World Famous Tootsie’s Celebrates 50 Years


Nashville, Tenn.  (November 8, 2010) – Nashville’s venerable Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge has been shaped by legends, and last night, music icons and stars of yesterday, today, and tomorrow gathered at the Ryman Auditorium to honor country music’s legendary honky-tonk celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Kris Kristofferson honors the legendary honky tonk where he used to sweep floors. He sang his hits “Me & Bobby McGee,
Randy Houser sings “Will I Always Be This Way,” off of his new album, They Call Me Cadillac, as he pays reverence to Tootsie Bess (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)
Tootsie’s owner Steve Smith and Panama City Tootsie’s co-owner, Al Ross welcome co-host and former Tootsie’s regular musician, Terri Clark to the star-studded event (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)

Kris Kristofferson, Mel Tillis, Terri Clark, Little Jimmy Dickens, Colt Ford, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Mark Chesnutt, Lorrie Morgan, The Grascals, Ronnie McDowell, Dean Miller (son of the late great Roger Miller), Mandy Barnett, and newcomer Joanna Smith, were among those who performed on the revered Ryman stage at the sold out show. Kristofferson, Dickens, Tillis and Clark co-hosted the evening which included a retrospective paying tribute to the Nashville landmark and the iconic woman it's named for, Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess, who died in 1978.  Radio personality Dr. Shane Collins, WPAP-FM (Panama City, FL), served as emcee.

The evening was steeping with camaraderie as old friends mingled, laughed, posed for photos together backstage, and even ribbed each other on stage.  Introducing Tillis to the stage, Kristofferson commented, “He [Tillis] is the closest thing to Hank Williams we have today.  We got in a lot of trouble together along with Merle [Haggard].  Tillis retorted, “Thanks Kris for being my opening act tonight,” which caused the Ryman audience to erupt with laughter.

Dickens made some faces blush and bellies ache with his R-rated schtick while costumed in a trench coat.

And there were moments of reverence for “Tootsie” Bess, as Tillis and Dickens shared warm stories of the woman known to care deeply and look after struggling singers and songwriters who were drawn to the mecca of great country music as they tried to make a name for themselves in the country music scene.

Nashville mayor Karl Dean was on hand to acknowledge Tootsie’s historical significance to Music City and presented Tootsie’s owner Steve Smith with a proclamation.  The Nashville landmark also received proclamations from Rep. Jim Cooper, Governor Phil Bredesen, and President Barack Obama.

Other country music artists were at the event to honor Tootsie’s including Ira Dean, LoCash Cowboys’ Preston Brust and Chris Lucas, and Craig Campbell, among others.

Tootsie’s performers John Stone, Scott Collier, Dallas Sword, and Leslie Craig also entertained the packed house.

Jamey Johnson and Mel Tillis catch up backstage before their performances honoring the legendary honky tonk (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)

Performances included:

“Family Tradition” – Dallas Sword
“King Of The Road” – Dean Miller
“Crazy” – Mandy Barnett
“Chicken & Biscuits” – Colt Ford
“Older Women” – Ronnie McDowell
“Getting Married” – Joanna Smith
“Stand By Your Man” – Joanna Smith
“It’s A Little Too Late” – Mark Chesnutt
“Brother Jukebox” – Mark Chesnutt
“Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Terri Clark
“Walkin’ After Midnight” – Terri Clark
“Folsom Prison Blues” – Terri Clark
“Me & Bobby McGee” – Kris Kristofferson
“Help Me Make It Through The Night” – Kris Kristofferson
“Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” – Kris Kristofferson
“Love Revival” – Mel Tillis

Little Jimmy Dickens entertains the sold out crowd at the Ryman Auditorium for Tootsie’s 50th Anniversary (Photo Credit: Ed Rode)

“Candy Kisses” – Lorrie Morgan
“Something In Red” – Lorrie Morgan
“Will I Always Be This Way” – Randy Houser
“Doghouse” – Randy Houser
“Dinosaur” – Randy Houser + Jamey Johnson
“In Color” – Jamey Johnson
“Put A Little Stank On It” – Scott Collier
“Rock Star” – Leslie Craig
“I Can’t Love You” – Anthony Orio

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About Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge:

In 1960, Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess took over Mom's bar, where Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge stands today on Nashville’s historic Lower Broadway. “Tootsie” helped nurture many struggling singers and songwriters who hung out there.  Future greats Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson resided upstairs when times got tough for them. On Saturday nights Grand Ole Opry stars, including Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Little Jimmy Dickens, and George Jones would walk those famous 37 steps down the alley from the Ryman, the original home of the Opry, into the back door of Tootsie's.  Other famous early customers were Faron Young, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, and many more.

In 1978 “Tootsie” died.  Over the next 13 years, a number of people attempted to run the place, with little success, until current proprietor Steve Smith took it over in 1992 and transformed it to become, once again, a haven for great live country music. Today, Tootsie’s is a must-see Music City destination for tourists and continues to be frequented by locals including some of the biggest names in country music who often drop in and surprise patrons with impromptu performances. Kenny Chesney with classic rock icon Steve Miller, Montgomery Gentry, Kid Rock, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Dierks Bentley, Heidi Newfield and Hank Williams, Jr. are among some of the artists that have recently performed there.  For additional information, visit