Nashville may be the capital of Tennessee, but it's better known as Music City, the country music mecca. Yet it is so much more. Combining small-town warmth with an unexpected urban sophistication, Nashville is an increasingly popular tourist destination that boasts world-class museums and major-league sports teams; an eclectic dining and after-hours scene; and an eye-catching skyline ringed by a beautiful countryside of rolling hills, rivers and lakes, and wide-open green spaces.
Ultimately, though, Nashville is the heart and soul of country music, that uniquely American blend of humble gospel, blues, and mountain music that has evolved into a $2-billion-a-year industry. At its epicenter, Nashville is still the city where unknown musicians can become overnight sensations, where the major record deals are cut and music-publishing fortunes are made, and where the Grand Ole Opry still takes center stage.
Symbolic of Nashville's vitality is downtown, an exciting place that is finally breathing new life. Once-tired and -abandoned warehouses now bustle in the entertainment area known as the District. This historic neighborhood teems with tourist-oriented nightclubs and restaurants, including B. B. King's Blues Club & Grill, the ubiquitous Hard Rock Cafe that's become a staple of most large cities, and the one-and-only Wildhorse Saloon (the most famous boot-scootin' dance hall in the land). Luckily, the District isn't yet all glitz and tour-bus nightclubs. Along lower Broadway, there are still half a dozen or more dive bars where the air reeks of stale beer and cigarettes and live music plays day and night. In these bars, aspiring country bands lay down their riffs and sing their hearts out in hopes of becoming tomorrow's superstars. With so many clubs, restaurants, shops, and historic landmarks, the District is one of the South's most vibrant nightlife areas.
Folks looking for tamer entertainment head out to the Music Valley area, home to the Grand Ole Opry, the radio show that started the whole country music ball rolling back in 1925. Clustered in this land the locals sometimes refer to as "Nashvegas" are other music-related attractions, including the epic Opryland Resort; the nostalgic General Jackson showboat; several modest souvenir shops posing as museums; and theaters featuring family entertainment, with the majority showcasing performers from the Grand Ole Opry. Dozens of other clubs and theaters around the city also feature live music of various genres.
Country isn't the only music you'll hear in this city. Mainstream rock stars are also being lured by the city's intangible vibe. (Jack White and Kid Rock are just a few of the high-profile musicians to have moved here recently.) They come here for inspiration, to record new material, or for crossover collaborations with local music pros. No matter the genre, the city seems to attract more musicians each year, which means there's enough live music here in Nashville to keep your toes tappin' even long after you hit the highway home.
Though Nashville's fortunes aren't exclusively those of the country music industry, the city is inextricably linked to its music. These days, country music is enjoying greater popularity than ever before (it's now a $2-billion-a-year industry), bringing newfound importance to this city. On any given night of the week downtown, you can hear live music in clubs and bars -- and not all of the music is country music. There are blues bars, jazz clubs, alternative-rock clubs, even Irish pubs showcasing Celtic music.
Nashville also has its share of shopping malls, theme restaurants, stadiums, and arenas, but it is music that drives this city. Nashville delights not only fans of country music but just about anyone who enjoys a night on the town. With all the new developments taking place, it is obvious that Nashville is ascendant, rising both as a city of the New South and as Music City.
The King -- Elvis Presley may be more closely identified with Memphis than with Nashville, but the King did indeed make his mark on the Music City. Elvis recorded more than 200 of his songs, including Christmas carols, at Historic RCA Studio B, on Music Row.
Big Business -- Nashville's economy is diversified. Scores of well-known corporations and associations have their headquarters and/or other major facilities in the area. These include BellSouth, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), Bridgestone/Firestone, Caterpillar Financial, Dell, Gibson Guitar Corp./Baldwin Pianos, Lifeway Christian Resources, National Federation of Independent Business, Nissan Motor Manufacturing USA, O'Charley's Inc., and Tractor Supply Co.
Notable Songs & Albums Recorded in Music City
1956 Elvis Presley "Heartbreak Hotel"
1957 The Everly Brothers "Bye Bye Love"
1958 Brenda Lee "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"
1964 Roy Orbison "Oh, Pretty Woman"
1966 Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde
1967 Robert Night "Everlasting Love"
1971 Joan Baez "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"
1978 Kansas "Dust in the Wind"
1987 R.E.M. Document
1992 Vanessa Williams "Save the Best for Last"
2000 Matchbox Twenty Mad Season
2001 India.Arie Acoustic Soul
2006 The Raconteurs Consolers of the Lonely
2004 Jimmy Buffett License to Chill
2007 Alison Krauss and Robert Plant Raising Sand
2007 Bon Jovi Lost Highway
2007 Kid Rock Rock N Roll Jesus
2007 White Stripes Icky Thump
2008 Kings of Leon Only By the Night