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VOL. 42 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 31, 2018

Jackson’s goal: Provide a spot for ‘real country music’

By Tim Ghianni

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Alan Jackson, who much prefers fishing to being interviewed, did take some time to ponder questions about how or why he led the charge in being the first current country music act to open a self-named club on Lower Broadway.

“I always wanted a bar to call home, especially on Lower Broadway after it became a place to go and after all the cleanup down there. It’s a good place to go and hear good country music.”

In addition to being the pace-setter among the stars by opening his own bar in 2016 on Lower Broadway, his contributions to that part of the city’s revival also include his helping to bring back one of the city’s historic treasures when he served as the majority owner in the purchase of Acme Feed & Seed during the recovery from the 2010 flood.

The city’s old riverside farmers’ supply store reopened in 2014 as a bar and restaurant where music isn’t always country, recognizing some of the other flavors of Music City.

The singer, who had played the honky-tonks of Lower Broadway back when he was beginning his now-storied career, wasn’t done yet.

“I just love that part of Nashville,” he says, rattling off the honky-tonk history of Lower Broadway. “I saw it changing and growing with the tourists, and I didn’t want it to lose that quality that it had of where real country music was played.”

That’s why he bought a circa 1862 building – said to be Broadway’s oldest all the way from the Cumberland river to the West End split – with a return to his roots in mind.

“As soon as I walked in there, I just loved it,” he adds in the e-mail interview likely from or at least near his favorite fishing hole.

“It was plywood floors, simple, and just like the places I played earlier in my life in other cities – just a bar and honky-tonk. I wanted to keep the tradition alive and carry it on by just playing real country music in there. That’s what we are trying to do.”

That building has quite a history, according to information from Jackson’s publicists. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War. After that war ended and until the beginning of WWII, it housed a variety of merchants, including a wholesale grocery business, a paint store, furniture stores and salvage stores.

In 1941, it became what the publicists say was Nashville’s first used-record store, Hermitage Music Company. Jukeboxes also were sold there until 1949.

It also became home to Bullet records, which captured voices as diverse as Minnie Pearl to Francis Craig. Bullet also released B.B. King’s first record, Miss Martha’s Blues, in 1949.

The building was vacant from 1954-1969, reopening as Dale’s Wheel Beer Tavern, which was short-lived and replaced by The Wheel, home to adult videos, magazines and peep shows, a thriving “industry” during Lower Broad’s desolate years. “It was the last remaining adult peep show on Broadway. It closed in 1997,” according to publicists.

When the peep show closed, The Wheel was revived as a honky-tonk and cigar bar.

Jackson’s bar opened in that space in 2016.

AJ’s general manager, Matt Harville, notes one thing different about AJ’s is that it is fully owned, building and the entire venue, by Jackson.

He adds that he was attracted to the business by “the opportunity to work with Alan…. I’m very blessed.”

While other music is offered elsewhere on the strip, Harville says his boss keeps it pretty simple.

“Our format of performed music is real country music. We try to keep that Nashville honky-tonk music, the real feel of Nashville, alive.”

Jackson says he’s proud of the history of the building and its place in the early recording industry – “It all worked out great for me.”

He also says being so well-embraced by the fans has been gratifying.

“It seems like Nashville and the fans are enjoying it, and I’m glad to see Broadway holding onto some of its roots,” says Jackson of his bar’s classic country musical direction.

As for the younger stars who have followed his lead to Lower Broadway?

“There’s room for everything,” he acknowledges. “My goal and motive was just to do what George Jones had always told me, and that’s just ‘to keep it country.’”

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