Tootsie's Orchid Lounge Is The Best Honky-Tonk In Tennessee

Pull up a stool, and settle in for some good music.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee

Robbie Caponetto

There may be bigger and trendier honky-tonk stages in Nashville, but you won't find one greater than Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.

Hattie Louise "Tootsie" Bess bought the lower Broadway beer stand in 1960, then known as Mom's. She renamed it for herself soon after, but it wasn’t until an accidental paint refresh in the now-signature shade of purple that the bar's full name came to be.

Just as the lavender walls of the three-story building stand out amid a sea of brick facades and neon lights on Nashville's most famous music way, Tootsie's has an unrivaled place in the city's history. You can see it on the walls, which are shellacked with photos and memorabilia.

Wille Nelson signed his first songwriting contract after singing here. Patsy Cline, Mel Tillis, and Waylon Jennings have also performed. Portions of Loretta Lynn's biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter were filmed here, and Kris Kristofferson performed on the lounge's stage, too.

In 1984, English rock band The Clash made Tootsie's their first tourist stop in the U.S. At the time, the band said they wanted to go somewhere that Hank Williams would have gone. The internationally-famous Nashville beer bar was the choice.

It hasn't always been rosy for Tootsie's. A year after The Clash's visit, the lounge closed for a few months. Fans and loyal friends of Tootsie's wanted the lilac lounge on Broadway to be humming once again with music, customers, and excitement. After a refurbishment, Tootsie's opened again a few months later, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Today, gaggles of bachelorette parties flood through the doors, as do folks making their way up and down Broadway. Many enjoy the rooftop patio, where they can watch the crowds below as they wait for concerts at the nearby Ryman Auditorium or Bridgestone Arena.

It’s not impossible that between sets from the rising Nashville stars you’ll see some folks who've long ago made their name famous pop in for a song or two on one of the three stages. The backdoors to the Ryman are cross a narrow alley from Tootsie's entrance, making the temptation to keep concerts going after a great night impossible to resist for some.

You don’t have to know the tune or even the person singing to appreciate the grandeur of Tootsie's Lounge and its stages. Sure, the floors may be bare and the walls yellowed, but as new singers become stars and old ones retire with honor, Tootsie’s remains ready to welcome you with open arms., 422 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203

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