Tootsie's Orchid Lounge (also known as Tootsie's World Famous Orchid Lounge) is a honky-tonk bar located in Nashville, Tennessee behind the Ryman Auditorium. Tootsie's has three stages that host live local talent each night; covering modern day country music artist such as Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, and other popular country music artists as well as original work. Some of its early famous first customers were Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Mel Tillis, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller and numerous others country musicians. According to www.tootsies.net, Willie Nelson received his first songwriting gig after singing at Tootsie's. Terri Clark a Canadian born country artist started singing at Tootsie's in 1987 and has since become an internationally known country superstar with hits such as "Better Things to Do", and the Warren Zevon cover, "Poor Poor Pitiful Me".
Originally named Mom's, Tootsie Bess (Hattie Louise Bess) bought the future honky tonk in 1960. The name however, came later when to her surprise a painter painted the lounge purple. Subsequently, the name was changed to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and to date, the exterior of the lounge is still painted the same color. Tootsie was known to slip 5's and 10's into the pockets of luckless writers and pickers. It was said she had a cigar box behind the counter full of IOU's from where she had given drinks and food to hungry writers and pickers. Supposedly, at each year's end, a bunch of Opry Performers would take all the IOU's and pay Tootsie so she wouldn't lose the money. At her 1978 funeral were Tom T. Hall, Roy Acuff and Faron Young. She was buried in an Orchid gown, with an orchid placed in the orchid colored casket, so she could take her favorite flower to heaven. Connie Smith sang some of Tootsie's favorite hymns at the funeral.
On November 7, 2010, Tootsie's celebrated its 50th Anniversary with performances at the Ryman Auditorium from Kris Kristofferson, Terri Clark, Little Jimmy Dickens, Mel Tillis, Jamey Johnson, and Joanna Smith.
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Tootsie's Wall of Fame
Plastered throughout the venue are pictures and memorabilia of past and present individuals that have influenced country music. There are many pictures of Country Music artists, publicity stills of the greats, the hopefuls and never-wills who came to Music City chasing dreams. Some of the pictures include the likes of Hank Williams Sr, Patsy Cline, and Willie Nelson.
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge: Where the Music Began
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge: Where the Music Began is a 60-minute Biographical Documentary video originally released July 1995 and re-released in 2005. Willie Nelson gives insight into Tootsie's early days with interviews of Jimmy Dean and Jim Reeves. Offering insight into a favored spot for some of the biggest names in country music, who would stop in to meet their friends, enjoy a drink, and swap a few songs. Included in the documentary is archived footage of Patsy Cline, Harlan Howard, Roger Miller and performances by Dolly Parton, Aaron Neville, Marijohn Wilkin as well as newer and veteran country artists Trisha Yearwood, Billy Ray Cyrus, Marty Stuart, Tanya Tucker, Ray Price, Bobby Bare.
(Image: Alley between the rear entrance of Tootsie's and Ryman Auditorium.)