“You run into some of these musicians and say, ‘Wow, I wonder if people know what they are getting,’ ” said Steve, president of Grand Ole Opry Group. “These are some of the greatest sessions musicians.”
On the main drag heading toward the Cumberland River, we passed singers, guitarists and other quasi-instrumentalists, including a man with a child’s keyboard and a plastic tube that he blew like a trumpet. Every few yards we were treated to a brief concert.
“This town is actually thriving,” said Callie. “The music industry is going through the worst downturn in the last 30 years, but the town itself is incredibly vital.”
A high-energy supplement is definitely racing through Nashville’s veins; the city is on a redevelopment streak and shows no signs of taking a nap. Seminal moments in the resurrection of downtown and the waterfront include the reopening of the Ryman in 1994, following a fallow period; the construction of Bridgestone Arena and the creation of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, both in 1996; and the Old Spaghetti Factory’s bold and brave decision to move into an old shipping warehouse on Second Avenue back in 1980, when the area was a snake pit of vices.
“It reminds me of Pottersville,” Callie said of downtown, “but a cleaned-up version. It used to be really shady.”
Within the past three to 10 years, the revitalization shock waves have fanned out to such neighborhoods as 12th Avenue South, Five Points and the Gulch, proud recipients of new restaurants, stores and coffee joints, the gold star of gentrification. Urban designers have also circled Fifth Avenue for some special attention, with plans to transform the street into an Avenue of the Arts, complete with large shade trees, widened lanes, Old World street lamps and galleries.
“There are just so many nooks and crannies in this town,” Callie said. “If you want to take someone around, it’s not easy.”
We wrapped up the Lower Broadway portion of the tour, which was thankfully straightforward, at Hatch Show Print, a letterpress shop of museum magnitude. Posters paper every flat surface, a living diorama of a teenager’s band-crazy room. In the middle of the pulpy tornado, an employee rolled out prints of a Japanese samurai. The store has created show posters for the Canis Majoris of music, including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Manager Jim Sherraden also designed a limited-edition piece for the “Nashville” pilot.
“We should have a new one done, because now we’re full-blown,” Callie said to Sherraden, referring to the show’s full season of 21 episodes.