The famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge celebrated its 51st birthday on Wednesday, November 23rd with a star-studded birthday bash all day out in the streets of downtown Nashville with a large stage on the corner of 5th & Broadway.
Crowds of music fans were treated all day long starting just after noon to live full-band shows just outside the doors of this famous honky tonk by such acts as The Roys, The McClymonts, and The Kentucky Headhunters,who were introduced to the stage by Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens. It didn’t end there, though. Then fans were treated to an after-party following Kid Rock’s concert at the Ryman Auditorium where Tootsie’s headliner, John Stone and his band, continued to entertain crowds well past midnight. This after-party even included a special drop-in performance by Kid Rock himself to the delight of the large crowd that had gathered.
I felt like a human popsickle after it was all said and done since I stayed out there enjoying all of the festivities all day then well past midnight. It was worth it, though! It had turned unusually cold that day in Nashville, but I was probably a bit thin-skinned since I had just returned from a Caribbean cruise just a couple of days before. I fair much better in warm tropical climates with a cool breeze blowing through my hair and sipping on a frozen rum concoction than I do in cold wet, climates where I actually BECOME the frozen “concoction”! lol Ok, enough about that! I guess you know where my head is at today! Yes, dreaming about being back on that ship! Obviously, so much so that I had forgotten to bring my jacket to keep me warm and had to buy a hoodie from the Tootsie’s souvenir shop just to keep warm during the event. Thank goodness for that hoodie! Anyway…
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge opened its doors 51 years ago next to the legendary “mother church” of country music, the Ryman Auditorium. Mom’s was the original name of this famous honky tonk before Tootsie Bess bought the establishment in 1960. Tootsie credits a painter with naming the location when she walked up one day to find the outside of it painted orchid. So, the name was born after the owner, the color, and it was also her favorite flower.
Since the doors opened at Tootsie’s 51 years ago, countless country legends have walked through its doors. Many of its famous patrons slipped out the back door of the Ryman Auditorium across the alley into the back door of Tootsie’s to enjoy a beer or two and enjoy some music. Legends like Patsy Cline, Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings….just to name a few. Careers have been launched for people like Terri Clark, Joanna Smith, and Glen Templeton, songs have been inspired about it like “The Wettest Shoulders in Town” and “What’s Tootsies Gonna Do When They Tear the Ryman Down?”, movies have been filmed there like ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, and countless singers/songwriters have taken to its stages in hopes to be seen by the right people who could make their dreams come true.
Tootsie’s is a Nashville institution and landmark that will no doubt continue for, at least, 51 more years to come. I have no doubt. As long as the Ryman stands, those doors should continue to lead through the back alley to Tootsie’s and the many other honky tonks that line the streets of Broadway where many country music fans from around the world continue to visit in hopes that they might possibly get a glimpse of their favorite country star who decides they just might drop in for a beer or two and hear a little live music, too. And, that’s definitely not so far-fetched! You never know WHO just might enter through that back door late at night after the Ryman has closed its doors for the evening.
Happy birthday, Tootsie’s, and here’s to another 50 or so more years of making great memories!