This article is part of Wide Open Country's ongoing series Back to Country, which celebrates country music venues around the U.S.
As more modern bars, many of which are owned by country artists, fill the strip of lower broadway in Downtown Nashville, Tennessee, there are only a few original honky-tonks left. The new bars filling the streets undoubtedly bring a new flavor to the famous Music City strip, and the buildings are still historical, but there's still something about drinking a beer and listening to live music in an old school joint that was once inhabited by country legends. One of these bars is, of course, the famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, which was frequented by the likes of Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and more. The Stage, Layla's, and Legend's Corner are also bars that have also lived on Broadway for quite a while, but one of the most historical honky-tonks in Nashville is Robert's Western World.
This History of Robert's Western World
Upon entering the honky-tonk, customers will most likely be greeted with a large crowd of people who are there to witness the traditional country music or bluegrass music performed there. Once settled into a corner of the bar or a barstool, visitors will then notice the walls, which are covered with old photos, guitars, country music artifacts, neon signs, a country music mural, and boots -- lots of boots. After that, patrons can simply sit and enjoy the music and the view with a cold beer while knowing they are in a historical place.
Often called "Nashville's Home of Traditional Country Music," Robert's Western World resides three doors down from Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, and like many of the classic honky-tonks in the lower broadway district, backs up to the famous Ryman Auditorium -- the Mother Church of Country Music. Prior to the 1950s, the building served many purposes, including being used as a warehouse and an office for river merchants. Once the popularization of country music began, the building served as the storefront for the Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company. Founded by Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons, Sho-Bud manufactured custom steel guitars, dobros and other instruments. Many famous musicians frequented the store during this time.
In the 1980s, lower broadway experienced a decline in business as the Grand Ole Opry was moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Grand Ole Opry house in Opryland. The Ryman itself even fell into disrepair and Broadway became a somewhat rough area. During this time, the Robert's Western World building was home to a liquor store. However, things began perking up in the 1990s when a man named Robert Moore opened a Western clothing store in the building called Rhinestone Western Wear. Soon, Moore added a jukebox to the store and began offering beer and cigarettes. The evolution continued with the addition of live music and a grill, and soon, the honky-tonk was born. Moore changed the name to Robert's 3 Doors Down (to signify its location in relation to Tootsies), then to Robert's Western Wear Bar & Night Club, and then finally settled on Robert's Western World. In 1999, Moore sold the business to Jesse Lee Jones, the leader of the bar's house band, Brazilbilly.
These days, little has changed inside the honky-tonk. Customers will find a full bar, great bar food, and of course, great music. The establishment's menu includes classic items like cheeseburgers, hamburgers and chicken tenders, but patrons can also try the grill's famous fried bologna sandwich, dubbed the Recession Special. The menu also offers options perfect for a late night snack, including cheese curds, onion rings, sweet potato fries, moon pies, and of course, plenty of beer. As one of the best honky-tonks in Nashville, Robert's Western World is certainly a bar worth adding to your Nashville bar-hopping list.