The Closing of Bobby's Idle Hour is a Crucial Nail in the Coffin for "Murder on Music Row"
Larry Cordle and Larry Shell were the first to say it back in 1999, and now, almost 20 years later, their darkly comical lyrics could not be more relevant to Nashville life; or more frightening. The song "Murder on Music Row" was originally penned as a tune about how pop music influences were ruining the traditionalists style of country music that had brought Nashville to it's status as Music City. Artists were selling out their roots for what could get them the most airplay and popularity. In the past decade or so, everybody and their brother has been trying to get their ass down to Nashville, and the term has broadened it's reach to satirize the constant development shrouding Nashville (some joke that the Nashville city bird is the CRANE).
Last week, it was announced that Thom "Lizard" Case, owner of Bobby's Idle Hour, has been evicted and will have to leave by early next year. Bobby's Idle Hour has been a Music Row mainstay since the 1960's, and is the last standing bar in the neighborhood. In it's hayday, it was the place where songwriters and artists of every caliber would gather after a long day of writes and recording to unwind with likeminded people that shared the same dream. Songs were swapped, beers were drank, and the times were good. Currently, Bobby's is still a hub for writer's rounds, comedy shows, and Sam's Jams. Bobby's has closed, re-opened, and moved locations in the past, but this latest development could mean the end of an era entirely. Case, a songwriter and longtime patron of the bar, acquired the bar only 5 years ago. "I came home and told my wife, 'Hey, I bought the old Idle Hour,'". "She said, 'I'm not surprised. You paid for the place four times already.'" Case knows that when his time is up early next year, if Bobby's is to continue, he won't be able to be the one to do it.
And it's not just neighborhood bars like Bobby's that are falling victim to the Murder on Music Row. If you don't recall from a few years ago, The RCA Building, home to two of the most significant studios in the HISTORY of music, was at risk of being bought out. A Brentwood developer had plans to buy the studio back in 2014 with no disclosure on his plans for it. However, when this came to the attention of Ben Folds, 90's alt rocker and manager of the studios for the previous decade, fought to preserve it, rallying the Nashville community to keep history where it belonged. Since then, legendary producer David Cobb has taken the helm, and has been churning out incredible albums from the studio with artists like Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and the Oak Ridge Boys.
In addition to just the historically important ones, businesses, labels, and studios all over Music Row have been packing their bags and moving elsewhere, just because it has become so increasingly difficult to run a business in the neighborhood. I started work with a company on Music Row in April of last year, and we have since left for an office in Berry Hill. All of the development in the area caused a slew of problems in every day work life. The tearing down of old buildings and digging into the ground for parking garages would shake the building almost daily. Internet and power would go out every so often, sometimes for up to two hours at a time. Construction workers who would arrive early for work at 7 took up all of the street parking available for the music business people arriving at 9.
Just as the influence of pop music waged war with the traditionalists country of Nashville, the influence of growth and development is waging war with what Nashville natives (or unicorns as I've heard them called, only affectionately) have known the city as throughout their lives. Change is inevitable. But it's something that needs to be kept in check. As the city continues to develop and the population continues to grow, Nashvillians will have to begin to reflect on what's truly important for the city.