Live Country Music Venues in Tennessee
Nashville is called Music City for a reason, especially for fans of country music. It's impossible to list every place in town with a country act, but here are a few of the best. You have to start with the Grand Ole Opry, where the brightest stars in the country galaxy perform night after night.
As many as eight different acts will grace the Grand Ole Opry during each performance, featuring established acts, rising stars and the occasional superstar appearances from the likes of Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood or Vince Gill. Make it a full evening with a post-show backstage tour that pulls back the curtain behind the 18 dressing rooms and includes a visit to Studio A, the former home of the television classix "Hee Haw". Nashville is also home to many music museums that are a must for any music fan.
Next stop: the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman Auditorium, which used to house the Grand Ole Opry.The Ryman is one of the most prestigious venues in the world with an unparralleled history and incomparable acoustics. As well as being the early home of the Grand Ole Opry it was also the birthplace of bluegrass when banjo player Earl Scruggs joined guitarist and singer Bill Monroe onstage in 1945. Now, the bookings at the Nashville institution encompass all genres from R&B to rock to folk, soul and - of course - country! They don't call it the Mother Church of Country Music for nothing; the performances - not to mention the pews - guarantee you'll sit up and pay attention.
After the show, head to the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, a live radio show where you can see it all happen in person.
If you're looking for the next Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks, take in an early show at The Bluebird Cafe, a singer-songwriter haven located in Nashville. Most shows start at 6pm and the performers play 'in the round' to showcase their talents to the audience. The place is small and the gigs will sell out regardless of who's playing. It's best to get tickets in advance on The Bluebird's website or plan to line up early for the first-come, first-served seats.
For a night on the town, visit the famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and a few other stops in the famous musical showcase, The District. Take in the fun of the Wildhorse Saloon, known as much for its food as its music and dancing. And be sure to visit the Nashville Palace. Like so many Nashville night spots, you never know who might drop in.
In Memphis, be sure to visit the Center for Southern Folklore and Café, where you can enjoy the tours, noon concerts, exhibits, films and more. You never know what you're going to hear at the Hi Tone Café or the beautiful Orpheum Theatre, but some of the recent country-influenced acts to play there include Junior Brown and the North Mississippi Allstars.
In the Tri-Cities area, start off your trip with a visit to the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Museum in Bristol, where you can also hear live music on Thursday nights. The Down Home in Johnson City is a landmark for country and bluegrass music.
Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are hot spots for country music, with a large number of dinner theaters and family-friendly entertainment venues. And of course, Dollywood has music galore, with stage show, street performers and more.
Just down the road in downtown Knoxville, you can take the Cradle of Country Music Walking Tour and learn about its history from pioneer ballads to rockabilly. While you're downtown, take in the live noon shows at the Knoxville Visitor Center, the WDVX Blue Plate Special, where you can hear all kinds of country, bluegrass, roots and Americana acts for free.
In Chattanooga, head downtown to the Chattanooga Market, located in an old foundry, where you can shop, eat and hear some good music, including interesting country acts. While the flavour tends to be bluegrass at the Mountain Opry on Signal Mountain, there's still some great old-time acoustic music to hear.