Whiskey Jam is a staple in the Nashville live music scene.
The weekly concert series, held at Winner’s Bar in midtown Nashville (and in the parking lot of sister bar Loser’s next door during the summer months) has become a rite of passage for artists in country music.
It was started by Nashville musician Ward Guenther 10 years ago when Frankie Ballard texted and asked Ward to join him to play some music at a local bar. The next day, Ward tweeted to thank everybody for joining him at the “Whiskey Jam” the previous night – and it’s only grown from there.
In the 10 years since Whiskey Jam’s inception, the event has hosted everybody from Chris Stapleton and Luke Combs to Ashley McBryde and Kacey Musgraves – long before they were the household names they are today. And even guys like Peyton Manning have showed up and taken the stage at Whiskey Jam over the years.
Last night, to celebrate their 10th anniversary, Whiskey Jam threw their biggest party yet. And they did it at the Mother Church of Country Music.
The show at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium featured a lineup that was unannounced prior to the big event – meaning that a sold-out crowd showed up for a concert having no idea who they’d be seeing.
But I can promise you nobody left disappointed.
The jam-packed lineup (no pun intended) started off where Whiskey Jam began – with Frankie Ballard making a rare appearance on stage to sing his very first single from back in 2010, “Tell Me You Get Lonely.”
From there, the show featured a revolving door of Whiskey Jam alumni, as well as some rising stars, who all came out to pay tribute to the Nashville institution.
There was Cole Swindell singing “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” while celebrating his 10th number one single with “Single Saturday Night.” Old Dominion also showed up to perform two of their hits, “One Man Band” and “Make It Sweet.” And Whiskey Jam alumni and regular Chris Young sang his newest #1 hit, “Famous Friends” (albeit without his duet partner Kane Brown).
Then there were some of the early Whiskey Jam regulars like Craig Campbell, who performed an incredible acoustic version of what Guenther called his favorite song of the last 10 years, “Outskirts of Heaven.”
There were also some rising stars of country music who showed up too, like Lainey Wilson performing “Neon Diamonds” from her latest album “Sayin’ What I’m Thinking” and Travis Denning bringing the energy with his hit “ABBY.”
But some of my favorite moments of living in Nashville aren’t seeing the big stars, but the lesser-known artists and songwriters who you may not have heard of, but you’ve definitely heard their music.
And for that, Whiskey Jam didn’t disappoint.
Tyler Reeve sang the massive Brett Young hit “In Case You Didn’t Know,” which he co-wrote with Young alongside Trent Tomlinson and Kyle Schlienger.
Randy Montana also joined the party, singing the Parker McCollum hit “Pretty Heart” that Montana co-wrote with Parker.
But one of the most unexpectedly awesome moments of the night was when Jessi Alexander closed out the first half of the show with “The Climb,” a song she co-wrote for Miley Cyrus, that brought the house down.
Of course Whiskey Jam saved the biggest surprise of the night for an artist making his Whiskey Jam debut: None other than the legendary Randy Travis, who joined the rest of the lineup onstage for “Forever and Ever, Amen” in a moment that tested the strength of the roof on the old Ryman Auditorium.