Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tootsie's: Classic Lady Doesn't Show Her Age

People may be drawn to Tootsie’s by history – after all, this is where Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline used to slip over from the Grand Ole Opry across the alley for whiskey between shows. But don’t think Toosie’s is a living museum: it’s still one of the best bar scenes in Nashville.
“The World Famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge” ( remains the queen of Broadway. She’s surrounded by other clubs on Honky Tonk Row: The Stage, Legends, Second Fiddle and plenty more. But Tootsie’s has outlasted them all. Like the Ryman Auditorium behind her and Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop across the street, Tootsie’s was country when country wasn’t cool. Tootsie Bess, the former owner, is long gone but her nightclub still carries on.
The walls are lined with autographed photos of the many stars who’ve played (on-stage and off). Willie Nelson got his first songwriting gig after he performed at Tootsie’s. Legend has it that Roger Miller wrote “Dang Me” here. Movies like “Coal Miner’s Daughter” were filmed here. The list goes on – even after the Opry moved from the Ryman to Opryland Park, Tootsie’s keeps drawing crowds and making history.
While history may set Tootsie’s apart, people don’t just flock here for the memories – and much of the crowd is college-age. There are two small stages, with the front venue catering more to a country crowd and the larger, upstairs rear stage typically featuring rock. If you really want to check out the walls and the old wooden bar and the rest of the décor, go before 6:00 – it’s standing room only when the sun gets low, and a long wait to get in after dark. And definitely come early if you’re claustrophobic – it’s awful cozy when the lights get low. But if you can endure being elbow-to-elbow with rowdy strangers, you’ll have a ball – especially when the waitresses dance on the bar.
Tootsie’s may be a classic, but she never shows her age.

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