Stars a dime a dozen on streets of Nashville
NASHVILLE — There’s no shortage of twinkling celestial bodies in Nashville’s night sky, but down on terra firma Music City USA has an abundance of human stars strolling its sidewalks.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise at an area diner when I overheard my waiter casually say: "I’ve got the Ted Danson party waiting outside."
I’d stopped for lunch in the small historic city of Franklin ( www.franklin-gov.com), a 30-kilometre commute south of Nashville, and was busy tucking into my platter of barbecued chicken, squash casserole and cornbread when I’d overheard the waiter’s comment. What was even more surprising, nobody around me took it as a big deal that the star of Cheers, and the new big name sign-on for the television series CSI, was standing on the sidewalk waiting patiently for ordinary folks like me to finish up and vacate a table.
Twenty minutes later, after finishing the last of my peach cobbler, I wandered outside into the bright fall sunshine to see the tall figure of Danson, and his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen. They were amiably chatting with other diners in line for a table at Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant.
Music is a multibillion-dollar industry in Nashville. With dozens of musical venues and scores of recording studios, Music City comes by its name honestly. There are so many stage, television and film stars living in and around Nashville, locals tend to treat the famous simply as neighbours.
It’s the same if you’re a tourist spending time at this popular destination. Nashville and the state of Tennessee have a delightful, unpretentious downhome feel for the visitor.
The city is the hub of pretty well every musical genre, and location of the immortal Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, where the likes of James Brown, Patsy Cline and Bruce Springsteen have thrilled generations of fans during its long history.
While it might be a long way from rhinestones and elongated limos, the Bluebird Cafe is where you’ll find many true hearts listening to a broad range of traditional music. The Bluebird is an intimate and inexpensive place to linger over a couple of beers and bask in the sounds created by topnotch professional singers and musicians.
For a city that’s been called the buckle on the Bible belt (the city is home to the world’s largest publisher of Bibles), Nashville has all the neon sparkle of a tourist town. However, you will also discover a deep cultural sophistication that will surprise you.
To experience these cultural roots, take time to visit the Frist Centre for the Visual Arts, the dramatic $20-million conversion of an Art Deco 1930s post office in downtown Nashville. Over at the magnificent Schermerhorn Symphony Centre you could take in a Beethoven evening, or do what I did and buy a ticket to see someone like saxophone legend Sonny Rollins, who, at 81, plays with the lungs of a teenager.
About 12 kilometres southwest of downtown, there’s more elegant grandeur waiting to be discovered. Called Nashville’s home of art and gardens, Cheekwood, once the private home and estate of the Cheek family (who founded the Maxwell House empire), provides visitors with a unique experience of art and gardens. Completed in 1932, Cheekwood is set in a beautiful 22-hectare property and was opened to the public in 1960, with a dedication given by Senator Albert Gore, Sr.