"I love it. You just feel the music. Even when you can't hear it, you can feel it," singer Darius Rucker says of Lower Broadway.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Darius Rucker first visited Nashville’s Lower Broadway, known as Lower Broad, with his band Hootie & the Blowfish. “It was crazy. It is just bar after country bar, all with music,” says Rucker. “There was always someone playing. I just remember thinking, ‘Wow.’ ” In the past few years, Rucker has transitioned from being the lead singer of one of the 1990’s most successful bands to a country solo artist with two solo albums, 2008’s Learn to Live and 2010’s Charleston, SC 1966, that have produced five No. 1 singles. In June 2011, Rucker returns to Nashville—which he calls his second home after South Carolina—for the CMT Music Awards, where he is up for performance of the year with Adele for their duet version of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.”
Get in good with the country elite and you might earn an invite to The Spot, a private club owned by John Rich of Big & Rich. “You always see someone there—Kid Rock, Jamey Johnson,” says Rucker. “The big names in country music are there having a beer.”
Rucker says The Palm (sister restaurant to the famed LA and NYC locations), just off Broadway, is the “place where everybody goes.” It’s known for its steak and chops, but Rucker says he is a fan of the chopped salad. “It is just crazy, sick, to-die-for good.”
“There is always someone good on the stage at Tootsie’s—it’s always happening,” says Rucker, referring to Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge, a honky-tonk so famous there is a photo exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Rucker also likes stopping at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, located one block off Broadway. “I just soak it all in,” Rucker says. “I saw an exhibit on Kitty Wells. I had never listened to her before, and now I have four of her records.”
Gruhn Guitars, known in Nashville for its large new and vintage guitar selection, is another Rucker favorite. “I bought a 1951 OO Martin there,” Rucker says. “There are so many guitars. Everytime I go there it’s like, how do you have so many guitars?”
MORE TO EXPLORE
Between the honky-tonks, record stores and novelty shops, Lower Broadway is a country music lover's dream.
Lower Broad is steeped in country history. Ryman Auditorium was home to the Grand Ole Opry until 1974, and Rucker filmed the music video for his latest No. 1 single, “This,” on the historic stage.
Rucker counts himself among the many fans of Jack’s Bar-B-Que. Its patio is located right off the backstage door of the Ryman, making it a popular postconcert spot for performers and fans.