Day One – Nashville
“Country music is three chords and the truth” Harlan Howard (1927-2002)
We’ve spent the last two weeks studying various cities in the South, building our knowledge and unpacking our stereotypical understanding of the region. We have cooked biscuits and jambalaya, talked about the politics of cornbread, and the human cost of sugar. We’ve explored Southern musical genres, studied Southern photography, Colonial art, and looked at maps with a critical eye. At long last, we are ready to go and spend some time in the locations we have examined.
Our adventuresome band of fourteen students set off to the upper reaches of Dixie at about 8:30 Saturday morning. It was already warm and steamy when we left Indianapolis, and by the time we rolled into Nashville, around noon local time, the mercury was well into the 90s. On days like this, we do occasionally wonder why we had not designed a class that centers on the study of New England. But a day in Nashville reminded us of why the South is so compelling. After lunch at a variety of locations in a trendy neighborhood called the Gulch, we headed over to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which recently moved into an expansive and impressive new building that is in the heart of the Music City. The Hall offers attendees a rich examination of the origins, history, and contemporary significance of one of the most popular genres of music in contemporary America and that traces its roots to a variety of musical influences unique to the South. Adjacent to the Hall is the Hatch Show Print Company, a business started in Nashville in 1879, and dedicated to producing individually designed, colorful prints to advertise shows and performances in Nashville as well as elsewhere throughout the country.
After touring the Country Music Hall of Fame and using the print blocks at Hatch, we took a short walk to the famous, newly renovated, Ryman Auditorium. Time didn’t allow us to go on a tour, but our route did take us past some of the more colorful HonkyTonk establishments on Broadway!
A suitable conclusion to a full and hot day was a visit to the legendary Hattie B’s for some Hot Chicken. We were eager to compare it to the chicken we had eaten earlier in the week at Joella’s. While the ambiance of Hattie B’s won the competition hands down – we are pleased to report that Indianapolis can produce some mighty fine chicken!