Imagine coming home from work, settling in and waiting for Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones and Roger Miller to swing by and perform their greatest songs. For Sue Brewer, the owner of Nashville’s most exclusive club in the 1960s and 70s Nashville, that life was reality. But to her, Waylon and Willie weren’t country superstars — they were her friends. And the club, deemed the Boar’s Nest by its esteemed guests, was her apartment.
A friend to songwriters
Sue Brewer was born Mary Sue Berry in Dardanelle, Ark. in 1933. Little is known about what brought her to Music City, but once she got there she was a force to be reckoned with. Brewer worked as a promoter for Webb Pierce, which involved her driving Pierce’s signature “Silver Dollar” Cadillac all over town. She spent over a decade working for the Music City News trade paper and worked the late night shift at the Derby Club on Music Row.
After her shifts at the Derby Club, Brewer turned her apartment at 911 18th Avenue South into an after-hours hangout for her musician friends. The Boar’s Nest, as it became known, gave songwriters a place to go after the bars had closed. It became a haven for guitar pulls and a warm place to stay for those who were down on their luck.
Faron Young, Johnny Paycheck, Webb Pierce and Little Jimmy Dickens were all regulars at Sue’s place. Songwriters like Harlan Howard, “Cowboy” Jack Clement, Dallas Frazier and Shel Silverstein found kindred spirits at the Boar’s Nest–and found plenty of artists to cut their songs.
Silverstein and Brewer’s longtime friend Vince Matthews wrote “On Susan’s Floor” about their time at the Boar’s Nest. The song was later covered by Hank Williams Jr.
When George Jones opened his Possum Holler in 1967, he asked Brewer to manage the lower Broadway venue. Already well trained in wrangling artists, Brewer was a pro.
The Door is Always Open
When Brewer was diagnosed with cancer, Waylon Jennings provided her and her son with a free place to stay.
After Brewer passed away in 1981 at the age of 48, Jennings organized a tribute fit for the Nashville legend that she was. The Door is Always Open featured performances by Willie Nelson, Harlan Howard, Kris Kristofferson and Jennings, performing some of the songs they penned at Sue’s place. The special was filmed in Brewer’s old living room.
Never forgetting Sue’s devotion to great songwriting, Jennings established the Sue Brewer Fund, which provides music scholarships to Vanderbilt and Belmont University students.
Sue Brewer was inducted as an honorary member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1990.
Brewer’s son co-wrote the upcoming book, “On Susan’s Floor,” about his mother’s impact on country music history. A portion of the book’s sales will benefit the Sue Brewer Fund.
Though the Boar’s Nest and many of its inhabitants may be gone, the memories and songs made at the little apartment on Music Row will live on forever.