Rubbing Shoulders with the Stars

We awoke our final full day in Nashville to absolute pouring rain. Neither of us had really planned for rain in Nashville – that’ll teach us to watch the weather a little better before travelling somewhere! We both arrived prepared for snow, not rain, and for colder weather than we ended up needing to deal with. Regardless, every other day had been beautiful, so we figured we were due for a day of rain. Happily, we were planning to spend the day inside at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum anyhow. Since we didn’t have umbrellas along on our trip, we both covered up (putting on a head scarf in my case, and putting up a hood in KP’s), and set out, making our usual stop at Starbucks on the way to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nice try on the names, buddy.

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We arrived at the Country Music Hall of Fame building soaking wet, and entered to be greeted by a nice young (and very dry) gentleman asking us how we were doing. We both peeled our jackets off and wrung out our hair, not quite knowing how to answer. “Wet. Very wet,” I said. He chuckled and directed us to the customer service booth to pick up our pre-purchased tickets. We had scheduled an off-site tour during the day and had about 45 minutes to kill before that started, so we picked up our audio tour handsets and went upstairs to get started.

The first thing we saw when we got off the elevator at the top of the building was the Taylor Swift Education Center. Taylor Swift endowed $4 million to the Country Music Hall of Fame to have this center created, with a focus on educating children about music and the music industry.
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We had time to check out Reba’s “All the Women I Am” exhibit before we had to meet for our tour. Reba has lead a very interesting life, and has inarguably lead an amazing career, but what I took away from this exhibit is as follows:

  1. Reba was good at everything growing up, from singing to athletics to school to being a leader.
  2. Reba has had a very interesting (and some would argue unfashionable) style evolution.
  3. Reba is tiny.
  4. Reba has so many awards she doesn’t care where they are. They could be in an attic or a random hall of fame display. Who knows? Who cares.
  5. Fancy is, like, the best song ever. “Here’s your one chance, Fancy don’t let me down…”
  6. Reba is good at everything as an adult too (singing, dancing, acting… you name it).
  7. Reba is just one of those people that you hate because she’s too perfect (except for her horrible sense of style).

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Before we knew it, it was time to meet for our tour. We went back downstairs to deposit our audio tour guides at the customer service desk for later, and queued in the tour group area to get ready to visit historic RCA Studio B.

What is so cool about this studio, you ask? Well, my favourite thing about it was that this recording studio was the preferred studio of Elvis Presley. Many of his greatest hits were recorded in the very room that we stood. KP’s favourite thing was the fact that it was the choice studio of so many famous people at the time that it was first in use – when the whole country music industry is using the same studio, you know you’ve found something special. In honour of my favourite thing, here are all the Elvis tracks that were recorded here:
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Upon arrival at RCA Studio B, we stood in the entry room while our tour guide played us selections of famous songs that were recorded here. Artists that we heard included Dolly Parton, Hank Snow, the Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings, and of course, Elvis Presley. We moved into the next room and watched a short video with footage actually recorded in the RCA Studio B at the height of its popularity. Our tour guide filled us in on the fact that we even have this footage is just lucky – a special on two different artists was being recorded, and they just happened to have sessions in this historic studio that day.

After we got a bit of an idea of the scope of music recorded in the studio, we were able to move into the studio itself. We sat on chairs around the room and the tour guide gave us all sorts of information on Elvis Presley and his recording habits. He often enjoyed recording in the middle of the night – it was not uncommon for his band to come in around 11 PM or midnight, with Elvis rolling in around midnight or 1 AM to get started. He also greatly enjoyed spending time unwinding and just playing music in this particular studio. The piano that still stands in RCA Studio B is the original piano, which Elvis used to play when he was getting ready to start recording. One of my favourite songs to be recorded at this studio is Elvis’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”. Our tour guide informed us that this song was actually recorded around 4 AM, and with all the lights out – pitch dark. She played an excerpt of the song for us, and something about being there and knowing the story and hearing Elvis’s iconic voice really created a magical moment for me.
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When our tour was over, we headed back to the Country Music Hall of Fame and took a break for lunch before delving into the regular exhibits. The restaurant in the lobby of the building actually turned out to be quite delicious and not too expensive. Check out our yummy meals!

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Once we were finished, we picked up our audio tour sets again and went upstairs to see the rest of the museum. Basically, we started at the beginning of country music development and worked our ways forwards to today, seeing displays about the sounds and icons of each era. We spent hours making sure we listened to every audio segment, looked in every box, and watched every feature video. KP took a lot of pictures of outfits she wanted to own.
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One of the coolest parts of this museum was the giant wall of gold records from the country music industry. We even stumbled upon Paul Brandt’s!
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Once we had gone through all of the displays, we were brought into the actual Country Music Hall of Fame. Did you know that it takes a long, long time to be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Artists like Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, and Miranda Lambert are not inductees into this prestigious group – they haven’t been around for long enough! Artists, producers, label owners, songwriters, or anyone associated to the industry can be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but only if they have had a profound impact on country music and have been around for 20+ years! Basically, this group was much smaller than I thought it would be. At some point throughout the day, KP decided she loved Merle Haggard. She did find his plaque on the wall, so she was happy.

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After we saw the Hall of Fame, we had seen it all. The rain outside had lightened, so we took a roundabout route back to the hostel in order to pick up a few souvenirs and to see the public library. It had been listed as the #11 sight to see in Nashville on Trip Advisor (above the Country Music Hall of Fame… we’re not sure how we feel about that), so we figured we should take a look. It was a beautiful building, but I’m not sure I would rank it that high.

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We got back to the hostel and dropped our purchases and jackets in our room, then grabbed our iPads and went to the common area to catch up on some blogging. We unfortunately got very distracted when it turned out that our good friend Tom was hanging in the common area too. We spent a couple hours talking and being utterly ridiculous instead of productive, but it was worth it.

We eventually talked Tom into coming for dinner with us at a restaurant that had been recommended to us by our good friends Michelle with two L’s, Michele with one L, and Jill with two L’s that we had met a few days before. It turned out that Demos’ was delicious, and very affordable. “Demos is delicious!” says KP of our experience there – see, I was right. After dinner, the three of us went back to the hostel for a few beers before heading out to catch our last glimpse of the local Nashville music scene.

By the time we decided to head to the bar, it was really raining again. Luckily, KP and I had found a British man to hang out with. If there was anything we could depend on him for, it was an umbrella. We wandered up Broadway and went into the first bar that called to us – the Whiskey Bent Saloon. KP and I reminisced about the time we saw Spencer Mulder and that country rap guy there. We hung out for a little while, but then moved on to party at The Stage, where we had also been before. The band this night was a lot of fun, performing creative covers of many non-country songs. We rocked out for awhile, but KP and I decided it was time to head home early in order to pack up to leave the next day. I mean, we didn’t need to stay up until 4 AM every day of our trip.

We headed back to the hostel and found we had new roommates, but they weren’t in bed yet so we were free to move around the room and pack as we pleased. We were both very sad to be saying goodbye to the hostel and to Nashville the next day. Read all about that here!

Love KG