Country Music Tour, Knoxville

Country Music Tour (Self Guided), Knoxville

The cultural hub of Tennessee’s, Knoxville is one of America’s most dynamic musical cities, renowned for its critical role in the development of what is now called country music. While the complete history of “country” is still unwritten, you may want to hear some of the stories of Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and other big names associated with Knoxville. Take this self-guided walking tour of its downtown part to explore “The Cradle of Country Music” in more detail.
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Country Music Tour Map

Guide Name: Country Music Tour
Guide Location: USA » Knoxville (See other walking tours in Knoxville)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles
Author: Sandra
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Market Square
  • Preservation Pub
  • East Tennessee History Center
  • Tennessee Theater, Burwell Building
  • Andrew Johnson Hotel
Market Square

1) Market Square (must see)

Established in 1854 as a market place for regional farmers, Market Square has developed over the years into a multipurpose venue that accommodates events, ranging from concerts to political rallies, and has long provided a popular gathering spot for artists, street musicians, war veterans, and activists. Currently, it is used year-round as a venue for special outdoor events, including a seasonal farmer's market, the "Sundown in the City" concert series, and community band concerts.

A local newspaper once dubbed the square "the most democratic place on earth" where "the rich and the poor, the white and the black, jostle each other in perfect equality." Along with the Market House, Market Square was home to Knoxville's City Hall from 1868 to 1924. The bell from the old Market House is displayed at the Union Avenue end of the square. Nearby is the Women's Suffrage Memorial, a statue created by sculptor Alan LeQuire to commemorate Tennessee's role in achieving Women' suffrage in the United States. An open-air ice skating rink is created in Market Square every winter.

In 1984, the square was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

***Country Music Walk***
Back in the day, if you're a country music fan, Market Square was also a place to go in Knoxville to listen to fiddlers and gospel singers performing on the street corner. A small store in the northeastern quarter of the square was a notable destination on the country music map, equally popular with the old and young, rich and poor, black and white. Opened by Sam Morrison, a Knoxville record merchant, this shop played hits before they made it on the radio. It was commonly regarded that, if something fared well at Morrison’s, it had the potential to succeed nationally. The place was dubbed a “musical crucible” in Jack Neely’s Market Square history, and was the best known spot in town to hear street buskers and live music, making it the most musically historic block.

The most notable artist ever promoted by Morrison was Elvis Presley. The legend has it that Morrison played Presley’s “That’s All Right, Mama” on the store's loudspeakers out into the square. He sold copies by the hundreds to the people of all ages, including two copies to an RCA talent scout who came to the area in search of a country music star. And that's how the King was born!
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Preservation Pub

2) Preservation Pub

Sitting in the heart of Market Square Mall next to the Scruffy City Hall, the mighty Preservation Pub is a must-visit, especially, if you like drinking and jamming with stars! Infused with country rock, this three-story pub feels like a fairy tale and is a stepping stone for future soon-to-be music stars. Known for bringing in top musical acts that play late into the night (around 2 am), hosting as many as 200 per month, this iconic live music venue, in a way, acts like an incubator, allowing artists to practice together and, ultimately, stick together. Some even have recorded music videos at the bar (at the rooftop).

Unlike other music venues that are cold, concrete rooms, Preservation Pub has a warm and welcoming (kind of neighborly and just cool) atmosphere manifested in music memorabilia on the walls, cozy, intimate vibe (booths & couches), a speakeasy-style booth wedged into the space under the stairs, a giant tree bar on the rooftop, and vines growing up the brick walls. So, no wonder the bands keep coming back once they make it big.

But it's not only musicians who come through the bar. A known hot spot for celebrity sightings in Knoxville, patrons also have spotted here the likes of Quentin Tarantino, too. The cool thing about Pres Pub is that you never know who is going to show up. The rowdy music downstairs can help the famous guests escape fans' questions and takes the attention off them. Still, those who don't mind speaking to fans, can do so on the second floor, which is more intimate and quieter, and then there's a rooftop oasis for those wanting a view over Market Square and some fresh air.

For extra fun, the bar offers grill menu (plus delicious Guinness-crust pizzas), over 300+ beers (70 on tap, including the Magic Beer Tree in the Moonshine Roof Garden), and some amazing Premium Well Happy Hour (3pm-8pm) specials! Complete with the awesome live music and crowd digging the tunes and genuinely enjoying themselves, you can easily immerse in the entertainment here. Ideal for people watching as well!

An acknowledged pioneer in the downtown Knoxville Renaissance, Preservation Pub has invested its profits for 15 years into saving and revitalizing historic buildings; hence the name, “Preservation” Pub.

Cover charge is cash only
East Tennessee History Center

3) East Tennessee History Center (must see)

Located at the intersection of Gay Street and Clinch Avenue, the former Knoxville Post Office and Customs House, established in the 1870s, now accommodates the East Tennessee History Center. It houses the Historical Society, Historical Museum, the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection and the Knoxville County Archives. All foundations cooperate to preserve the history and heritage of the region. A non-profit organization, it is committed to collecting city artifacts, educating the public of the city’s history, keeping records of the region’s events, and developing publications, lectures, tours and other educational activities for its guests. You will also find the genealogy department of the Knoxville County Public Library here.

***Country Music Walk***
The Custom House also made history in the 1800s as a popular hangout of “Fiddlin’ Bob” Robert L. Taylor, a pension agent who used to entertain visitors with his tall tales, jokes and, most importantly, his masterly fiddle playing. A talented performer, he regularly took part at fiddling competitions in Market Square, and did so well that eventually his fiddling skills saw him become one of Tennessee’s most popular politicians. Using fiddle as a political tool, Taylor subsequently served as a state governor and a U.S. Senator. So much for fiddling...
Tennessee Theater, Burwell Building

4) Tennessee Theater, Burwell Building (must see)

The Tennessee Theatre is a 1920s-era movie palace, located within the Burwell Building in downtown Knoxville. The Burwell Building was built in 1907. At a height of 166 feet (51 m), it was Knoxville's tallest structure until 1912. The Tennessee Theater occupies an annex to the building that was added in 1928.

The theater first opened on October 1, 1928, and with nearly 2,000 seats in the auditorium, was billed as "Knoxville's Grand Entertainment Palace". Its interior was designed by Chicago architects Graven & Mayger in the Spanish-Moorish style, although the design incorporates elements from all parts of the world: Czechoslovakian crystals in the French-style chandeliers, Italian terrazzo flooring in the Grand Lobby, and Oriental influences in the carpet and drapery patterns. The theater was one of the first public buildings in Knoxville to have air conditioning. It also featured a beautiful Wurlitzer Organ. On April 1, 1982, the theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

***Country Music Walk***
Originally built as a “motion picture palace,” the Tennessee Theatre also served as a regular host of live music and weekend talent shows that gave country stars a chance to perform on its historic stage. Roy Acuff, dubbed the "King of Country Music", had his first public appearance here during a talent show, but admitted to have never won the first place since the competition was too stiff in Knoxville. Famous musicians across genres still grace the theater's stage today, making it one of the most significant standing country music landmarks in East Tennessee.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Andrew Johnson Hotel

5) Andrew Johnson Hotel

The Andrew Johnson Building is a high-rise office complex in downtown Knoxville completed in 1930. At 203 feet (62 m) it was Knoxville's tallest building and the cornerstone of the downtown skyline for half a century, from 1928 to 1978. Originally home to the Andrew Johnson Hotel, it is now used for office space by Knox County.

The total of its 18-story height is made up of 15 floors, a mezzanine, and a two-story penthouse. The building is rectangular in shape, with a recess running up the middle of the west facade. The ground floor extends out beyond the rest of the building to provide a base for the unique second story, which includes an open-air pavilion. Sitting at the very top is the penthouse, which is seven bays wide and adorned with brick Ionic pilasters. In 1980, the Andrew Johnson Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

***Country Music Walk***

Over the years, many esteemed guests have graced the hotel, including Amelia Earhart (American aviation pioneer who stayed at the Andrew Johnson in 1936 – the year before her disappearance), jazz legend Duke Ellington, and Great Russian composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff who stayed here after his performance at the University of Tennessee Alumni Hall in 1943.

Among other noteworthy personalities logging at the Andrew Johnson was the country music legend, Hank Williams, who spent here the last few hours of his life. On New Year’s Eve, 1952, he checked into the hotel for what would be his final day. Though Williams was pronounced dead in West Virginia some time later, many believe that he had already been dead when leaving the hotel. Witnesses said, Williams was carried out semiconscious, apparently injected with some painkillers, to his automobile by a chauffeur and a hotel employee, who wondered about Williams's condition, and later suggested that he might have been dead at that point. He was 29.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Knoxville, Tennessee

Create Your Own Walk in Knoxville

Create Your Own Walk in Knoxville

Creating your own self-guided walk in Knoxville is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
University of Tennessee Walk

University of Tennessee Walk

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, located in downtown’s west end, draws many visitors to the city. Founded in 1794 as William Blount College, nowadays it covers 550 acres, including over 200 buildings and a faculty of more than 1,400. Take the following tour to discover UTK’s best attractions.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Top Religious Sites in Knoxville

Top Religious Sites in Knoxville

Knoxville is home to over 450 churches of many religious denominations. Situated at the core of the Bible Belt, many of them are Protestant. The following tour highlights the city’s most impressive religious sites, including Knoxville’s oldest church and other historically significant ones.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Downtown Knoxville Walk

Downtown Knoxville Walk

Home to a number of historic and cultural attractions, Downtown Knoxville is perpetually busy with tourists. The latter flock here, among other reasons, to explore the World’s Fair Park, Market Square, Gay Street, the Convention Center and other places of interest. Take this self-guided walk to acquaint yourself in detail with the best sites that Downtown Knoxville has to offer!

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Knoxville’s Historical Buildings

Knoxville’s Historical Buildings

The city of Knoxville is home to dozens of listed historic properties, vividly illustrating the community’s rich and sometimes turbulent past. These include James White's Fort, L&N Depot, Tennessee Theatre and many others. Take this self-guided tour of downtown Knoxville to check out some of the most prominent historic and architectural gems the city has to offer and hear the stories...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles