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How Nashville Became Music City

Nashville has consistently grown based on its music foundation. This common thread connects the life found here with the community’s personality and soul. Visitors have come for more than a century to enjoy this experience, but the story is much older than that.

The first settlers in the Nashville area celebrated with buck dancing and playing the fiddle once they found the shores of the Cumberland River. That was in the late 18th century. Davy Crockett was the city’s first genuine celebrity, and his reputation was known far and wide for his stories and music.

As the city grew in the 19th century, it became a national center for music publication. The first global tour on record was for the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a musical act from the local university. Those efforts helped to fund educational opportunities for those who were formerly enslaved.

An Odd Connection to England

Nashville gets its nickname from the Queen of England. When the Fisk Jubilee Singers were performing for her, she was so impressed that she told the group that they must come from the “Music City.”

By the 1930s, Jefferson Street became Nashville’s hub for music, nightlife, and entertainment. That’s where the dance halls, speakeasies, and nightclubs put down some roots. It would eventually lead to the development of the city’s rhythm and blues scene, with Billy Cox and Jimi Hendrix both holding residency there. 

Musicians like Etta James, Little Richard, and Otis Redding also found their sound on Jefferson Street.

And yet, the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and other landmarks define Nashville as a country town for many.

Any way you cut it, Nashville was made for music. You’ll want to bring your dancing shoes!