Nashville Facts and Trivia

These songs and albums were all recorded in Music City:

  • Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956
  • The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” in 1957
  • Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” in 1958
  • Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” in 1964
  • Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde in 1966
  • Robert Knight’s “Everlasting Love,” in 1967
  • Joan Baez’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” in 1971
  • Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” in 1978
  • R.E.M.’s Document in 1987
  • Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” in 1992
  • Matchbox Twenty’s Mad Season in 2000
  • India.Arie’s Acoustic Soul in 2001
  • Jimmy Buffett’s License to Chill in 2004
  • Neil Young’s Prairie Wind in 2005
  • Bob Seger’s Face the Promise in 2006
  • Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway in 2007
  • The White Stripes’ Icky Thump in 2007
  • The Raconteurs’ Consolers of the Lonely in 2006
  • Kid Rock’s Rock N Roll Jesus in 2007
  • Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s Raising Sand in 2007
  • Kings of Leon’s Only By the Night in 2008.

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  • After one Sunday afternoon sermon, Captain Tom Ryman, infamous for breaking up tent revivals, became an instant convert and immediately began raising funds to build a church. Upon his death in 1904, the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the church he built, became known as the Ryman Auditorium. The famous hall would later host such performers as Enrico Caruso, Katharine Hepburn, and Bob Hope, and was home to the Grand Ole Opry for three decades. Not surprisingly, in both 2003 and 2004, the Ryman was named the best concert venue in the nation by Pollstar. The Ryman features the best music of today by artists of all genres.
  • Joel Owsley Cheek was the inventor of Maxwell House Coffee, the blend that became so popular it made Nashville the center of the nation’s coffee business in the early 20th century. In 1892, he developed a recipe for a blend of premium beans and convinced the manager of the Maxwell House Hotel to try the coffee and then to serve it exclusively. The coffee was so well received by the hotel’s guests that the owner gave Cheek permission to use the Maxwell House name for the coffee. Allegedly, the phrase “good to the last drop” was coined by President Theodore Roosevelt after he sipped coffee at the hotel.
  • Jefferson Street saw a jazz, blues and R&B music heyday during the 1940s through the 1960s. Greats like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, Etta James and more played in numerous local clubs, such as The New Era Club, Del Morocco and Club Baron.
  • United Record Pressing, a vinyl pressing plant in downtown Nashville, is one of only four remaining vinyl manufacturers in the nation. Operating since 1949, United has pressed millions of records for artists like Elvis Presley, Lionel Richie, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and N’Sync, as well as for numerous hip-hop and reggae musicians.
  • Nashville Zoo’s Gibbon Island and Meerkat Habitats were voted by the cable network Animal Planet as the best exhibits of their kind in the country. The two habitats were featured on Animal Planet’s “Ultimate Zoo” for their natural beauty and ability to immerse zoo guests into the creatures’ environment.
  • Located on Music Row, recording studio 615 Music is internationally renowned for its musical talent in radio, television and advertising. Creating custom scores for television shows like the “Today Show,” “Regis and Kelly,” ABC Sports, HGTV, Animal Planet and more. Over 200 local TV stations and networks worldwide use 615 Music.
  • In February 1960, John Lewis, a student at Nashville’s American Baptist Theological Seminary, helped spark a successful sit-in movement at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. Today, black-and-white granite stools in Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park mark the inspiring event, as does the Civil Rights Room in the Nashville Downtown Library.
  • At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Tennessee native Wilma Rudolph became “the fastest woman in the world” and the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. A star of the famed Tennessee State Tigerbelles, she won the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and ran the anchor leg on the 400-meter relay.
    Oprah Winfrey was raised in Nashville by her father Vernon Winfrey. While a sophomore at Tennessee State University (TSU), she was hired as a news anchor at WTVF-TV/ News Channel 5, making her the first female and first African American in Nashville to hold such a job.
  • The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville introduced the world to the plaintive beauty and tradition of the Negro spiritual, which became the basis for other genres of African-American music. It was because of their successful international tours to raise funds for the university during the 1870s that Nashville first became known for its music.
  • Thomas Hart Benton’s mural The Sources of Country Music hangs as a priceless treasure in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The mural, completed in 1975 when Benton was 85 years old, was a tribute to Tex Ritter, who died before Benton could complete the piece. Tragically, Benton suffered a massive heart attack while looking over the mural, right before signing his name. Hence, his approval never appeared on the art.
  • During prohibition in the 1930s, many of the local printers established boot-legging in their basements located in downtown’s Printers Alley. When alcohol was legal once again, the bars simply remained there — and are still operational today.
  • The AT&T tower, located in downtown Nashville, is the largest building in Tennessee with 33 stories and a maximum height of 617 feet. It is affectionately known as the “Batman building” because of the two towers shaped like Batman’s ears.
  • Joseph “Jefferson Street Joe” Gilliam was one of the first African-American quarterbacks in the NFL. Joe played his collegiate ball at Nashville’s Tennessee State University. The ex-Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback died in his hometown of Nashville on December 25, 2000, just four days short of his 50th birthday.
  • In 1904, Nashville’s African-American community was the first in the nation to have an African-American-owned and operated savings bank. Today, the One Cent Savings Bank is known as Citizen’s Savings Bank and Trust.
  • The nation’s oldest African American architectural firm, McKissack & McKissack, was founded in Nashville.
  • Nashville was founded on Christmas Eve 1779 on the banks of the Cumberland River. Two teams of pioneers led by James Robertson and Capt. John Donelson set forth from the Carolinas to found the new city. Upon arrival, they immediately began building Fort Nashborough. Among the pioneers was Rachel Donelson, daughter of Capt. Donelson, who would later become the wife of President Andrew Jackson.
  • Three U.S. Presidents and one Vice President were from Tennessee:
  • Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
  • James K. Polk (1845-1849)
  • Andrew Johnson (1865-1869, the first president to be impeached)
  • Albert Gore Jr. (1993-2001)
  • Tennessee was the last state to secede from the Union during the Civil War and the first state to be readmitted after the war. East Tennesseans were strongly pro-Union, while West and Middle Tennesseans were primarily on the side of the Confederacy.
  • Built in 1851, the First Presbyterian Church Downtown is one of the few examples of Egyptian Revival architecture in the entire country and was designed by William Strickland, architect of the Tennessee State Capitol building. This church was one of many buildings used as a hospital during the Union occupation of the city during the Civil War. It was designated Hospital No. 8 and housed 206 beds.
  • Tennessee’s capitol is one of the oldest operating capitols in America. The distinctive tower of the building is designed after the monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece. The architect William Strickland considered the capitol his crowning achievement and chose to be entombed above the cornerstone. Additionally, James K. Polk and his wife are buried on the grounds of the capitol.
  • Standard Candy Company, founded in 1901, created GooGoo, a true Nashville delight marrying peanuts, caramel, marshmallow and milk chocolate together for a tasty cluster of candy now considered the nation’s oldest combination candy bar. Standard Candy Company uses more than 3 million pounds of chocolate a year.
  • The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson, boasts a driveway in the shape of a guitar. Legend says that the driveway was so shaped to please his daughter-in- law Emily. Nashvillians like to think it was a sign of good things to come.
  • Capt. William Driver gave the American flag its most famous nickname, “Old Glory.” When he retired to Nashville after a life on the sea in 1837, it was his flag that was raised over the State Capitol when Federal troops captured the city in 1862. Driver is buried in the historic Old City Cemetery.
  • The Parthenon in Centennial Park is the world’s only exact replica of the ancient Greek temple. Originally built for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition in 1897, the temporary structure was reconstructed permanently in 1931. Inside the temple stands the gilded goddess of wisdom, Athena. At 42-feet-tall, Athena Parthenos is the western hemisphere’s largest indoor statue.
  • Belle Meade Plantation was famous for breeding thoroughbred horses. On June 1, 1881, Iroquois — bred and later purchased by Belle Meade — had the honor of being the first American horse to win the English Darby. Nashville still honors this famous horse by hosting the annual Iroquois Steeplechase the second Saturday of May. Thoroughbreds War Admiral and Seabiscuit, as well as Kentucky Derby winners Funny Cide, Barbarro and the legendary Secretariat also trace their lineage to Belle Meade.
  • Adelicia Acklen, mistress of Belmont Mansion, was one of the richest women in the nation. During the Civil War, Acklen faced financial ruin when the Confederate army threatened to burn her cotton to keep it from falling into Union possession. Duping both armies, Adelicia traveled to Louisiana and single-handedly negotiated the sale of her cotton to Rothschilds of London for a reported $960,000 in gold.
  • The Widow of the South, written by long-time Carnton Association board member Robert Hicks, centers on the life of Carrie McGavock, the mistress of Carnton before, during and after the Civil War. The book rose to No. 5 and spent eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in the fall of 2005.
  • Suffragist and civic leader Anne Dallas Dudley was a leader in the movement to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving American women the right to vote. A socially prominent wife and mother in Nashville, Anne Dudley organized the Nashville Equal Suffrage League in 1911 and became president of the Tennessee League and a vice-president of the national organization. She and her organization spearheaded the successful campaign to make Tennessee the “perfect 36,” the state to cast the deciding vote for the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
  • The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is located in what was formerly Nashville’s main post office, a city landmark placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The Center went to great lengths to preserve the historical integrity of the 1934 Art Deco building, a work of art in itself.
  • Nashville native William Walker was the only American to become the president of another country. He became president of Nicaragua in 1856 and attempted to unite all of Central America into one country.
  • In 1925, National Life & Accident Insurance Company founded the radio program “WSM Barn Dance.” The station’s call an acronym for the company’s slogan, “We Shield Millions!” Two years later, announcer George Hay was preparing for a Saturday night program, which followed a broadcast of classical music from New York. In his opening remarks, Hay quipped, “For the last hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from grand opera and the classics. We now present our own Grand Ole Opry,” and the name stuck.
  • The amount on the price tag on Minnie Pearl’s hat was $1.98. The Centerville native and Grand Ole Opry star would eventually buy a home next door to the Governor’s Mansion on Curtiswood Lane in Nashville.
  • President Richard Nixon was onstage when the Grand Ole Opry broadcast its first show in the new Opry House in 1974. The former President played “God Bless America” on the piano and Roy Acuff showed him how to yo-yo.
  • Nashville is known the world over as “Music City” because WSM radio announcer David Cobb referred to Nashville with that nickname in 1950 on Red Foley’s NBC radio broadcast.
  • Legendary Nashville musician Chet Atkins was nicknamed “Mr. Guitar.” A bronze sculpture of the recording pioneer stands at Fifth Avenue North and Union Street downtown.
  • The well-known songs “Bunny Hop” and “Hokey Pokey” were recorded in Nashville and “Jingle Bell Rock” was written in Music City.
  • Elvis Presley recorded more than 250 of his songs at RCA’s Historic Studio B on Music Row. The red, blue and green lights found in the studio today are remnants from one of Elvis’ Christmas albums. Unable to get into the holiday spirit while recording in July, he was having trouble finishing the album. The crew solved the problem by installing holiday-colored lights, putting up an artificial Christmas tree in the corner and cranking the air conditioner up as high as it would go to create a festive atmosphere.
  • Country music artist Kathy Mattea was once a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
  • Country singer Randy Travis was a cook and dishwasher at the Nashville Palace before he made it big.
  • Portions of 16th and 17th Avenue South are known as Music Row.
  • In 1941, Nashville was granted the first FM-broadcasting license in the United States and Music City became the first to enjoy static-free radio.
  • John Lillard, inventor of airmail, knew people would pay if he could find a way to move the mail faster. He had the first airmail stamp issued in 1877 for balloon service. Although his dream was deflated, he was happily vindicated when the first practical airmail service departed Nashville in an airplane on July 29, 1924.
    African-American artist and native Nashvillian William Edmondson was the first black artist to be honored with a one-man exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art houses a permanent Edmondson exhibit.
  • Nashvillian Morris Frank helped introduce the first seeing-eye dog to the U.S. He was a blind student at Vanderbilt University and heard about a woman in Switzerland, Dorothy Eustis, who owned an experimental breeding station for German shepherds. Frank traveled to Europe and returned to the U.S. in 1928 with his new guide dog, Buddy. In 1929, along with the help of others, Frank and Eustis established The Seeing Eye Inc. in Nashville.
  • The Hermitage Hotel which has hosted several political and entertainment figures including John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Al Capone since it opened its doors in 1910 is the only Five-Star, Five Diamond property in the state of Tennessee.
  • The Union Station Hotel, a National Historic Landmark since 1977, was originally built in 1900 as the city’s railroad station.
  • Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center contains nine acres of indoor gardens complete with a 44-foot cascading waterfall.

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