From Loretta Lynn to Ricky Skaggs, country stars reflect on the Nashville landmarks that shaped their careers and helped make them the artists they are today. Find out how Lynn dreamed about the Grand Ole Opry, Skaggs first had his brush with the Ryman Auditorium and more.
Loretta Lynn on The Grand Ole Opry
“When I was a little girl in Kentucky, I always listened to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. I never dreamed I’d ever see the Opry, and doggone it if I didn’t sing there. The first time, I had this little short, tight dress that I made myself, and I sang Honky Tonk Girl, my little record that was out at the time. I don’t remember actually singing though. I don’t remember anything but tapping my foot.”
Ricky Skaggs on Ryman Auditorium
“Classic Nashville, for me, was walking into the Ryman Auditorium — when I was 5 or 6 and the Grand Ole Opry was there — and seeing all the colors, the Nudie suits and western wear. Faron Young had a purple suit; Ernest Tubb’s was green; Hank Snow’s was red; and all of the ladies were dazzling in sequins.”
Tanya Tucker on Music Row
“In the 1970s, my dad and I walked down Music Row and went to every record label there. We’d walk in and put down a tape that we’d made real quick right there on the Row. It was such a quaint, quiet place then — now, everywhere you look, there’s a crane.”
The Bellamy Brothers on Belle Meade (Howard, left, and David)
“Once I went to the Belle Meade Country Club at the invitation of our guitar player. Belle Meade is the old-money area of Nashville. I always wear a hat, and as I walked in to have lunch there, an older maitre d’ asked me to take it off. I was about to do that anyway, but his attitude was out of line.”
“You almost got thrown out, but Minnie Pearl saved you.”
“She was at the table next to me. She was a member. She had her hat on, of course, with the price tag, and she got on his butt: ‘Do you know who you’re talking to?’ she said. She straightened him out, and I had no problem going there from then on.”
Jeff Hanna on The Station Inn
(singer-guitarist, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)
“The Station Inn is a little club that has been sitting in the Gulch area in downtown Nashville since 1974. It’s the epicenter for bluegrass music but also American roots music in general, and it has survived all of the skyscrapers and hipster restaurants going up around it. The first time I heard Chris Stapleton sing, he was playing there in a band called The Steel Drivers.”
Naomi Judd on Ralph Emery’s Local Morning TV Show
“One of the most beloved guys in country music is Ralph Emery. When Wy [Wynonna] was still in high school, and I was working as an RN, we would get up at 3:30 a.m., do full hair and makeup, and drive an hour to WSM-TV to be on his early morning show. Our time slot was usually between crop prices and/or school closings. One time, someone called into the show and asked if anyone wanted a baby pig. Wy got very excited, but I warned the show’s operator that if she gave the farmer’s info to my daughter, I would let the air out of her tires.
Ralph refused to believe we were mother and daughter – we had to show him our driver’s licenses. Then, he couldn’t pronounce our names correctly, so he branded us the Soap Sisters after I demonstrated how to make lye soap on air one morning. We were thrilled to get to sing with the house band and even got paid $25.00 each. After doing the show we would eat breakfast at Shoney’s, then I would drop Wy off at school and go to Williamson County Hospital for my shift.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the August 6 issue of Billboard.