Nashville's Lower Broadway is one of the town's most iconic areas. And while Broadway underwent many transformations over the years, the familiar signage of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop has welcomed tourists and locals alike for decades.
But with a changing scene and rising costs in Nashville, there's an uneasy feeling about iconic spots like Ernest Tubb's music stop. In fact, the store's second location on Music Valley Drive near Opryland shut its doors a few months ago.
Shop owner David McCormick said the store just didn't sell like it used to. "If a store is costing money to open, you shut it down," McCormick told The Tennessean. "Music Valley is nothing like it used to be. It's just a business decision. We're just consolidating everything."
Now, artists and Nashvillians alike are stepping up to make sure Ernest Tubb's famous Broadway location never suffers the same fate.
A Broadway Mainstay
Ernest Tubb opened the original store an amazing 69 years ago in 1947. A proud Texan, Tubb made his way in the country music world by way of a friendship with Jimmie Rodgers' widow. She actually helped him break into the scene after his stint as a radio host in San Angelo.
By the time he made a name for himself as an artist, Tubb had fans asking where they could buy his music. Even in Nashville, not many stores sold "hillbilly music." So Tubb opened up a shop along with his accountant, originally up the road on Commerce street.
They operated a mail order section and a record showroom. But they didn't do as well as you'd think. A lot of the times they'd have to replace records that broke in transit to fans. When they moved the store to its current location at 417 Broadway in 1951, things finally picked up. And to this day, the store stands as the premier spot in downtown Nashville to buy country CDs and records. Oh, that scene in Coal Miner's Daughter didn't hurt, either.
When Ernest Tubb became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, he put his prior radio work to good use. Tubb started hosting the Midnite Jamboree every Saturday at midnight after the Grand Ole Opry broadcast on WSM radio. The store maintains that free showcase to this day at the Texas Troubadour Theater, next to its old location by Opryland.
Several country artists do their part to ensure the Jamboree, which started in the original shop, keeps its reputation as a premier showcase of good old fashioned country music (for free). Charlie Worsham still hosts his version of the jam every year during CMA Fest, often bringing up major stars, like Eric Church.
Meanwhile, other artists routinely play in the shop to keep interest up. Kacey Musgraves just released her new Christmas album at the store, playing a special showcase all to bring in fans and customers. Critically acclaimed Nashville rock outfit The Wild Feathers just announced a three-day stint of free shows at the shop to promote their new live record and keep the shop's buzz level at an all-time high.
Changing With The Times
Andy Tucker, who currently oversees the store's operations, told Sounds Like Nashville, "If you think about it, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop is the last untouched historical bastion left in this town." But the store knows adaptation is key to survival.
Much like the Broadway area adapted to survive, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop embraces the concept of changing with the times. For starters, the store readily welcomed technology shifts from vinyl to cassettes to CDs (and even back to vinyl -- the store actually didn't offer vinyl records for awhile). But Tucker also knows digital downloads and streaming represent a big chunk of the music market now.
"Embracing things like that, and modifying what we do is the only way we're going to be able to stay and have a physical location for people to walk into," Tucker says. "That may sound contradictory, but it's embracing trends like that that will keep us here... We're too important to not be here until the early hours of the morning for customers, if we need to."
Lower Broadway is as vibrant today as ever. But since the construction and tourism boom, folks rightfully fear for iconic spots like Ernest Tubb's Record Shop. McCormick wants fans to know the Broadway location is alive and well.
But one huge way to make sure it stays that way is to make a point to buy all your favorite country records from the shop. And if you're in Nashville, put it on your to-do list. Being a part of such amazing country music history has never been so cheap. Or sounded so good.