Courier October Courier - Page 33

Of course, any tour of Nashville will include seeing a performance. It’s unavoidable, really. On the short walk down Broadway from the Cash/Cline museums to Ryman Auditorium, we passed no fewer than five venues blaring live music—at 11 a.m. Broadway at night offers even more opportunities to get an earful. The street holds 53 honky-tonks, with new venues under construction. It’s a loud scene, crowded but safe, and if a tour operator doesn’t want to turn a group loose to go honky-tonking, there are other options for live music. I absolutely loved my evening at Bluebird Café, an unas- suming venue that seats four songwriters in the middle of the room and surrounds them with 75 or so eager listeners. The performers take turns playing and singing, while the others strum along and even sing back-up. It’s intimate and intense. Engaging and enthralling. I heard Danny Flowers sing “Living on Tulsa Time,” a tune I knew from decades ago. Gordon Kennedy performed his Grammy-winning “Change the World,” and Brady Seals sang fun and familiar songs. Karla Davis, the youngest of the four, slayed me with her total honesty and her song “A Boy Like You.” It sounds kind of crazy now, but being so close to those songwriters inspired me to write yet another song as soon as I had a chance: “Eatin’ into My Sleepin’ Time.” It, too, is hor- rible, but I had to try. The Bluebird is a tough ticket, but LouAnna Henton of the Nashville CVC has a work-around for tour operators: “The authentic Nashville experience is summarized no better than a ‘writers in the round’ show, and if you’re not lucky enough to score tickets at the Bluebird, I suggest going to the City Winery or the Listening Room,” she says. “These are both large venues that can accommodate groups and showcase the same type of entertainment.” Rounding out our live music showcase was a trip to the Grand Ole Opry, the world’s longest-running radio show, now performed in a modern theater. It’s a fast-moving event fea- turing several acts. The night we were there, I not only got to see a performance by John Conlee, a country music legend who graduated from the same high school as me, but I also heard Exile sing “Kiss You All Over,” a No. 1 song I had heard them perform once before … in 1978. opry.com/groups Don’t miss the live music Bluebird Café Houses of history Nashville’s historical threads are not confined to music muse- ums (and my personal timeline of tunes). Three NTA member attractions paint profound pictures of the past—local, regional and national. Some 20 minutes from Nashville is Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, the impressive home of the seventh U.S. president. A visit to the 1,120-acre estate can include a guide- led walk through 1837 mansion and self-guided tours of the gardens, cemetery, slave quarters and the original farmhouse. Groups can write their own ticket, according to Jason Nelson, vice president of marketing and sales. Cheekwood Estate & Gardens “This place is like a blank canvas,” he says. “Tour operators can tell us what they want, and we’ll make it happen—any- thing from Instagram scavenger hunts to ghost tours.” Groups we saw on-site included a family reunion, a school group from North Dakota and a Corvette club doing volunteer work in the gardens. thehermitage.com Located in another part of town is Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. Constructed during a time of rising aristocracy in America and first occupied in 1932, Cheekwood represents the Country Place Era. Estates from that time are rarely open to the public. The property features exquisite gardens, but we spent our time in the 36-room mansion, which has been meticulously preserved and restored. Much of the furniture was bought by Leslie and Mabel Cheek during a 1929 trip to Europe, where they purchased antiques from failing estates. cheekwood.org Our group did not visit Fontanel, an enormous log home that was once occupied by Country Music Hall of Fame member Barbara Mandrell. Open to groups and offering family-style meals, the mansion (20 rooms and 13 bathrooms) features an array of music memorabilia, and tour guides tell stories about the stars who visited the home. The property also has a winery, distillery, zip line adventure, hiking trails and shops. fontanel.com NTAonline.com 31