Guitar plays second fiddle as Nashville symbol

By Joe Edwards

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The instrument has been associated with Nashville for decades as the city gained exposure across the country and even the world.

Nashville's cornpone TV show "Hee Haw" featured co-host Buck Owens with a memorable red, white and blue guitar. The old Nashville Network cable channel used a guitar neck in its logo. NASCAR presented a guitar to the winner of its Nashville races.

But these days, drivers along busy Interstate 65 north of downtown see a sign for the Music City Shopping Center with a treble clef replacing the "s'' in "music."

Nashville travel officials are quick to point out that the city is more than earthy country music. Nashville hosts the annual Stellar awards for black gospel music and the yearly bluegrass music awards. The city is home to the Gospel Music Association and the Barbershop Harmony Society.

In the 1960s, Nashville was a vibrant center of rhythm & blues with Jimi Hendrix and others performing in the city. The National Folk Festival, presenting various styles of music, is held in Nashville every September. It features the sound of mariachi, zydeco, polka and others.

Lionel Richie just recorded most of his new CD "Tuskegee" in Nashville.

The guitar, of course, still has a persistent presence despite the upstart challenger.

Nashville's Hard Rock Cafe has a red rotating guitar out front, nearly as tall as the one-story restaurant.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop, established in 1947, has a huge cream-colored guitar hanging out front with the neck pointed upward. An American flag hangs below it.

Gibson guitars are manufactured here. And some Nashvillians still call the city "guitar town."

Nevertheless, the Opry, the most famous country music show in the world, uses an eighth note on its Facebook page and on Opry.com.

Says Steve Buchanan, senior vice president of media and entertainment for the Gaylord Entertainment Co., which owns the Opry: "Nashville has become such an important center of music for all genres, all types, but it is truly the home of country music, and it's the home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Country music is what Nashville is known for around the world."

Associated Press writer Caitlin R. King contributed to this report.

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