This Nashville Tourism Commercial From 1985 Is A Blast from Music City’s Past

This one’s a blast from the past.

Nashville’s tourism industry is starting to get back to normal. Just last week Mayor John Cooper announced that the city’s Fourth of July festivities would be live and in-person this year, and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee made a trip to Broadway to remind the world that Nashville is open for business.

Not to mention that Broadway is once again swarming with bachelorette parties and dudes puking off of party buses.

Yes folks, nature is healing.

So I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane with this Nashville tourism ad from way back in 1985.

This ad for Music City was produced by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and features Kathy Mattea singing the “All Roads Lead to Nashville” jingle. In the ad you’ll see pieces of Nashville that are now long gone, like the Opryland USA theme park and its Wabash Cannonball rollercoaster. But even more stunning is how sparse the Nashville skyline was back then: There’s no Batman Building, no giant hotels, and only a few skyscrapers in the downtown area.

Oh, and there weren’t any skyscrapers on Music Row either. Don’t get me started on that.

The nostalgic ad shows historic sites that are still stops for tourists today, like Printer’s Alley, the Grand Ole Opry (check out Conway Twitty and Barbara Mandrell on stage), the Opryland resort, and the Parthenon.

But did you notice that there isn’t a shot of the now-famous Lower Broadway?

That’s because back before the early 90’s, Broadway was far from the tourist destination that it is now.

When the Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman Auditorium in 1974, most of the tourists went with it to Opryland, leaving Broadway to become a sea of pawn shops, peep shows, porn stores and vacant buildings. There were only four bars on the street, and police would park a patrol car on the sidewalk in the evening and leave the lights flashing until the morning to try to keep troublemakers out of this high-crime area.

That all changed when Steve Smith and Ruble Sanderson bought the run-down Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge for less than $10,000. Not long after, the Hard Rock Cafe opened downtown. And a new arena on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, along with the arrival of the Nashville Predators, gave tourists and locals alike another reason to visit downtown.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

So while it’s hard to imagine a tourism ad for Nashville that doesn’t feature Broadway today, this ad from 1985 is a nice little time capsule of what the city was really like years ago.

That, and how far graphic design has come in the last 36 years. Because those fireworks at the end…yikes.

A beer bottle on a dock


A beer bottle on a dock