Saturday, June 28, 2014

Intro to Nashville...and Tootsie

Our first drive into Nashville took us down Broadway past the U.S. Customs House (right, below) and the First Baptist Church (right center, below).
Looking toward the Cumberland River and Riverfront Park, the historic downtown buildings on Broadway highlight the city's architectural past.

A short walk away is the Visitor Center (right, below),
which is part of the very modern Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL Predators.
It is a short walk to the home of the Nashville Symphony, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Its design, similar to late 19th century great concert halls, led me to believe it was much older than its actual age. The building opened to the public on September 9, 2006. The Laura Turner Concert Hall features an automated system of movable banners and panels located around the hall which can adjust the acoustics to accommodate a variety of musical genres.

The orchestra level seating can be transformed from rows of theater-style seating to a 5,700-square-foot hardwood ballroom floor, typically used for cabaret-style events such as pops and jazz concerts. A unique motorized system lowers rows of seats into a special storage space below the surface of the ballroom floor.

"The Birth of Apollo", Harmony Fountain

The Box Office and public garden enclosed by a colonnade

Angel Statue

This statue represents an expression of the Nashville Symphony's gratitude to the citizens of Nashville for the Center.

Nearby is the Music City Walk of Fame.
This is a landmark tribute to those from all genres of music who have contributed to the world through song or other industry collaboration and made a significant contribution to the music industry with connection to Music City. Among the stars recognizing Reba McEntire, Roy Orbison, The Crickets, Emmylou Harris, Wynonna Judd, Barbara Mandrell, and Vince Gill, among others, is the name

Tootsie Bess.

We headed up 5th Avenue toward the Ryman Auditorium (center, photo below) to learn more about Tootsie.
Back in the day (the early '60s), "...the Grand Old Opry was still at the Ryman. Between and after shows, drinking and carrying-on would commence across the alley, in the narrow little joint run by Big Jeff Bess and his wife Hattie Louise--also known as 'Tootsie.'

"Since Tootsie and Big Jeff already knew plenty of folks in the business from their performing and bartending, and their then-teenage son Steve was playing drums in Ray Price's band, it took no time at all for musicians to start showing up at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.

"That some of the Opry performers used to duck out the Ryman's backstage door between shows, slip across the alley and have a few beers in Tootsie's industry-only back room would've been enough to earn the bar a place in country music lore.

"But catering to the likes of Faron Young, Webb Pierce and Patsy Cline was only part of the story. The Orchid Lounge made the biggest difference to a group who weren't stars, at least not yet--the songwriters.
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge (center, right)

"'She loved songwriters more than she loved the stars,] (Bobby) Bare says. 'The stars got the huge egos and they'd throw it around a lot. She had a soft spot for songwriters. And musicians. There's no telling how much money she loaned Roger [Miller] and people, you know, who would come in broke. And feed them.'

"Professional break or no, what could always be counted on at Tootsie's was the motherly generosity of Tootsie herself. She ran (and ran and ran) tabs for those who weren't having much luck getting cuts or gigs. She made sure they got fed too. Almost as much fried chicken, biscuits and chili went on those tabs as beer.
Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Kris Kristofferson, Mel Tillis and Tom T. Hall are in that group of songwriters that Tootsie helped.

"It was said she had a cigar box behind the counter full of IOU's from where she had given drinks and food to hungry writers and pickers. Supposedly, at each year's end, a bunch of Opry Performers would take all the IOU's and pay Tootsie so she wouldn't lose the money" (Jewly Hight at
Tootsie's was painted orchid by mistake, but it was kept orchid and the name was changed to the Orchid Lounge. And it is still maintaining its orchid hue.

Tootsie certainly contributed to Nashville's music scene and the success of many songwriters. And deserves that star.

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