The Nashville Palace first opened its doors in 1974 to a first-night crowd of 3,000 people. It was the same year that the Grand Ole Opry moved from the Ryman to its present location. Just about all of the country stars in town were there. Ralph Emery emceed the opening-night festivities, and Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, Nashville Mayor Beverly Briley and Davidson County Sheriff Fate Thomas were all in attendance.
The place got off to a roaring start. In the first year alone, Jerry Reed played there more than 30 times, and a pretty 17-year-old named Lorrie Morgan got first-time jitters on the Palace's stage. The daughter of country singer George Morgan, she already had her own band, which included famed steel guitarist Roy Wiggins, and she continued to perform there regularly for five more years, before her own career started to take off in the 1980s.
Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, all of Sawyer Brown, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Dean, Eddy Arnold, Jimmy Dickens, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Ernest Tubb, Patty Loveless and many, many others were also performers or frequent customers. Dottie West had been scheduled to play there the Monday after she was killed in August 1996; Webb Pierce was such a regular that he had his own cooler in the back of the bar; Porter Wagoner came by often because it wasn't far from his house.
One day in the early '80s, a young man named Randy Traywick came in, wanting to perform but willing just to wash the dishes. He later changed his stage name to Randy Ray and finally to Randy Travis, and the rest is — well, let's just say, as long as old men sit and talk about the weather, this man's career will be linked to the Nashville Palace. Other unknowns also found success there. Ricky Van Shelton also got his start at the Palace.
An unknown, Alan Jackson, who then worked in the mailroom at Opryland, used to hang out at the Palace too. He often slept in his van in the Palace's parking lot, waiting for his chance to get on stage. A few years ago Allen did a live radio broadcast from the stage of the Nashville Palace. When the DJ asked him why he chose the Palace, Jackson said because it's where he got his start.
One night, Boxcar Willie came in and saw a 67-year-old woman named Anna Mae Johnson singing onstage. "My God, Johnny, where'd you find her?" he asked Hobbs. Boxcar Willie suggested they bill her as "The Singing Grandma," and soon Granny Johnson, with her homespun presence and reverence for country music tradition, became a mainstay of the Nashville Palace. When she died, she was to be buried in her home state of Ohio, but she had it written in her will that she wanted the funeral procession to stop by the Nashville Palace so all her old friends could say good-bye. On the way to the airport, the undertaker stopped the hearse in the Palace's parking lot, and everyone came out to pay their respects.
Today the Nashville Palace has moved down the street one block to 2611 McGavock Pike, but still in the heart of Music Valley. The facility is much larger but the roots of the Palace are the same. There is a history and pride in country music that everyone that walks through the doors can feel. The Palace welcomes locals along with visitors of Music City. Great country music can be heard live daily. We are also home to Jett Jurgensmeyer...the coolest kid in Nashville! You never know who you might see on stage at the Nashville Palace.