I’d been to Nashville many times, but I’d never been to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. You see, I’m not a country music fan, nothing against it, I’m just more of a classic rock person. However, the older I get, the more recent the “classic” rock seems. On this trip to Nashville, I brought my mother with me. She is a country music fan. She has her favorites and loves to sing along with them and someday I hope she learns the lyrics! So off we went.
Entering the massive modern, yet timeless, building in downtown I was immediately impressed. To my right was a fabulous gift shop featuring every manner of collectable and memorabilia as well as a great selection of Hatch Show Prints for sale. Some money would surely be spent here later today, but first, we wanted to head to the exhibits.
Walking through the grand atrium, we pass a snack stand and a restaurant that was serving brunch at the time. It was full and everyone seemed to be delighting in their meals. But food would also have to wait, we were on a mission.
We purchased our tickets and headed upstairs. I had underestimated the ‘wow” factor of what I was about to see. As we walked along the top floor (it’s recommended to start at the top and work your way down) we began our journey through the permanent collection, and in the center of it all, to my delight, we were overlooking the two-story, glass enclosed archives getting an even deeper view of what is yet to be displayed and what is being saved by the staff of the Hall and Museum.
The permanent collection has been laid out over two floors in an exhibition dubbed “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music”, and what a journey it was! Elegantly designed displays captured decades of musicians, singers, costumes, memorabilia and even Elvis’ famed gold Cadillac. In paying attention to making sure the galleries were true to the music, there are many stopping points where one can listen to music, view a video or archival film and learn more with the touch screen interactive media.
The self-guided tour is organized chronologically and covers two floors of the Museum. Part one is titled Sing Me Back Home: The Journey Begins, Folk Roots to the 1960s. In 2010 the Museum greatly expanded and renamed the second part: Dreaming My Dreams: The Journey Continues, 1960s to the Present. You’ll be dazzled by the wall of Gold Records and humbled within the Hall of Fame Rotunda.
The Hall and Museum also has temporary exhibitions, educational programs and other events. When planning your visit, check ahead if these are of interest to you. On our visit, a musician was playing a guitar and showing everyone just how easy it was. Well, for him maybe, my few lessons went terribly amok.
We had purchased a ticket that also allowed us to tour The Historic RCA Studio B Tour. The “Home of 1,000 Hits” is located in the Music Row section of Nashville and can only be toured via this ticketing method. When you arrive at the Hall and Museum, you can choose your tour time (seating is limited) and a museum bus will transport you to this historic and engaging site. By the numbers: over 35,000 songs were brought to life by the Studio B magic, including more than 1,000 American hits, 40 million-selling singles, and over 200 Elvis Presley recordings (by far more than any other studio). The guide will start the presentation during the ride over and while the studio itself is small, it is certainly worth the trip. You’ll be able to see recording equipment and other memorabilia, including the piano Elvis himself used during his late night recording sessions (I’ll save the fun details for you to discover). Today the studio is used by students, and possible future Hall of Famers, as well as by some of today’s popular singers including Carrie Underwood and Wynonna. This is also where Marty Stuart recorded his Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions) which produced the Grammy-winning song "Hummingbyrd."
The future of the Hall and Museum includes plans for an addition so even more of their treasures can be displayed. Visit now and visit again later. For more information, including hours and admission rates, go to www.countrymusichalloffame.org.
While I may not have left a die hard country music fan, I now understand why my mother loves it so much and I can only hope she learned some lyrics while here!