Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nashville is... The Athens of the South

Ancient Athens was known for its academia, arts and philosophy. Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pericles, and Sophacles are a few names you might recognize - all coming out of Athens.

Athens was known as the cradle of Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy.

Nashville earned the nickname "Athens of the South" way back in the 1850s thanks the number of universities and colleges in the area.

Nashville was known as one of the most educated and culturally refined cities in the South before the Civil War.

Back in the day, Nashville's places of higher education included Fisk University, Montgomery Bell Academy, Meharry Medical Colelge and Vanderbilt University.

These days you can add Tennessee State University, Lipscomb University, Belmont University, Trevecca Nazarene University, Draughons Junior College, John A. Gupton College, Aquinas College and an ITT Tech campus.

Even with all these colleges in the city, the one thing that has to remind Nashvillians of their Athenian past has got to be the full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon.

The Parthenon - Nashville's Parthenon - was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (World's Fair).

The Parthenon sits in the middle of Centennial Park and features a 42-foot tall statue of the Greek Goddess Athena inside the structure.

This building has got to be one of the coolest features of Nashville. It really is a treasure. I'm surprised more isn't done to tell tourists about the Parthenon.

The original Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC and most of it sits in ruins. The cool thing about Nashville's replica is that they were able to replicate almost everything to the exact specs of the original. The only acception is the statue of Athena, which was rebuilt using a pretty detailed description.

There were several other building replicas that were also built, but the Parthenon is the only one still standing. Memphis also built an equally impressive replica of an Egyptian pyramid. (Memphis built the Pyramid Arena off the bank of the Mississippi River in the 1990s.)

The original Nashville Parthenon was just a temporary structure. It was reconstructed with permanent materials in the 1920s.

Check out the Parthenon.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nashville is... The Grand Ole Opry

Just like a trip to Vegas would be incomplete without a visit to the Strip, to many people the Nashville experience would not be complete without a trip to the Grand Ole Opry.

The Grand Ole Opry started out as a weekly radio show in 1925. As the Opry has grown over the years, it has moved from venue to venue. Performances are now broadcast on one of the two country music cable stations based in Nashville.

Some of the most famous people in the music business have performed at the Opry. After Elvis performed there, he was told to go back to Memphis to his truck-driving career - and never to come back. Garth Brooks once said one of the thrills of his entertainment career was playing the Opry on the same stage as Elvis.

The Grand Ole Opry has eveolved as a fraternity to country music's top performers.

Much of Nashville's reputation as the home to country music has come because of the weekly Grand Ole Opry broadcasts.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nashville is... the Nashville Sound

Nashville is not just the home of country music, its the birthplace of a specific genre of country music called the "Nashville Sound" or Countrypolitan.

According to Wikipedia (where I get most of my information about the world), the Nashville Sound popped up in the 50s, replacing Honky Tonk as the dominant country sound.

Music producers came up with the new sound by replacing the fiddles and steel guitars of Honky Tonk with smoother elements - string sections, backup singers and a crooning lead vocalist. The Nashville Sound also has a "pop" music feel, where you can really feel the beat. The idea was to move country music to the main stream.

The Nashville Sound was basically an attempt by music producers to make their records more popular - and thus more profitable.

The Nashville Sound is the grand-daddy of today's country music style. Its ironic that there are so many people who do not like country music, when it evolved from an attempt to make it more popular.

As I was putting together music for this blog that would represent the Nashville Sound, I found a lot of songs that are mainstream classics. Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell, Crazy by Patsy Cline, Tennessee Waltz by Chet Atkins, The Most Beautiful Girl by Charlie Rich and much more.

Listen to a few of the songs that I've posted. You may be surprised to know that you actually grew up listening to one or two songs that represent the Nashville Sound - and you may actually like what you hear. Let me know if you know of any other songs that I should include.

A lot of these songs are very naustalgic for me. I can remember on several occasions riding in the car with Grandma and Grandpa - listening to this kind of music.

So how does this help me understand Nashville? I always thought of Nashville music and culture as being outside the mainstream - or at least the style of music that I like. Now that I've been digging deeper into the music that made it "Music City USA," I realize that maybe I can relate a little better to Nashville than I thought.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Nashville is... Music City USA

What comes to mind when you first think about Nashville? County music, right? What else do you think of? While country music is a big part of the Nashville culture, there's more to Music City than the honky tonk sounds of country music stars.

But what is Nashville? As an outsider, I don't know. I've always needed to feel a connection with the area I live in. However, like most people - that connection is deveoped by the way a place looks and the feel of the area.

Nashville's culture is built into the way it sounds. That's great for natives that already understand the other cultural cues, but I need to connect with the landscape, the architecture and the history.

This blog is my own attempt to discover what Nashville is so I can feel more comfortable in the culture.