Last week we gave you a sneak of this week’s doors with this post, found here. If you guessed Robert’s and Tootsie’s as the owners of the doors found in the post, you were right! Both located downtown Nashville on Broadway, Robert’s and Tootsie’s are Nashville country music establishments that have rich history’s and many stories to tell.
Robert’s Western World started out as a warehouse and office space for river merchants during the days of the Civil War. Decades later, from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, the building served as the home of the Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company. Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons (said to be two of the greatest steel guitar players in history) manufactured and sold some of the best steel guitars and instruments ever made for popular bands such as The Monkees, Yes and Poco. In 1980, the rights and manufacturing of Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company was purchased by Gretch Guitars. Shot Jackson remained at 416B Broadway, renaming the business to Shot Jackson’s Guitar & Service Center.
By the early 80s, the Broadway district was struggling. The Grand Ole Opry had moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the Gaylord Complex at Opryland which served as a hard blow to downtown merchants who relied heavily on the traffic brought by it. This period saw some of Broadway’s darkest days since the Great Depression.
In the early 90s, Robert Wayne Moore opened Rhinestone Western Wear, a western boot and apparel store. It wasn’t long before Robert added a jukebox, beer and cigarettes to his store and shortly after that, live entertainers replaced the jukebox. Some like to say it was an instant hillbilly success. At Rhinestone, one could enjoy a sandwich, drink a PBR, try on some boots and enjoy the sounds of live music.
Several years later, by 1992, this concept grew in popularity and RObert changed the name from Rhinestone Western Wear to Robert’s 3 Doors Down. (The meaning came from the fact that Robert’s was three doors down from Tootsie’s, which Robert had once owned.) The name was eventually tweaked to Robert’s Western Wear Bar & Night Club. The international recognition it gained eventually gave it the name that it is known by today, Robert’s Western World.
On August 5, 1999, Robert Moore sold the business to musician Jesse Lee Jones, leader of Brazilbilly, Robert’s house band. Today, locals and tourists alike can visit Robert’s and find shelves of boots to try on, burgers, fried sandwiches, live music, cold beers and a gift shop. Visit Roberts’ website here.
Tootsie’s began as Mom’s in 1960 when Tootsie Bess bought it. She credits a painter with renaming the establishment Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge after she arrived and saw that was the color it had been painted. The name stuck! Tootsie was a comedienne and singer/songwriter with Big Jeff & the Radio Playboys. Coincidentally, the band leader, Jeff Bess, was Tootsie’s husband. Tootsie herself recorded many tunes inside the walls of the Orchid Lounge as well as the entire band. It is also rumored that Roger Miller wrote, “Dang Me” inside Tootsie’s.
Famous early customers included Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings and Patsy Cline, among others.
Tootsie’s was also the set of several movies and T.V. shows (W.W. & the Dixie Dance Kings, Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Nashville Rebel) and a segment of the Dean Martin summer show was taped at Tootsie’s. Several magazines did spreads on this quickly-growing-in-fame lounge… Tootsie’s presence in the media and entertainment industry was often!
A fun fact about Tootsie’s is that Willie Nelson received his first songwriting job after performing there. Tootsie was also known to slip $5s and $10s into the pockets of luckless writers and pickers to lift their spirits. Her sweet, giving nature did not end there. It has also been said that she had a cigar box behind the counter full of IOUs; she would give drinks and food to hungry pickers and writers. The story goes that at the end of each year, Opry performers would put their money together to pay all of the IOUs so that Tootsie wouldn’t lose the money.
At Tootsie Bess’ funeral were many of the famous singer/songwriter’s that had performed at her lounge. She was buried in an orchid gown, with an orchid placed in the orchid-color casket, so that she could take her favorite flower with her to heaven.
On Nov. 7, 2010, Tootsie’s celebrated its 50th Anniversary with performances at the Ryman from some of the lounge’s original guests: Kris Kristofferson, Terri Clark, Little Jimmy Dickens, Mel Tillis, Jamey Johnson and more. To read more about Tootsie’s, visit its website here.