get in touch with your inner twang!"

“Get in touch with your inner twang!”

I stopped into a shop for some souvenirs.  I was tempted to by a pair of boots and some chaps.  Then I reminded myself that I’m from Long Island, and everyone would make fun of me.  So, I just bought a box of Moon Pies, a favorite snack of the south based out of Tennessee, and a sepia-toned 8×10 portrait of the late, great Patsy Cline.  I’m still crazy about her!  (sorry, I had to say that!).  But the real fun began when I poked my head into a crowded bar for some jams.  It was so crowded, mind you!  I mean it; it was like a subway car in Tokyo!  What made me nervous wasn’t the crowds, but the paranoid feeling of bumping into someone, making them spill their drink, and then being at the welcoming end of a angry punch from someone slightly drunk who’ll never sip again!  Thank you Hollywood, for once again, putting another stupid idea in my head!  Luckily, I avoided physical contact, but I loved the house entertainment!

Fans of Honky-Tonk

Fans of Honky-Tonk

After a few more walks, I ended my night at a three-level (yes, three levels high) bar called The Honky Tonk Club.  Each floor had its own band, complete with drunken girls doing horrible karaoke-renditions of Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.  You know, I used to like that song, but now, thanks to countless idiots who imbibe themselves non-stop, all I can think of is the same loud, tone-deaf idiots who butcher what should be an inspirational song made possible by the operatic tones of Steve Perry.

Betty Boots

Betty Boots

I’ve had a hard time liking country music since I was a kid.  I keep going back to old hits.  Whenever I hear the low tones of “Convoy” by C.W. McCall, I just envision a heroic, clock-conscious trucker barreling his way across the coast, defying the cops as he makes his rounds.  Or hearing Johnny Cash’s dulcet tones discuss where he’s been everywhere!  I didn’t hear any of these walking through Broadway, but that didn’t matter.  It was just exciting to be in one of America’s most musical cities!  I could of, however, have done without the drunken renditions of Journey.  Seriously, please don’t do that!  Nothing ruins a perfect night like drunken girls slurring through an 80’s song that should be flawless!

"Time for new boots!"

“Time for new boots!”

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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One Response to Nashville’s Broadway: Immersed in Honky-Tonk

  1. Love this article. I have a friend in Nashville and now I want to go visit.

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