Nashville is kind of an "It" city right now (Sorry Portland! Or Austin! Or wherever the "It" city was before!), but it's important to remember that the city's contributions to the planet didn't just start the moment Jack White moved in. Music City has a long history of innovation and creativity, and there are a lot of things for the rest of the world to throw us a high five for...
1. Cotton candy
Liquor may be quicker, but candy is still dandy and the angel-hair filaments of spun sugar are sold at virtually every fair & circus the world over. So it should come as no surprise that the the first machine-spun cotton candy was invented by an enterprising dentist from Nashville (who clearly wanted to create more business for himself).
2. The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman
There’s no doubt that the Mother Church of Country Music is the Ryman Auditorium. Frequently named the best performance venue in the world by industry awards competitions, the historic Ryman has been around since the turn of the 20th century, and was the full-time home of America’s longest-running radio broadcast for 31 years. While the Grand Ole Opry moved into the new Opry House in 1974, it still returns to the Ryman to broadcast its cavalcade of country music stars a few times per year.
3. Reese Witherspoon
Originally from New Orleans, Reese grew up in Nashville where she attended Harpeth Hall, a private all-girls school. Wanna know where Reese’s allegiances lie? She named her son Tennessee.
4. The parts of the last decade of arena rock that actually kick ass
The aforementioned Jack White? He moved here a decade ago and has spent the time recording his own music and producing records from a diverse roster of artists ranging from Loretta Lynn to Tom Jones to Stephen Hawking to Stephen Colbert (seriously). The Black Keys? We stole Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney from Akron in 2010. Southern garage alt-rockers Kings of Leon are mostly locally grown, and developed their musical chops in Nashville clubs after breaking free of their previous lifestyle traveling the circuit with their preacher Father. Put these three acts together and you’ve got a helluva a bill for a festival...
5. ... Bonnaroo
Sure, the ‘Roo is actually about an hour down the interstate from Nashville, but you’ll want to fly in to BNA to grab a ride to the four-day music festival held in a 700+ acre farm in Manchester, TN. You can even take a shuttle back and forth from Downtown Nashville so you can sleep in a clean hotel bed... but then you’d miss out on the all-night SuperJam, which brings together unexpected pairings of musicians to melt your face off.
6. Goo Goo Clusters
Nashville’s other main contribution to the confectionary canon is the Goo Goo Cluster, a delicious disk of marshmallow, nougat, caramel, and roasted peanuts covered in milk chocolate and wrapped in a foil envelope. Although the story that the “Goo” in the name comes from the acronym of Grand Ole Opry is probably apocryphal, you can actually pick up a Goo Goo at any Opry performance. Or at an airport near you. Try one the next time you’re laid over somewhere.
7. Taylor Swift
Sure, she was born in Pennsylvania, but she was made in Nashville. Responsible for more than 40 million album sales and 100+ million song downloads, Swift has shouldered the lion’s share of the music industry’s success stories of late... Like 22% of all sales the week she released her album 1989.
8. Cracker Barrel
While there are certainly better examples of down-home Southern cooking in Nashville than dining at The Barrel, do you realize how hard it is to make the Hashbrown Casserole taste exactly the same at more than 600 Interstate exit locations in 42 states? So props to the Lebanon- (which still counts as a Nashville suburb) based chain for making each stop on a long road trip taste a little more like home.
9. Gibson guitars
Gibson has handcrafted musical instruments in Music City since 1974, and a decade later it closed its original Kalamazoo, MI locations and brought the headquarters to Nashville. It's not called "Music City" for nothing.
If you’re a purist/hipster who prefers the fidelity of music played in its traditional vinyl format, Nashville is the undisputed savior of your obsession. Nashville’s United Record Pressing, LLC produces the lion’s share of old-school records still played on phonographs -- in fact, while overall music sales declined by 6.3% in 2013, vinyl actually grew over that period.
11. Hot chicken
Born out of a spurned lover’s attempt to punish the wandering ways of her boyfriend, the fiery dish is now showing up on menus all over town and across the country, and for good reason, too.
For more than 150 years, Nashville has been ostensibly the “Buckle on the Bible Belt” as the center of world religious publishing. Those ubiquitous Gideons Bibles that you use as a coaster on your hotel room desk were published here. Other church-based publishers based in Nashville include the United Methodist Publishing House, Lifeway Christian Resources (formerly the Baptist Sunday School Board), Southern Baptist Convention, and The Upper Room. If you’ve ever held a hymnal or Bible in your hands, odds are good that it has a Nashville connection.
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