Disclaimer: This post created after a press trip hosted by Visit Music Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. All opinions are mine and the majority of the photos are mine with a few contributed by Visit Music City. Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com.
A city with over 180 music venues, Nashville, Tennessee, has a long history of producing excellent blue music and crave-worthy barbecue.
People commonly think of Nashville as the World Capital of Country Music, and they are not wrong, but it’s also a city the honors the influence of blues from its celebration of music to food.
The community draws musicians of various genres because of its respect for songwriters. Musicians including Keb’ Mo’, Joe Bonamassa, B.B. King, and Etta James have all performed or recorded music in Nashville.
Rhythm & Blues music has flourished in the city since the term was coined during the late 1940s. Incorporating gospel influences, the genre was played on Nashville radio stations to eager fans.
Take a Tour
National Museum of African American Music
The National Museum of African American Music (510 Broadway) is the newest museum in downtown Nashville. While all of its interactive exhibits celebrate various music genres, the Crossroads exhibit emphasizes how “blues music changed the world.”
The stories of musicians come alive with audio and visual accounts of their contributions. From the work songs created by sharecroppers to the work of today’s blues musicians who’ve gone on to win Grammy’s, each display case and thoughtfully designed panel tells their story.
I loved learning how each musician influenced another and the collaborations are endless.
Like me, I think you’ll find the displays showcasing the clothing and guitars particularly interesting. I gravitated to Keb’ Mo’s electric guitar and artists’ song lyrics visible behind display case glass.
The Crossroads gallery tells the chronological story of the blues from its migration from the Deep South north to cities including Nashville.
PRO TIP: For an additional $5 dollars, you can use a RFID bracelet to interact with tech-savvy displays that allow you to save custom music you create and email it to yourself.
Ryman Auditorium (116 Rep. John Lewis Way North) is considered one of the most iconic stages to perform for a good reason. Also referred to as Nashville’s Mother Church, it was the original site of the Grand Ole Opry.
As they say, “all are welcome” and this sentiment extends beyond merely hosting country music stars. Blues musicians have also graced the Ryman’s stage, including but not limited to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, and Blues Traveler.
Museum-quality illuminated glass cases caught my eye during a tour displaying iconic memorabilia. Elvis’ winter coat. Johnny Cash’s acoustic guitar. B.B. King’s blazer.
PRO TIP: Sign up for a guided backstage tour to see dressing rooms and get your photo taken on stage.
Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum
Take a deep dive into the history of music at the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum (401 Gay Street) where many of the exhibits highlight every genre from rock-n-roll to country and blues to bluegrass.
Inductees into the Musicians Hall of Fame include Buddy Guy and Steve Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, and the museum includes references to their work.
If you’re looking for a multi-sensory experience, I recommend touring the Jimi Hendrix Exhibit, which will pleasantly surprise you.
Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum is the kind of place music lovers could spend at least an hour exploring. If you use the technology stations to make music, plan on a two-hour museum experience.
PRO TIP: A tour through the GRAMMY® Museum Gallery is a must-have experience to try your hand a creating and recording museum like a pro (drum lesson with Ringo Star, anyone?).
Third Man Records
Did you know that musician Jack White’s Third Man Records (637 7th Ave. S.) is home to a recording studio? Musicians can play a live show in the Blue Room Bar while their sound is recorded direct-to-acetate available on vinyl after it’s complete.
The creative genius behind the process, Jack White, originally of the band The White Stripes, not only is a fan of blues music but also has recorded blues-inspired music of his own.
A fan of the genre, I appreciate his album “Jack White’s Blues-Uncut” featuring 15 cover songs of artists ranging from Howlin’ Wolf to Robert Johnson.
PRO TIP: A guided tour of Third Man Records’s Nashville store provides an inside look at the Blue Room Bar, recording studio, distribution center, photo studio, and offices.
Savor Finger-Licking Barbecue
Peg Leg Porker
Indulge in real-deal barbecue at Peg Leg Porker (903 Gleaves St.) where ribs are the most requested menu item. Owners Carey and Delaniah Bringle decided to open the restaurant in 2013 after running a successful catering business.
Their award-winning barbecue is served with southern hospitality, and if you’re lucky, Carey might swing by your table for a casual chat during the meal.
Menu favorites include heaping BBQ Nachos, Memphis Sushi, and Dry Rubbed Ribs, but when in doubt, opt for the shareable Combo Platter.
PRO TIP: Leave room for banana pudding or a drool-worthy fried pie fresh from the oven.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Since 2006, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint has served smoked meat classics from trays of mouth-watering pulled pork shoulder to the Big Ole Smoked Bologna sandwich. Non-traditional menu items make a menu appearance as well. The Redneck Taco served with a choice of two meats and the Brisket Tacos keep diners returning.
You can expect come-as-you-are atmosphere at each of their three Nashville locations.
PRO TIP: Make time before or after your meal to get a glimpse of the downtown location‘s Pit House, play a yard game, or listen to live music.
Grab a friend and head over to Edley’s Bar-B-Que for a shareable platter for Nashville Hot Links, BBQ Nachos, or perfected Smoked Wings. The amily owned and operated barbecue restaurant opens for lunch and stay open well into the night “’til the last drink is poured.”
With multiple locations to choose from, diners can easily find one near them.
PRO TIP: Use cooking tips and recipes from Edley’s postmasters to kick up your home cooking a notch.
Listen to Live Music
Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar
A bonus of listening to exceptional live music in Nashville? No cover charge. Tips appreciated.
Musicians, like the artists cranking out tunes at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar (220 Printers Alley) let the good times roll in the New Orleans-themed establishment.
Blues can be heard escaping from the door on historic Printers Alley, but inside the house is rocking and the kitchen is busy preparing etoufee and gumbo.
Seating in the bar is limited, and due to its popularity, reserving seats is necessary Wednesday-Saturday. No need for reservations on Monday or Tuesday when walk-in seating is welcomed. View the venue’s upcoming show schedule.
PRO TIP: Seating is cozy. If loud music in a smaller bar bothers you, bring earplugs.
Shop for a Guitar
Are you feeling inspired to strum strings? Opened in 2021, Gibson Garage (209 10th Avenue, Suite 209) in the heart of downtown Nashville is where music-lovers gravitate to shop for gear or attend a live performance.
Part retail store, part venue, it’s candyland for guitar enthusiasts. Plus, it’s not uncommon for celebrities to stop by. Chris Stapleton sat down and strummed a few chords. Slash of Guns-N-Roses made an appearance. (Gibson carries the signature Slash Collection.)
Put Gibson Garage on your travel bucket list if you want to sit down and play a guitar, sign up for a lesson, design a custom guitar, or watch a show.
PRO TIP: Ask about a private Garage Exclusive tour for guided access to the Green Room and hidden vault where limited edition and one-of-a-kind guitars are displayed.
The blues music scene is alive and well in Nashville. It’s a thriving city that welcomes all kinds of music fans.
Share this blog post with a blues lover in your life, and if you’re planning Nashville trip, consider visiting during the summer to attend Jefferson Street Jazz & Blue Festival in July.