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America's Iconic Signage: Nashville, TN

Posted on May 21, 2014 | Posted by Brooke Randell

Signs are a part of the way we experience and remember the places we travel to and regularly visit in our lives. A sign becomes part of the identity of a place because it's often how we visually identify it to others. What do you take a picture of for your Instagram followers when you're in L.A.? The Hollywood sign, of course! New York? The digital signs in Times Square! We decided to compile some of the iconic signage of our home state of Tennessee. Which signs would you include in the list?

1. The Loveless Café and Motel

This restaurant and country store has become famous for it's great country cooking (particularly for their biscuits!). Started in 1951 when Lon and Annie Loveless started serving up biscuits to travelers right outside the front door of their home. What started off as a party house soon became a motel and café as weary travelers along Highway 100 spread the word about the Loveless' warm hospitality and homemade biscuits. Today it's become a Nashville landmark that's known all over the country, not only for its food but as a music venue, market, and tourist attraction.Iconic Tennessee Signage: Loveless Cafe and Motel

2. Exit/In Music Venue

Everyone—and I mean everyone—has played here. Don't believe me? Just check the walls. The names of every artist and band who have performed at the Exit/In are painted there. This small venue drenched in rock history was sort of the Haight Ashbury of Nashville in the '70s. In a town known for rhinestone cowboys and steel guitars, Exit/In has been a haven for rock and roll that's had its ups and downs throughout the decades. It's been featured in several documentaries about various musicians, the 1975 movie Nashville, and even in Steve Martin's autobiography. The signage here is ever changing as new artists are added to the walls with every new performance.Iconic Signage: Exit/In Nashville

3. Hatch Show Print

If you were to ask us what really captures Nashville's style and history, we'd have to say "Hatch Show Print." For over 134 years, Hatch Show Print has been creating the posters that advertised Nashville's performers and performances for the likes of Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Elvis and on to modern artists like Coldplay and The Lumineers. If you've ever had a layover in the Nashville airport, then you've seen some of their classic work displayed along the halls. They recently moved inside the same building as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum but, despite some slight updating, they continue to use one of the oldest woodblock letterpresses in America to create posters that are distinctly "Nashville." 

Iconic Signage: Hatch Show Print in Nashville

4. The Bluebird Café

This world famous music venue is tucked into an unassuming strip mall in the middle of the Green Hills area of Nashville, advertised only by a faded awning sign covering the restaurant/venue's front. Honestly, from looking at it you would never know that since the early 1980s the tiny venue (it seats only 90) has been the nursery for fledgling songwriting powerhouses like Garth Brooks, LeAnn Rimes, and others before they made it big. Recently the ABC television show, Nashville, has taken the already iconic destination for country music fans and turned it into a tourist attraction for an even wider audience. One reporter for the Nashville Scene called it the show's version of "The Peach Pit" from Beverly Hills 90210, except Juliette Barnes and Rayna James fans can actually visit The Bluebird.

Iconic Signage: The Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, TN

5. Ernest Tubb Record Shop

Although this is technically a chain, Ernest Tubb Record Shop has been a landmark of the spangled and touristy honky-tonk laden Broadway of Nashville since 1947. Ernest Tubb was a legendary country musician and songwriter from the golden age of country music, active as a performer from the 1930s to the 1980s. Although he and his Texas Troubadors never were critically acclaimed as great singers, Tubb was inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame. He had his own radio show, the Midnight Jubilee, that would go on Saturday nights after the Opry's show—and is still broadcasted today! Pop into Ernest Tubb's to catch performances, buy your favorite country albums, and peruse books and memorabilia about the country music of days gone by.

Iconic Signage: Ernest Tubb Record Store, downtown Nashville
5. Tootsies Famous Orchid Lounge

Originally called simply "Mom's" before 1960, Tootsies was a haven for up and coming musicians and songwriters (most notably Willy Nelson and Kris Kristofferson) back when Broadway was still a little seedy and meant for musicians rather than tourists. Hattie Louise "Tootsie" Bess, renamed the place when a painter surprised her by painting the whole building the color of her favorite flower: orchids. Tootsie was somewhat of a den mother for starving artists, taking IOUs for drinks and meals that more successful members of the Opry would pay off at the end of the year so she wouldn't lose out by being too charitable. Located right behind the Ryman Auditorium, it was the perfect post-performance watering hole for songwriters in a time that was only just beginning to take country songwriting seriously. Long after her death, Tootsie's is still thriving and there's even a star on the Nashville Walk of Fame in her memory.

Iconic Signage: Tootsies Orchid Lounge Nashville, TN

We realize that there are a lot more signs and places that make this city great! What are some of your favorites? Which signs do you have to take a picture in front of when you're in Nashville? Leave a comment below!


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