Many country stars got their start in Nashville’s historic Lower Broadway honky-tonk district, often playing for a small flat rate and the tips they collected in a pickle jar. Even newly Grammy- nominated Blake Shelton gave playing the honky-tonks a try, but he had a little issue with his setlist.
At a press conference following the CMA Awards, where Blake took home the trophy for Single of the Year (“God’s Country), the Oklahoma native sat down in his own Ole Red restaurant and bar and explained how he tripped up when he got a chance to play the legendary Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge early in his career.
“Of course, I played Tootsies twice. I actually got kicked out of Tootsies,” he said. “I had a song that I would play and it was very inappropriate and I played it at Tootsies one time and the manager came up and said, ‘You’re not welcome to play here anymore.’ So I didn’t. So, I decided to put in my own damn bar.”
That wasn’t the end of his early years in downtown Nashville, though. He also gave the iconic Wildhorse Saloon a whirl, but when one of his band members showed up with a plastic marijuana leaf pinned to his shirt, that was the end of their tenure there.
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As Blake said, he now has his own venue that welcomes aspiring young artists, including those lucky Team Blake members that he mentors on NBC’s The Voice. He tells them, “This is y’all’s home now. There’s always going to be an open door for you here…as long as you don’t play that song I played at Tootsies.”
If you’re in Nashville, swing by Ole Red. You never know who you’ll see!