The last live music venue on Nashville’s famous 16th Avenue is being forced out of its home.
Bobby’s Idle Hour, a Music Row staple since the 1960’s, has become the latest victim of the city’s recent growth. Last year, Bobby’s was told that they were being evicted to make room for a new six-story office building that will house major music industry companies. And now, Bobby’s has announced that their last day on Music Row will be January 12.
The Idle Hour sits just a few blocks from the historic RCA Studios where some of the most legendary country artists recorded their hits, and has been a local watering hole for generations of singers and songwriters. A guitar hanging by the stage invited artists and songwriters to try out their latest work. And $3 beers kept people coming back to listen.
The developers say that this is “what the music industry wants.” Well, yeah, but the music industry also wanted that shitty Florida Georgia Line/Bebe Rexha song. That doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for country music. And nobody’s coming to Nashville to look at our office buildings.
The Idle Hour isn’t the only victim of this latest round of development. The former offices of the Ed Bruce Agency, where Bruce wrote “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” is also slated to come down, along with the Rhinestone Wedding Chapel (itself a former recording studio) and Warner/Chappell Music.
As Nashville continues to grow, more and more of that growth is coming at the expense of the history that made Music City what it is today. Back in 2014, RCA Studio A was facing the wrecking ball after a developer wanted to tear down the building to make room for condominiums. Luckily, Ben Folds (yes, that Ben Folds) led an effort to save the studio whose walls have witnessed recordings from the likes of Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Elvis. Since being saved, RCA Studio A has been taken over by one of the best producers in the business, Dave Cobb, and has given us incredible albums from Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves, and Jason Isbell, to name a few.
Unfortunately, there have been too many historic buildings on Music Row that weren’t able to be spared. Over the past few years, more than 40 buildings that were full of country music history have been demolished to make way for parking garages, apartments, and yes, office buildings.
Luckily, it sounds like Bobby’s Idle Hour isn’t going away for good. Owner Thom “Lizard” Case announced that the bar will be resurfacing in a new location “as soon as we can.” And this isn’t the first time the Idle Hour has had to run from developers trying to put an end to the music. The bar was forced out of its original location in 2005 to make room for… more condos.
The struggle to preserve the history of Music Row against outside developers comes at a time when country music as a whole is struggling to preserve its identity against pop and other musical influences. Change is inevitable, and not all change is bad. But no other city can offer what Music City can.
If you want to look at office buildings, you can go to Atlanta. Or Cleveland. If you want to see the history of country music and be a part of its future, you have to come to Nashville. But if Nashville doesn’t step up to the plate and preserve what brought it here in the first place, pretty soon those buses full of tourists will be driving around looking at parking garages and office buildings on top of where all that great country music history was made. And you won’t even be able to pour one out at the Idle Hour in memory of what Music Row used to be.