A NIGHT OUT IN THE NASHVILLE HONKY TONKS | Darrin Henry
Walking into the two storey Rippy’s Bar with its choice of three live bands in different areas at the same time is in complete contrast to St Helena, where we basically have one nightclub and live music is becoming rare – welcome to a Wednesday night in Nashville!
Celebrating my birthday in Nashville, as a country music fan, is as cool as it gets; certainly takes the edge of the ever increasing number of candles on the cake! We’ve even left the car at the motel and taken a taxi for the night out; serious business!
Burger and Beer at Rippy’s Bar & Grill
The Zac Brown Band is my kind of country; I like Little Big Town, Gretchen Wilson and you can’t go wrong with a bit of Brad Paisley. But I grew up listening to Loretta Lynn, my dad’s idol, so I’m also easy with the classic stuff.
We choose Rippy’s upstairs soundstage as the band is just about to strike up. Our table has a great view of both the band and Broadway out the window behind us.
Tonight is a break from our healthy eating on our road trip – a decent cheeseburger and fries a prerequisite for the drinks to come. The food is excellent. Sharon chose sliced pork loin which looks more like strips of bacon to me, but she’s making approving noises.
With the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows, Hap & Harry’s Original Tennessee lager sliding down nicely and the band getting the early evening crowd in the mood, it really is quite magical to be here.
Just like we saw on NOLA’s Bourbon Street, every half an hour one of the band members takes a ‘Tips’ bucket around the room. Apparently, this is how they make their living and we’re reminded there’s no cover charge. Mind you the drinks are not cheap! I notice everyone gives quite generously on the first round but are not so keen the second time. This ‘begging’ can’t be fun for the band.
The Broadway Country Music Scene
Two drinks later and bellies full, we head out onto the bright neon buzz of Broadway. There are hundreds of people about, it’s warm and exciting.
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway catches Sharon’s eye – in her house growing up it was Mr Tubb on the stereo. We make a visit for her dad’s sake and then ‘hit’ another honky tonk.
Cadillac Ranch is our next stop. This bar’s quite big with a full size Cadillac suspended from the ceiling. A Garth Brooks’ cover, “Friends In Low Places” gets plenty of cheers. Sharon’s switched to margarita; I’m still sampling the local brews.
We’re spoiled for choice as we wander down Broadway toward the Cumberland River, there’s music spilling out from every bar we pass. We pause in each doorway for a quick listen, see what takes our fancy, but much of it is beginning to sound the same. It seems the beer drinking, sing-a-long favourites are being played everywhere. No self penned numbers like that of Deacon Claybourne or Scarlett O’Connor from the TV show ‘Nashville’ we had come to expect. We cross the street and try our luck on the other side.
Casey Edgar Plays Second Fiddle
There are a few buskers out on the street adding to the atmosphere.
Then, we stop outside the ‘Second Fiddle’ and right away I’m hearing some great country music. In we go.
Up on stage is Lefty Ferguson, a guitar leftie with super vocals and a sleeveless, Kenny Chesney thing going on. We take a seat at the bar and when the bartender comes over I really regret not being able to just say, “whiskey!” Well I could, but it would be pointless as I don’t drink whiskey. But Sharon does, a cinnamon flavoured one called ‘Fireball.’
Surprisingly there are very few cowboy hats to be seen, in the bar or on the street. The male country singer’s uniform of choice these days is jeans, t-shirt and baseball cap. Only the cowboy boots remain. Not a sequin or rhinestone in sight! Country music has changed of course, both the music and the fashion. We know this already but even so, I’m surprised how complete the rock look has become.
Sitting at the bar we get chatting with a couple visiting from Boston, Billy and Mary-Ellen who buy a round when they find out it’s my birthday. Lefty’s set is over just before 11pm; he was awesome.
Singer/songwriter, Casey Edgar from Oklahoma, takes the stage next. Initially I’m missing Lefty, but this new guy is good. His interaction with the room and especially a party of ladies celebrating a 40th birthday is very natural and entertaining. The women keep asking him to sing Mark Ronson’s pop hit, ‘Uptown Funk’ and eventually he agrees. Following the lyrics off his mobile phone, this country singer is belting out ‘Uptown Funk’ and it’s fantastic. Respect to Casey Edgar.
Last Chance at the Full Moon Saloon
Eventually we move on. Across the street we go again and this time the sweet sounds of The Rische’s draws us into The Full Moon Saloon.
The Rische’s are a refreshing change to the cover tunes we’ve heard up and down Broadway tonight. Previously going by the name, Jypsi, The Rische’s are a family band with a distinct bluegrass, Dixie Chicks feel. Violin, acoustic guitars and beautiful harmonies, performing songs they’ve written themselves; this feels more like the Bluebird Cafe with Scarlett and Deacon.
I should mention, we were stopped for ID for the first time tonight coming into the Full Moon Saloon. Either we’re looking younger or just looking a bit suspect from the night’s traipsing!
But, I’m clearly getting older, the effects of the night have suddenly caught up with me and at quarter to one in the morning it is time to grab one of the many taxis waiting outside and head home.
Honk tonk hopping in Nashville – not a birthday night I’m likely to forget in a hurry.