What famous American landmark is located in a Nashville strip mall, seats fewer than 100 people and led to Garth Brooks‘ and Taylor Swift‘s first record deals? The Bluebird Cafe, of course.
Billboard magazine recently explored the venue’s history with help from some of its most famous alumni. Here are some of the highlights:
Kelsea Ballerini: On my first trip to Nashville with my mom, we waited in line to see if we could get in. Jake Owen was a surprise guest. I remember thinking, “This is the coolest place ever. I want to play here.”
LeAnn Rimes: I moved to Nashville when I was 22, and I lived right down the street. I would run down there in my sweats. One night, we maybe had a few drinks. I started to sing “I Need You” with Dennis [Matkosky] and Darrell [Brown]. It’s almost like sitting on the bus after a show, when we’re all just playing music and chilling out.
Melissa Etheridge: When my first album came out in 1988, I went to Nashville, and I played the Bluebird. They had all these pictures of everyone who’d played there up on the wall. I had these crazy 8-by-10 glossies. It looked like ‘I’m Employee of the Month.’ It’s hanging on the wall now.
Dierks Bentley: Sometimes a guy gets onstage that doesn’t look like a star, and your friends are like, “Why’s he singing that Luke Bryan song?’ And you’re like, “He wrote that song.” I wanted to play the Bluebird before I turned 23, and I waited until the very last Sunday before I finally got the nerve up.
Scott Borchetta: I met Taylor [Swift] for the first time on Nov. 2, 2004. Then I went to see her at the Bluebird on Nov. 4. I was just blown away by her songs. And she could hang, you know? She had no problem hanging with these seasoned songwriters. She’’ so competitive, and in that moment, she wasn’t going to let anybody upstage her.
The article covers everything from the venue’s opening in 1982 forward. Plan your visit to The Bluebird Cafe here.
Teddy McDonald is a fun-lovin’ country music fan man living in Nashville, Tennessee.