In planning our Southern Summer trip, I had compiled a list of restaurants we should try to hit–some old, some new, all uniformly beloved. High on that list was Biscuit Love, a newer restaurant in the Gulch district that grew out of a popular Nashville food truck. When we got there Tuesday morning, we were surprised to find the line NOT out the door; this changed by the time we left: it was around the block. For very good reason!
As the name suggests, Biscuit Love
revolves around biscuits. We ordered the SEC, the Princess, and the East Nasty, plus a side of Bonuts–fried biscuits filled with lemon mascarpone and served with blueberry compote. The biscuits were fall apart yummy, and we later agreed that the fried chicken at Biscuit Love was among the best we ate all trip. Worth standing in line in the hot sun for … you bet!
And, even better, when one doesn’t have to! (Points to whomever recognizes the Wisconsin Ducks t-shirt from our last summer trip.)
Nashville is filled with street murals. These sets of angel wings were particularly detailed with images of Music City. And, the two angels in front of the wings–hopped up on Bonuts and biscuits–could have flown away right then and there.
Our next destination was the Country Music Hall of Fame–where we mistakenly thought we’d spend a couple hours, rather than the entire day, which is what we happily did. Because we exited the parking garage on the wrong side, we got to walk past this whimsical mosaic installation tracing the seasons in birds, trees, and music. But, none of us believes that Nashville gets snow.
We then cut through the Nashville convention center and crossed the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame pavers. We found Dolly’s stone and said, “Hey.”
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum turned out to be massive. It was expanded a few years ago and now comprises 350K square feet plus a secondary location, RCA Studio B. We booked the museum, the Hatch Show Print exhibit, and Studio B, and realized we were settling in for the full day.
One of the featured exhibits–the Gretsch guitars of Randy Bachman (yea, the BTO Bachman). Apparently, one of this Gretsch guitars was stolen early in his career and that led to a need to collect one of every Gretsch ever made. Natch. To Ned and Penn, it was glorious window shopping. Harper remarked that they were all very pretty. Ned snapped, “They’re not just pretty; they’re useful.” Right. Boys’ toys.
Oh, look, a sewing machine! (It belonged to designer to the country stars, Nudie, but still, a sewing machine!)
The kids became particularly obsessed with this car, also designed by Nudie. It was accessorized with silver dollars, many guns, hand tooled leather, a saddle and a set of long horns. It was paired with Elvis’s diamond and pearl lustred Cadillac, which I don’t seem to have photographed. This one will do.
We finished ogling the cars just in time to run down for our Hatch Show Print tour. Several years ago, the CMHM acquired Hatch Show Print, one of the longest continuous running letter press print shops in the country. When the museum expanded, it included Hatch, reconstructing its historic shop. Hatch still turns out over 200 original jobs a year–many of which are visible on the walls in the classroom below. In fact, we were limited in taking photos in the shop because work was going on all around us and was off limits for posting on social media until okayed by the clients. Penn, in particular, was mesmerized by the workings of the offset presses just inches from where we stood as images seemed to appear out of nowhere, over and over again. He kept turning to me and mouthing, “This is so cool!” We had no idea that we’d then get to go make our own prints. So this was even better!
We got to rummage through the stacks of old prints after we made our own, and look, we found the Time Jumpers!
Ned was starting to get anxious–we had booked the RCA Studio B tour for just an hour after the Hatch one, and he had had no idea how big the museum was. He really wanted to see the Cash/Dylan exhibit. I told him to move on as Harper and I perused the Hatch gift shop and Penn fell in with him. As soon as they were gone, I turned to my precious daughter, “Do you smell that? Do you want to grab some tacos?” Her response, “God, yes!” My plan was to order a table of tacos (it was Tuesday, after all) and text the boys when they arrived. Of course, as we paid for our order, we were found out! In the end, everyone was happy and ready to head to Studio B filled with taco-goodness.
RCA Studio B is the legendary studio on Nashville’s Music Row where hundreds of number one singles–including most of Elvis’s–were recorded in from the 50s to 70s. It is a small, nondescript building that retains its mid-century modern interior and still holds the original recording equipment and instruments. We learned odd little facts, like Elvis added colored lights to the studio and would sometimes record in complete darkness, Dolly was once running so late to a session that she crashed into the back of the building, etc.
Penn does Elvis.
Ned geeks out over old recording equipment.
Harper ignores Penn’s Elvis.
Love me tender.
I ain’t nothing but a hound dog.
This Steinway’s been in this studio for about 50 years.
When we got back from Studio B, we split up. I took the kids, while Ned headed up to Cash/Dylan.
We found the play room and made good use of it.
As the clock neared the museum’s witching hour, we were nearly the only people there, which lent an eerie yet kind of awesome air to the galleries.
And, gave Penn room to dance it out–gold record style.
Harper just carries on.
We found Ned still lingering in the Cash/Dylan exhibit, which is really as much about Nashville session musicians as it is about Johnny Cash’s willingness (eagerness?) to embrace counter-culture figures and causes, regardless of the cost. Hence, this poster.
After closing down the museum, we decided to try the Pharmacy for dinner. Rather than chicken or bbq, we got burgers and homemade sausages in a super hip restaurant. Apparently, I only took a photo of the sausages 🙂 Again, we walked in to a table and walked out to a line. My turkey burger topped with curry ketchup, grilled onions and pickles with tater tots (tater tots!) was heavenly, too.
(I should insert that we are walking a lot on this trip; probably not enough to walk off what we ate, but about twice as much as in a regular week. And, we often ordered just three entrees. Still piggy, but maybe not as much.)
Our last stop of the night, the Grand Ole Opry! When we booked the tickets, we knew the acts, weren’t big (or any) fans of them, but it didn’t really matter. The goal was to go to the Opry!
Goo Goos at the Grand Ole Opry!
The first act, we did at least recognize: Larry Gatlin! He owned that stage, working the audience, shaming late comers, dancing with the ladies, joking with the kids. Then, he brought the house to a complete silenced hush when he shared that his son and daughter-in-law had left Istanbul an hour before the explosions. He sang an impromptu spiritual to rousing applause.
The sound in the Opry is perfection. Each show is broadcast on internet radio, so we were encouraged to whoop it up at points and sat through several live ads. Rascal Flatts (100% pros!) were the headliners, and got four songs to everyone else’s three. They sang one of my favorite songs ever (though I have no reason why), Life is a Highway. Ned and the kids sang along mockingly, knowing my adoration for this disposable tune. According to what we were told and the numbers of folks singing along, the other acts had hits, too. The music was broken by a surprisingly funny comedian, whose call back bit involved Chick-fil-A (he hit our soft spot on that one) and whose observations about cultural differences (he was Korean American) were more pointed than expected. Well done! Penn’s lasting impression came from 55 year Opry member Bill Anderson, whose closer was a classic country music list song supposedly triggered by an accusation of being “too country.” Is the cobbler too peach? Is the chicken too fried? Is the summer too hot? Is the river too wide? You get it. Penn called this back throughout the vacation with more trenchant observations. Example, “Is the racism too present?” I loved the final act, Parker Milsap, whom the rest of our party declared was high AF. I observed that if they kicked out everyone who was high, the Opry would be half empty. And, I didn’t think he was high at all. I bought his album but was not allowed to play it on the road trip. Harumph. Trust me, this kid’s a star!
With Parker’s lovely music ringing in at least two of ears, we ended the night. The glow of the Opry followed us as we slowly moved into the still warm evening.
Thank you, Nashville, for making us feel happy to be a lil’ bit country!