Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” began strumming his guitar for beer drinkers on the streets of Nashville in the 1930s. Between then and now, the city’s Broadway has taken a turn savage. These days, most locals give the neon-drenched street wide prominence and complain that the neighborhood has become something of a parody of itself – a relentless bachelorette party and music-fuelled carnival. alcohol, all in one tape.
As night falls, “Nashvegas” fills with traveling packs of women wearing scarves, cowgirl boots and hats. Many bars have celebrity ties, from Justin Timberlake’s Twelve Thirty Club to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville to Kid Rock’s thundering multi-story Big A** Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse. Queues are long, taxi drivers are known to rip off passengers, and the pedestrian street is cacophonous with competing country bands.
That is, for many beginners, a lot. But, with a game plan, IIt can also be a lot of fun. There’s no cover at the venues dotting Broadway, meaning you can easily jump from one free concert to the next all night long. And for all the shtick, Nashville’s “Music City” moniker is hard-earned, and competition among local bands is fierce.
If you’re looking for some great live music, stroll right past the glitzy, A-list affiliate joints and head straight to Robert’s Western World. Occupying a former warehouse that once housed the Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company, this legendary honky-tonk bar is also a daytime cowboy boot store. Since the early 1990s, the place has been among the top spots to dance to country music — and it remains one of the few places on Broadway that still draws locals. Most days the band starts playing at 10am and the music continues well after dark. In the spaces between the walls covered in decades-old memorabilia, bartenders offer cheap (but strong!) drinks and the atmosphere is loud (but friendly!).
A few things have changed about Robert’s Western World over the years, including its name, which was originally Rhinestone Western Wear. Ownership also changed – Robert sold the business to Jesse Lee Jones, the Brazilian-born musician and frontman of the current house band, who still runs it today. But, despite the logistical changes, the iconic “Recession Special” remains on Robert’s menu. For six bucks you can still get a fried bologna sandwich, fries, a Moon Pie, and a cold PBR. If you hang around long enough, you’ll definitely need it.