Location: 422 Broadway (between Fourth and Fifth Avenues North)
A trip to visit the Honky Tonk bars on Lower Broad is a must for any tourist visiting Nashville. Even if you only have a few minutes, take a break, walk-in (there’s no cover charges), grab a beer, and catch a few live country tunes. And, tip the band before you leave. The places may be crowded, hot and noisy, but you will be glad you got to experience this side of Nashville. The talent ranges from cover bands to original songwriters, and you never know when somebody famous will drop in to watch or play.
The oldest and most famous of the Honky Tonks is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. You can easily find it by just looking for its color. Back in the day, this was the place where the Grand Ole Opry stars would enter from the alley in back behind the Ryman Auditorium to grab a quick drink between sets. Most notable was the late George Jones who knew that it was 37 steps from the Ryman stage to the back door of Tootsie’s.
An interesting fact that I just learned from David Byrne’s book How Music Works is that the legendary former New York City punk club, CBGB’s, was originally designed to be a country and bluegrass room like Tootsie’s. Byrne claims that the two rooms were almost identical with Tootsie’s getting the nod as to being much louder.