Downtown Nashville (photo: Kurt Wolff)
Nashville, Tennessee isn’t technically the birthplace of country music, but it’s become a city whose identity is forever tied to the music that grew up in the hills and hollers all around.
Nashville’s identity with country music first gained national attention with the founding of the Grand Ole Opry. It launched as a weekly radio show on WSM in 1925, and has been broadcasting every weekend ever since. Today the show takes place at the splashy Opryland just east of town. The city also became a hub for recording–studios were set up in town, and a business soon built around these. Songwriters were also attracted to Nashville, as were record labels, creating the famous Music Row.
By the 1950s and ’60s, there was no turning back. Like it or not, the city fathers–who preferred to know Nashville by its previous moniker, The Athens of the South (there’s even a replica of the Parthenon here)–had to admit that Nashville was now Music City, USA.
The city is home to not only Opryland and the Opry’s previous home, the famous Ryman Auditorium, but also the Country Music Hall of Fame and festivals such as the massive CMA Music Festival (formerly known as Fan Fair).
Many country music stars call Nashville home today, from legends like George Jones to superstars like Taylor Swift and relative newcomers like Justin Moore. Country artists actually born in Nashville include honky-tonk pioneer Kitty Wells and country-punk Hank III, the grandson of the great Hank Williams.