Munich American High School Reunion
Nashville, May 16-19, 2019
Thursday, May 16 (Arrival Date)
Howard’s Honky-Tonk Tour
On Thursday evening, the date most everyone is going to be arriving, I will be hosting a highly informal “tour” of the honky-tonk area of Nashville. We can take the bus downtown from the Inn at Opryland (a round trip ticket costs $10, and the bus runs from morning until 2:00 am). The precise departure time will be announced closer to the date. Once downtown, we will start on Broadway and hit some of the honky-tonks. Folks are free to come and go as they like, and everyone is expected to find their own way back to the hotel (there will be busses available until 2:00, and Uber works very well in Nashville).
You may be asking what makes me qualified to lead this tour? Both of my sons attended Vanderbilt, with the older son starting 1996 and the younger one finally finishing in ’10, and he still lives in Nashville with his wife and two of my grandsons. First, I went to Nashville to hang out with college kids – now it is to meet my kids and grandkids. We routinely go downtown for entertainment when I am in town. So, I am not entirely sure that I qualify as an expert on the Nashville honky-tonks, but I am certainly an enthusiastic and interested amateur with some relevant experience.
Honky-Tonks – Nature and “Rules”
• With a very few exceptions, the honky-tonks do not charge a cover fee (really!). Just walk in the front door, walk past the band (it is traditional for the bands to play in the front window facing the back of the building), work your way towards the back (for some reason, the folks who have managed to snag a spot near the band resent it when someone walks in off the street and stands right in front of them), and order a drink (Pabst Blue Ribbon (“PBR”) is traditional, but they have full bars, including non-alcoholic soft drinks, etc.).
• The bands normally only play 1 or 2 sets, then they change. The early bands are often playing for tips only, so please tip lavishly. These kids are good, and they are starving.
• It is traditional to change bars when the bands change. You’ve got a 15-minute window between bands – plenty of time to move to the next honky-tonk, stake out your place, and keep listening to music.
• Drink prices are very reasonable priced. I am always surprised when I get the bill, and I figure they made a mistake. They didn’t – it’s just cheap.
I plan to start out at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (http://www.tootsies.net/), one of the oldest establishments in Nashville. Three floors with three bands playing. We’ll watch a set or two of music there, then move on down Broadway to our next stop – probably Robert’s Western World (https://robertswesternworld.com/), since it is the next bar down the street. After that, we’ll probably visit The Stage on Broadway (https://www.thestageonbroadway.com/), another venue that’s been around a long time. At this point, we will just have scratched the surface of the available bars, but you will start to get a good idea of what’s on offer.
Sometime about this point in the tour, I plan to depart the country-and-western world and move to Blues. My favorite blues guy anywhere is Stacy Mitchhart (http://www.stacymitchhart.com/) – his group is the house band for the Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar on Printer’s Alley in Nashville. I’ve been going to see Stacy since 1999, and he has only gotten better with age. You don’t have to join me for this – unlike the cowboy honky-tonks, the Boogie Bar does charge a cover fee. On the other hand, I think Stacy’s music may make folks a bit more nostalgic for high school times.
The tour will not be terribly rigid, and there won’t be any tests. You can start with the group, stay with the group, leave the group whenever you want. I fully anticipate that some fool will try to go to every one of the 30+ honky-tonks in downtown Nashville that night, which is a highly admirable goal and a noble endeavor, but one which may not be achievable by a mere human (for what it is worth, my personal record is 9).
Drop me a line (email below) if you are interested in participating in the tour. If you have some time or other constraints to deal with, please let me know and we will try our best to figure out something.
Howard S. Harris
Class of ‘69