Nashville is certainly known as "Music City USA" for all the right reasons, and any myth that the only music played here is country is right out of whack. Country music both old and new dominates the town, but on any night you will see live blues, rock, soul and other kinds of music being played, especially down on Broadway where the Honky Tonks and bars can be found.
However the star attraction has to be the Country Music Hall of Fame located in a brand new building since May 2001. Prior to that, the building had been launched in 1967 on Music Row in Nashville, but the collection became so large a new home was badly needed. There are over 800,000 separate items on display at the building which is across the road from the Gaylord Entertainment Center, and just one block away from the famous Ryman Aditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Orpry. They still hold the Opry here in the winter months, a must see night out on your visit to Nashville.
Current exhibits feature legends Ray Price and Ray Charles. The Price exhibit opened in August 2006 and runs until June 2007. Price attended the opening, and the 80 year old is still performing and recording, and he was inducted into the Country Hall of Fame in 1996. Many locals feel that Price was never given the credit by his peers for his achievements, but he considers the exhibition as "better late than never," and contributed as much memorabilia as possible. Price started out in Texas living under the shadow of Hank Williams and performed with his band the Cherokee Cowboys, gradually evolving over the years into a big band country style crooner. His big hit was "For the Good Times," the name of the exhibit.
The Ray Charles exhibit is a must see even for the casual fan, tracing his massive contribution to country music. This exhibit opened in March 2006 and runs all the way through 2007, so you have plenty of time to make it. Included in the 5,000 square foot installation are rare video and film clips of Charles with the likes of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Hank Williams Jr and many more, along with artifacts, instruments, song manuscripts, costumes, photographs, and lengthy examples of his difficult childhood when he was growing up listening to the Grand Ole Opry.
A performance photograph from 1946 is on display with his first group the McSon Trio, which is the first known photograph of Charles, and his Braille slate and notebook are also in the exhibit. I particularly enjoyed seeing his extensive collection of flashy tuxedos, and the special sunglasses designed to make the singer the focal point of every show.
Also on display are his first Atlantic Records publicity photo from 1953, and a picture of him with Frank Sinatra who called Charles "the only genius in our business." He first major hit Charles had was "I've Got a Woman" and the 78-rpm recording is on display along with the 45-rpm recording of "I'm Moving On," his very first country recording of the Hank Snow classic.A final word about the Country Music Hall of Fame wall display must be said. The bronze images of all the inductees are bathed in a natural light in a special hall that enshrines them in a 70-foot high rotunda. Included in the display are 11 artists who are also members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They are: Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee, Everly Bros, Chet Atkins, Bob Willis, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Sam Phillips and Floyd Cramer.
Country Music Hall of Fame
Mike HepworthDecember 2006